Feeding your dog
We are all very aware that long-term health is at least partly dependent on a decent diet. This applies to our dogs as it applies to us. However, what is considered to be a good labrador retriever diet, is a subject that is often hotly debated.
For thousands of years, dogs were probably fed on the scraps left over by their human companions. But, as the status of dogs has risen, and as people have acquired more disposable income, an entire industry has developed around the production and distribution of commercially prepared dog food.
There are three categories of dog food:
- Raw food.
- Wet food.
Kibble is the dried and pelleted dog food that you can buy in packets and sacks from pet shops and online. The vast majority of dogs are now fed on kibble. For a long time, very few people questioned whether or not this was a good thing.
Kibble-fed dogs tend to produce larger quantities of softer and smellier faces than raw-fed dogs. Dogs that have soft stools may need their anal glands emptying. This usually involves a visit to the vet. Raw-fed dogs that get sufficient bone in their diet do not need their anal glands emptying because their stools are firm.
There is a more serious problem that may be associated with certain type of kibble. You may know that bloat is a condition that involves a serious swelling of the stomach. In dogs, this gastric dilation or swelling may be accompanied by rotation or twisting of the stomach. This rotation cuts off the blood supply at either end of the stomach and results in the rapid decline and death of the dog if not treated very quickly. Labrador retrievers usually have this particular problem as they are large, deep-chested breed.
However, feeding kibble is very convenient. You simply open a packet and pour it out. Your dog requires kibble that is usually perfectly balanced with all the nutrients. Feeding a rapidly growing and developing puppy is not the same as feeding an adult dog. Getting the nutrient right is particularly important for puppies because their diet must accommodate their growth and development.
Reasons to consider feeding kibble
- You are bringing home a kibble-raised puppy.
- You have no previous experience of raw feeding.
- You have children under ten years old.
- You do not have a reliable source of cheap meaty bones.
- You do not have adequate space to dedicate to meat preparation.
- You do not have a large freezer.
- You dislike handling raw meat.
- You are very worried about the potential risk of raw feeding.
- You intend to travel a great deal with your dog
We are feeding Cheepsus kibble, and you can find the review of the food here. We believe that kibble is an effective and convenient way to create well-balanced, nutrition rich labrador retriever diet.
There has been a steady growth in enthusiasm for feeding dogs on a more natural diet based on raw meat and bones. You may have heard it referred to as the BARF diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) or RMB (Raw Meaty Bones) diet.
Many thousands of dogs are now fed on a diet of raw meat and bones, or in this case of BARF, raw meat, bones and vegetables. Improved dental health is one of the most widely reported benefits of raw feeding. But it must be said that probably the majority of veterinary professionals do not currently support raw feeding and many are against it.
Concerns around feeding raw food
Those opposed to feeding raw meat and bones have a number of concerns, including the following:
- Bones might cause a gastrointestinal blockage.
- Splintered bones could penetrate the digestive tract.
- Dogs might catch parasites from raw meat.
- Raw feeding might lead to serious infections.
- Bones might cause choking.
- It might be too difficult to provide a balanced diet.
- Bones might cause broken teeth.
Some of the potential hazards of raw feeding can probably be avoided or reduced by taking sensible precautions. Feeding large weight-bearing bones, for example, is more likely to damage your dog’s teeth than smaller bones, such as ribs.
Reasons to consider feeding raw food
- Your puppy has been raised from birth on raw food.
- You have other raw-fed dogs.
- You have access to large quantities of meaty bones.
- You have a large, deep-chested breed of dog, or your puppy has a close relative that has suffered from bloat.
You can find more info on raw feeding here.
Wet food and other options
Kibble or raw food are not the only options. You can still purchase traditional wet dog foods in cans or trays, and many owners prepare their dog’s food themselves by mixing some raw meat in with home-cooked food and perhaps some kibble. None of these methods is right or wrong, although you may find it difficult to get appropriate advice and support if you feed your dog in an unusual way or on a changing diet.
If you are preparing home-made food for your dog or feeding household scraps, it is very important to bear in mind that dogs are primarily carnivores and need a substantial proportion of their food in the form of protein and fat, rather than as carbs, such as potatoes, rice or pasta.
It is also important to be aware that a number of human foods are toxic to dogs if fed in sufficient quantities.
These include common items such as:
- Xylitol, a sweetener found in chewing gum
You will meet people who tell you their dog eats chocolate without ill effects, but chocolate can and does kill dogs, as every vet will confirm. Easter and Christmas are particular high-risk periods for accidental poisoning. Dogs do not need cakes, pastries, and confectionery, and feeding them to your dog may wreck his teeth and possibly his health.
Your choice will really depend on how you feel about these very different ways of feeding, and on your own family situation and lifestyle.
Puppies do not need milk
One common mistake that new puppy owners make is in providing their puppies with milk. Eight-week-old puppies are completely weaned and don’t need milk in any shape or form. You can buy substitute bitch’s milk from large pet shops. For example, some older breeders still raise puppies on two milk feeds and two meat feeds a day. However, we now know that this is neither necessary nor beneficial. Cow’s milk is particularly inappropriate and may cause diarrhea. Your puppy needs to eat either a balanced diet of raw meats and bone or a complete commercial puppy kibble.
You will need it to divide puppy's food up into several small meals regardless of the diet you choose to feed your puppy. They need so much to eat at this point in their life that they cannot digest it all in one go. Small puppies need at least four meals a day until they are around three months old. Each meal should amount to one-quarter of their daily food allowance.
If you are feeding kibble, the manufacturer will give you guidelines about the recommended daily quantity required. This tends to be more with cheaper kibbles as they contain more fillers. Many puppies will eat far more than one-quarter of their daily ration at one sitting. But be aware that if you try to feed fewer, larger meals too soon, your puppy will get diarrhea. Quite aside from the unpleasantness of this outcome, diarrhea in puppies can be serious, and sometimes can be hard to resolve.
You should know that your puppy will be able to cope with daily ration being divided into three larger meals a day by three months of age. If the new regime upsets their tummy, go back to four meals a day for a week or two, then try again. At six months, you can usually drop down to two meals a day. Many raw-fed dogs will do well on just one meal a day from around a year old.
Which ever feeding option you will choose - kibble, raw or wet food - make sure that it is well-balanced, nutrition rich labrador retriever diet. And last, but not least, it has to be convenient and suitable to your life style.
You will find more great advises in The Happy Puppy Handbook: Your Definitive Guide to Puppy Care and Early Training by Pippa Mattinson.