Nutrition Matters: Proper Diets for Farm Dogs

Like other livestock species, farm dogs need the right food to perform at their best, whether that's working or breeding.

by Alli Kelley
PHOTO: Shutterstock

One farm animal’s diet that is often overlooked is that of the farm dog. When it comes to feeding the farmer’s best friend, the options—and opinions—are endless. But dogs are just like any other animal: They require certain nutrients to perform at their best and maintain their health. If you are breeding your farm dogs, nutrition also plays a role in fertility, pregnancy and pup health, as well as how mother dogs recover.

Protein, fats and carbohydrates are the main macro-nutrients all dogs require. All these nutrients allow the dog to have energy to work and grow. Don’t forget about water: Water is one of the most critical nutrients required by a dog. Dogs will, on average, consume one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. If the dog is working or feeding pups, that amount will increase significantly. Providing clean water that is easily accessible to your dog is extremely important.

Fat is the most variable nutrient in your dog’s diet. The breed of dog and the type of work it does dictates how much fat it should consume. Obesity in dogs is common and will contribute to other health issues.

Pregnant and nursing dogs require 30 to 60 percent more protein and fat in their diet (dry matter) than they would normally. After a dog has had puppies, feeding free-choice puppy food (high fat) is often recommended. Seek advice specific to your dog from your veterinarian.

There is no specific nutrient requirement for carbohydrates in a dog’s diet. Carbohydrates are an energy source often found in dog food in the form of oats, barley, rice or other grains. Dogs can digest these types of carbohydrates and need them for energy. These types of plant-based feeds also provide essential vitamins to a dog’s diet.

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Dogs, like other livestock animals, have specific vitamin and mineral requirements. Feeding the appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals is not difficult. Most commercially available feeds are balanced to meet these vitamin and mineral requirements for dogs.

The type of dog food you purchase depends on your dog’s life stage, size and activity level. Typically, very inexpensive dog foods are not high in quality. Start with a midgrade quality dog food and, if necessary, adjust from there with direction from your veterinarian. If you change dog food, it can take as long as eight weeks to notice a change in your dog. Be patient when problem solving nutritionally.

Avoid feeding human food to your canine companion. Consumption of human food can lead to myriad dog health problems and early death. Table scraps are not an appropriate source of nutrition for your dog. If you want to provide healthy treats, fruit and vegetables or cooked eggs make great options.

This story originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of Hobby Farms.


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