What to feed and how to feed are common questions that often dog the novice dog lovers. A comment oft repeated by them when advised to feed meat to their eight week old pooch is, ‘We are vegetarians, and how can we feed meat to our dog!’ Some even say that meat is not supposed to enter their house and they cannot therefore allow their dog to have meat. Poor dog he is oblivious of all these sentiments and food habits of strict vegetarians. He lives on whatever he is fed, whether he thrives or not is not the concern of the ignorant owner.
Nature has made him such that his staple food is meat.
If a dog did not require meat, why would nature provide him with those ‘fang like teeth?’ Certainly they are not meant to graze grass like a horse or to eat vegetables like us. Not only teeth, even the digestive system of dogs is not meant to digest chunks of vegetable matter. The length of small intestine of dogs is about two and half times the length of the dog. Therefore a 24 inches long dog will have a 60 inch long small intestine. The large intestine on the other hand is about 16 inch long. Compared to dogs the intestine of humans is very long. Small intestine of humans is about 23 feet and large being five feet long. Reasons for this abnormal difference are simple. The length of the intestine depends upon the type of the food intake. The digestive system of dogs is geared up to digest and assimilate animal proteins. That is why they are carnivores. It takes much less time for animal protein to get digested in their system hence there is no need for a long passage of food through the body. Elephants are strictly vegetarians and their intestines can be as long as plus 60 feet! Well in short, intestines of carnivores are smaller and those of the herbivores are longer.
Let us now see what a dog eats in nature? A pack of dogs chase a deer and pounce upon. They tear apart the poor animal and rip open the abdomen. The strongest of the pack or the pack leader mouths a lion’s share of stomach and intestine of the deer and begins to gulp hurriedly. A deer being herbivore has plenty of partially digested vegetal matter in his stomach. This matter is rich in natural Vitamin B Complex. In the meanwhile the other pack members wrench apart a leg and hurry off to their lair. Bury the thigh there to be eaten after a few days, after it has putrefied. Vestiges of this natural trait still persist in dogs and often you find beloved dog ‘burying’ pieces of his choicest food (meat) under his bed!
Once the flesh of the thigh has been devoured, the dog gets busy gnawing the bone. This exercises his gums, keeps his teeth sparkling and satisfies his lust to chew-a habit printed on his genes. Whatever food reaches a dog’s stomach is acted upon by digestive juices-a large percentage of which is made of strong acids. So strong is the acid content that if a dog pukes on a mosaic floor an almost indelible patch is created there. The acid acts upon the carbonate rich chips and dissolves part of them. Food leaves his stomach after 12 hours and travels through his small and large intestines and remnants are excreted in due course of time.
The detailed discourse on the journey of food within dog’s system was to emphasize the point that they are able to digest animal protein easily and it gets absorbed by the system smoothly.
Staunch vegetarian owners can argue that their dog is reared on milk and ‘chapati’ only and is quite hale and hearty! Whether the dog is hale and hearty or not, only a Vet can decide, but scientifically dog’s system is such that it takes pretty long to extract usable protein from vegetarian thus food has to remain in the stomach for long hours. As long as food remains there his system goes on releasing the strong acids. An apparently hale and hearty dog may suffer bouts of early morning vomiting, where most of the content is a bilious yellow colored matter. Dog appears distressed. Yes he ought to be because the last vegetarian meal gave him hyperacidity. The owner has no recourse but to contact the Vet. Naturally the Vet earns his fee. With no offence meant to dog saviors, the Vets, the health of such dogs may not be good but yes certainly the Vet’s purse does grow fat.
What is the ideal food for a dog?
It is better to know the ideal food for a puppy first. When you bring home an eight week old pup, he needs to be fed exactly what he was being fed at the breeder’s place. A sudden change of food can cause digestive upset and surely you don’t want your pup to fall sick immediately after landing at your place. The pup at this age has his milk teeth-those dazzling white, sharp pointed teeth. He has yet to shed his just acquired set of teeth and get permanent much stronger ones. Till then possibly he can not have chunks of meat like his dam. But yes certainly he can have grated or still better scrapped meat. Indian climate conditions favor growth of bacteria pretty fast and a pup can get infected easily. It is therefore better to feed him par boiled scrapped meat. Gradually make his helpings coarser with age. The stomach of a herbivore like a goat forms a natural food for a dog. I have found tripe is one of the best foods for a dog. It has every thing in it, including the partially digested vegetal matter. However, it is always better to add some par-boiled grated vegetable in his food. In addition to meat and vegetable a dog also needs some roughage. Coarse wheat ‘chapatti’ is a good substitute for that. One can always change the menu once or twice a week by offering one of the organs like liver and also red meat (minced as per the age).
Till the pup is fully acclimatized and adjusted to environ of the new home he may be continued to be given a pudding of milk and semolina. Gradually add a few pieces of hard rusks in his food. This helps him to cut his teeth. Soft food is bad for dogs. Look at their teeth-do they give any hint of being meant to gulp soft food?
As the dog gets adjusted to the new home, one should introduce in one meal a tea spoon of par boiled scrapped meat. Next day add a tea spoon of cooked rice in the same feed. And a day later double the quantity of meat and add a teaspoon of parboiled grated leafy vegetable like spinach.
Never rush while trying various feeds for your dog. Very gradually first replace one milk feed, then another one in a few days. This gives time to dog’s system to adjust to the changed food. He begins to relish and thrive on his new food.
These days’ lots of branded dog food have come in the market. One should not bargain on the cost, try to feed the best to your pup. He is in the growth phase of life where everyday counts. Strong muscles and bones at this age will make a strong foundation for his future. A healthy dog need not be rushed to a Vet every now and then. If you cut costs in feeding quality food, then you may end up paying more in terms of the Vet’s fees. Choice is yours.
A common problem with novice dog owners is about how many times a pup should be fed. Well if you observe a bitch closely she seems to feed them every two hours. Likewise you can formulate a plan. Only condition of this feeding plan is that timing can be as per your convenience, but once you start then you have to stick to them meticulously. Five feed per day are good for a new arrival in your home. Gradually before he completes three months, reduce the number of feed to four. Then by the time he is four months old make it three feed per day and reduce it to two feed a day once he is nine months old. Thereafter keep him on two feed for his life. The first meal can be as early as possible in the morning. But once a pup is adjusted attempt should be made to not feed him late in the night. All these precautions will help you to potty train your dog.
My advice is feed the brute and he will thrive.