TYPES OF PET FOOD
1. Dry food contains very little moisture so as
fed analysis reported one bag is similar to dry
matter analysis. They are formed by an extruder
and are mostly low fat (≈25% energy as fat)
because the extruder requires a low fat mixture.
These are fine for dogs that are couch potatoes
but may not contain enough fat for gestation,
lactation or growth, or for dogs that undertake
a lot of exercise. They may not give optimum
coat quality. More expensive dry diets have fat
sprayed on after extrusion and tend to contain
more fat (40% energy as fat). They are packaged
in special greaseproof bags and are greasy to
2. Canned foods contain 75% moisture and are
more expensive but usually contain more fat and
protein. Multiply the analysis on the bag by
four to compare with a dry diet.
3. Soft-moist and Soft-dry e.g. Kibbles and
Bits. These are intermediate but mostly low fat.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PET FOODS
Foods with different names do not necessarily
differ in composition. Marketing strategies aim
to increase market share often by increasing the
number of brands and increasing shelf space.
Differences between pet foods are often small
because new brand names are created with small
changes in composition as a method of increasing
the number of brands and because the final
composition is restricted by the nutrient
requirements of the animal, the need to restrict
cost and to maintain palatability. Some terms
such as ‘premium’ and ‘super-premium’ have no
definition and do not guarantee better
performance. The major differences are:
1. Dry vs. canned: Canned usually contains more
fat and protein than dry diets.
2. Generic vs. proprietary: Generic diets are
usually made with poorer quality ingredients and
are not necessarily tested on animals.
Proprietary (popular and premium) brands are
made with better ingredients and are usually
tested on animals. “Generic” diets are
inexpensive private label of local or regional
manufacturer. There is no policing of label
claims if only sold within the state of Florida.
3. Life stage and therapeutic diets: These
sometimes have different compositions but diets
for puppies and diets for adult maintenance are
often very similar in composition.
Supplements and treats:
1. These unbalance balanced diets so should be
avoided or restricted to less than 10% of the
2. Chews: may be beneficial for dental hygiene
1. Not complete and balanced so must have
supplements such as vitamins and minerals added
if more than 10% of the diet.
2. Uncooked meat represents a likely source of
infection especially in young and pregnant
3. Bones, especially spiky bones such as the
vertebrae found in chicken necks can get lodged
in the esophagus especially in small breeds of
dog. Too many bones can also cause constipation.
Neutraceuticals and Herbs:
Quality, consistency, absorption, potency and
efficacy are uncertain.
A toxicity and therapeutic index has not been
established. These present more of a risk in
young and pregnant animals. Nevertheless, it is
likely that some of these will prove beneficial
in the future.
1. Feed a national brand pet food that has been
tested using AAFCO approved feeding and is
complete and balanced for the particular life
stage (e.g. reproduction, growth or adult
2. Do not feed supplements. A pet food that is
complete and balanced does not require
supplements. Do not feed extra meat, calcium or
vitamin supplements especially in growing or
3. Treats are okay but try to keep to a minimum.
The bulk of an animal’s diet should come from
4. If feeding mostly human food, make sure it is
cooked and balanced for the particular life
5. Coat quality can be poor if dogs are fed a
low fat inexpensive dry food. To improve fat
content of the diet, do not add meat to the
diet. It is safer to use a more expensive high
fat dry diet or to add a canned diet to the dry
diet. High fat is here defined as greater than
40% energy which is equivalent on the label to
greater than 5% fat for a canned diets, greater
than 13% fat in a semi-moist diet and greater
than 18% fat in a dry diet.
How much to feed?
Adjust food intake to maintain optimum body
weight and condition. Do not feed too much. The
slim-line model is best. Ribs should be felt but
not seen. There should be a waist visible from
the side and from above. The recommendation on
the back of the packet can
provide a guide but there is much individual
variation. Reproductive performance may be
suboptimal if animals are too fat or thin.
PREGNANCY (9 Weeks)
1. First 5-6 weeks: The bitch should maintain an
ideal body condition score during mating and
early pregnancy. There is no need for increased
food intake above normal. Reasons for
unsuccessful mating are usually poor timing, not
2. Last 3-4 weeks: The most fetal growth occurs
during the last trimester so increase the food
intake by 10-15 percent/week. Protein
requirements are high during this period so do
not feed a low protein food. A higher fat high
protein canned diet can be added to the usual
dry diet. Growth diets or diets designed for all
life stages are suitable. Diets designed for
adult maintenance and therapeutic diets do not
always contain enough protein. Do not feed
supplements. The only exception would be to add
folate to the diet of Bulldogs or Rhodesian
Ridgebacks. There is plenty of folate in pet
foods so supplementation may minimize the risk
of spinal defects in breeds where these defects
are more common.
3. At the end of pregnancy: Body weight should
have increased 10-15%, and intake should be
40-50% more than usual. The gravid uterus often
limits intake, however, so feed energy dense
(high fat) food in small frequent meals. Most of
the additional extra body weight should then be
lost when she gives birth.
Eclampsia: Hypocalcemia is observed occasionally
in dogs around parturition leading to tetanus,
seizures and poor uterine contraction. The cause
has not been established. Nevertheless, it seems
wise to follow similar practices as those used
to prevent milk fever in cattle (e.g. calcium
supplements should not be given before
parturition as it will reduce the ability of the
body to respond to the calcium requirements of
parturition). This is an emergency. Treatment
consists of slow intravenous administration of
10% calcium gluconate and limiting pups suckling
(raise pups with milk replacer to minimize milk
Lactation: Food intake increases with milk
production to a peak 3-4 weeks after whelping.
Water intake increases proportionately so free
access to water is essential. Amount of increase
varies with the size of the litter to as much as
three or four times normal. Frequent meals of an
energy dense (high fat) high protein food is
recommended. Diets should also contain some
carbohydrate for optimum lactose production.
Bitches milk is best!
1. Colostrum contains antibodies so you must
ensure that pups get colostrum or a severe risk
of overwhelming infection may occur.
2. Bitch’s milk is twice the energy density and
contains more protein, fat, calcium and less
lactose than cow’s milk.
3. Breast milk varies in composition during
lactation (early milk contains almost no
lactose). The enzymes and transporters in the
puppy intestine which digest and absorb
nutrients like lactose are switched on and off
in a programmed fashion, so diarrhea and/or
constipation are possible if milk replacer or
pet food is different from that expected by the
pup at any particular age.
4. Milk also contains other substances such as
epidermal growth factor that may influence the
development of the puppy intestine.
1. Feed with warm milk replacer e.g. (Esbilac or
using home-made recipe):
Cow’s Milk ½ cup
Egg Yolk 2
Centrum Junior 0.5 tablet
Dicalcium phosphate 1 teaspoon
2. Volume per day is about 15% of body weight
during first week then 25% during subsequent
weeks assuming the food contains approximately 1
3. Monitor body weight daily. Puppies must not
4. Keep pups warm and humid (85-90ºF, greater
than 50% humidity).
5. Establish feeding frequency from pups crying.
Do not wake to feed. Feed often first day (every
2-4 hours) and then can reduce to four times
daily and can leave overnight if kept warm.
6. Stimulate to defecate and urinate after
7. If possible foster pups on another bitch.
Alternatively, divide litter in two and
alternate during day between bitch and orphan
1. Day 1-3: suckle 40 x daily for total 10-15
2. Day 4: suckling more efficient so only 8
3. Day 10-12: eyes open, start to examine solid
4. Week 3: offer moist palatable energy dense
food 4 x daily. Remove any left after an hour.
5. Gradually increase time away from dam and
then wean at 7-8 weeks of age. Reduce bitches
food for two days prior to weaning to cut milk
1. Energy requirements: From 3-4 months on, feed
about the same amount of food as that required
for maintenance by parents. The amount of food
required by Great Dane pups and adults is
greater than that required by other breeds of
2. Rate of growth
a. Very variable depending on size. Larger
breeds take longer to reach adult weight
i. Yorkies = eight months
ii. Newfoundland = 18 months to two years
b. Limit rate of growth in large breeds to
minimize hip dysplasia and growth deformities.
Keep dogs lean. Restricted intake does not
affect final height, length, and bone size or
3. Puppy food composition
a. Feed an increased protein and increased fat
growth diet up to 4-6 months of age. “Large
breed dog diets” contain less fat to limit the
rate of growth. There is currently no
evidence that these diets cause less orthopedic
problems than higher fat diets if intake is
restricted to prevent rapid weight gain.
b. Calcium should be close to 1%DM (mg/kcal)
with a Calcium Phosphorous ratio of 1:1 to 2:1.
Pups fed all meat diets and insufficient calcium
develops osteoporosis and pathological
fractures. Large breed dogs fed too much calcium
can develop osteochondritis dessicans. Most
commercial puppy foods including those marketed
for large breeds contain this amount of calcium.
The calcium content in adult maintenance diets
are sometimes closer or above 2% DM. The amount
of protein has no effect on orthopedic problems.
c. Do not feed supplements especially in large
breed dogs. Large dogs eat more food so eat more
vitamins and minerals. Increased calcium and
vitamin D may be detrimental.