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The nutritional requirements of a dog vary throughout its life and are governed by factors such as age, reproductive status level of activity, state of health and environmental conditions. Since animals eat to satisfy their requirement for energy, all essential nutrients must be present in the correct amounts relative to the energy content of the diet. General recommendations may be given for feeding dogs at various life stages, but these are usually aimed at the average healthy dog that is kept indoors in a temperate environment.
These recommendations, which are reflected by the feeding guides found on the packaging of commercially available pet foods in India, are intended only as a guide to obtain an approximate estimate of a pet’s needs. The energy requirements of pets have been established for various life stages from early life through gestation and lactation to senior years, as well as for level of physical activity. Because dogs are extremely diverse in terms of their body size and shape, the relationship between energy requirement and body weight is not linear.
Optimum Diet for Puppies: The amount of time taken for a growing puppy to achieve adult body weight varies considerably, with larger breeds having a longer growth period than smaller breeds. Toy, small and medium breeds reach 99% of their adult weight at around 9-10 months, whilst large and giant breeds reach this point at approximately 12-24 months. A Puppy’s nutritional requirements are almost twice that of an adult dog and are different to human. For example, Puppies not only need significantly more protein than adult dogs and human babies but also require highly digestible proteins and energy dense food for optimum growth. If Adult dogs should be fed a diet containing at least 25 g protein per 1000 kcal, this requirement increases to 50g/1000 kcal in bitches during pregnancy and lactation and 56g/1000 kcal in puppies.
Dog Food for Adults Dogs ( above 12 months in age): Nutritionally speaking, the stage of adult maintenance is considered to be the period of basal requirements in which the animal is not subjected to additional physiological stresses of growth, pregnancy or lactation, regular work, or high levels of activity, or extremes environmental temperature. During this period, the dietary aim is to maintain optimal health, activity and promote peak condition in the animal. The amount of food needed to meet these may then be calculated from knowledge of the energy values of food. Feeding recommendations are only ever given as guidelines and are subject to individual variability between dogs and to difference in activity level and environmental conditions.
Senior Dogs’ Dietary requirements: As a rough guide a dog can be considered senior when it enters the last third of its predicted lifespan. The energy requirement of senior dogs is approximately 20% less than that of young adults. The decrease in energy requirement is linked to declines in activity and changes in body composition. Most adult dogs in maintenance are able to eat all they require in a single meal and it is perfectly acceptable to adopt a once-a-day feeding.
Pregnant and Lactating Bitches: The average duration of pregnancy in the bitch is 63 days, but her energy requirements do not increase appreciably until the last third of gestation when most fetal weight gain occurs. It is important, therefore, to avoid overfeeding in early pregnancy, since this will lead to the deposition of unwanted fat and may predispose the bitch to problems at whelping. A gradual increase in food allowance over the second half of gestation is all that is required and a satisfactory regimen would be to increase the amount of food by 15% of the bitch’s maintenance ration each week from the fifth week onwards. By the time of whelping the bitch will be eating 60% more than when she was mated. During the first four weeks post whelping, she must eat enough to support both herself and her rapidly growing puppies. The extra energy and nutrients needed over above her normal intake depends on the size and age of the litter but at peak lactation (three to four weeks after whelping), she may need to eat anything up to four times normal maintenance allowance.