We take good care of our furry family members giving them plenty of exercise, comfortable beds, awesome toys, hugs, kisses and endless amounts of love.
At the same time, we tend to take for granted one of the more mundane, and yet extremely important things for our pets – food.
In today’s oversaturated market it’s sometimes easy to overlook what our companions crave and need from their nutrition. Many experts agree that psychological and physiological benefits of a proper diet are crucial for our dog’s well-being.
Not only can good and healthy food make their lives more enjoyable but it can actually prevent many diseases and help them stay in good overall health. After all – you are what you eat, and if you eat unhealthy food you can’t expect to feel well.
It’s all very subjective
The kind of meals your dog needs is based on a bunch of variables that depend on each dog individually. Personal preference, age, weight, health, physical exertion over the day, etc. Know your dog and learn how, why, when and what he/she needs.
As a rule, due to their developing bodies, puppies (up to 1-year-old) need more meals in a day with higher fat and protein content (22% protein, 8% fat) when compared to adult dogs (18% protein, 5% fat).
If you’re a proud guardian of a large breed you should feed them puppy food that has increased amounts of calcium which they need for their rapid and expansive bone growth during this period.
Thusly Jack Russell Terriers on average daily need around 800-900 calories (distributed in 4-6 meals) as puppies while 13-17 pound adults need 2-3 meals with a combined intake of approximately 450-650 calories per day (depending on how active they were).
If you gave your darling JRT treats during training consider them part of the daily caloric intake and ration other meals appropriately.
It’s all about the ingredients
One thing that people tend to forget is that dogs are omnivores. That means that in addition to meat they have an ability to digest certain plants and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are especially tough to ingest but that varies depending on the source – corn, wheat, and soy are to be avoided at all costs while oats, quinoa, potatoes and various legumes are all right.
The balance of ingredients is key for normal functioning of the organs. You can feed them all kinds of diets as long as they contain easily digestible ingredients with appropriate amounts of proteins, fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals that they need.
No matter what kind of food you decide to feed your beloved: dry, wet, raw, homemade, dehydrated, etc. the most important thing is what has gone into it. You cannot have an excellent finished product if you start out with junk – which is unfortunately exactly what many food manufacturers today are doing.
Read the labels
Gather as much information as you can beforehand and learn to cut through a lot of sales pitches and meaningless marketing terms to understand the real information that’s provided to you.
Ingredients listed on the label always go in the order of contents – the higher on the list an ingredient is the more of it there is in the dish. First few places are occupied by the main ingredients – you want those to be some kind of meat listed as simply and clearly as possible.
Avoid generic meat ingredients – that means that you should stay away from products that use terms like “meat”, “meat meal”, “mechanically separated XY parts”. That means that suppliers are most likely rendering facilities and you really don’t know what’s in it and from where the raw material came from – it could have already been spoiled and then processed for kibble.
You must know exactly what kind of meat goes into the food – duck, chicken, beef, venison, fish, pork – so you know that there aren’t any potential allergens in the food.
Stay away from E numbers – they mark the presence of artificial preserves, colors, and flavor enhancers and you don’t need or want anything artificial or “enhanced” in your food. Choose products that are made from fresh ingredients and without preservatives like the superb Orijen Regional Red Dog.
Some manufacturers tend to load their products with various cheap fillers like corn, wheat, soy, and beet pulp that add mass or glue the whole meal together but are basically very hard or even impossible for your pet to digest.
Dry vs. wet
This is up to your preference and circumstance. Some experts believe that eating dry food helps dogs significantly reduce plaque and cleans their teeth while others believe that it doesn’t do anything significant for their mouth hygiene at all. In any case, don’t forget to brush and rinse their teeth regularly.
If you’re on a trip, or the weather is exceptionally warm it’s much more practical and safer to use dry food that’s easy to transport and has a long shelf-life than wet food which is, generally speaking, much messier and often has to be properly refrigerated so it doesn’t spoil.
Wet food is much easier for your pup to ingest and digest, especially if he/she is old, very young or has dental issues. It also often contains more protein than dry food. Look out for products like the excellent Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Wet Dog Food and Merrick Classic Grain Free Canned Dog Food that come in a variety of flavors that will satisfy even the greatest gourmet dog.
Again, this depends on your preference although you should absolutely consult your veterinarian or animal nutritionist beforehand. We switched to a grain-free diet after our veterinarian recommended it to counter the effects of what was at the time an unspecified allergy.
We saw a great improvement in her overall condition so we decided to stick with it. Since that time she has had excellent digestion and became slimmer in the waist (although she was never really stocky) although we haven’t changed our daily exercise routine nor have we cut down on rations.
Following another recommendation from the vet, I conducted a thorough research all current diet variations and ended up making my own fusion. Currently, we’re doing a combination of real cooked meat and vegetables that I turn into a delicious paste and kibble and she loves it!
I personally believe that the raw diet is excellent, but it just isn’t convenient enough for our daily routine although there are some amazing pre-made products on the market today such as the dehydrated Raw Raw Beef Boom Ba.
Instead of a conclusion
Frida and chicken or: How dogs don’t always know what’s best for them
We must observe, take note of our pet’s behavior and preferences and base our decisions accordingly, but only to a certain point. For instance, you should trust your dog’s nose when it comes to food.
They won’t touch it if it smells funny to them – they can sense that there is something that they won’t like (be it because it contains a strange chemical or they just can’t stand the taste of fish). At other times we must stop them from doing something that they like because it’s hurting them and they simply don’t always understand the correlation between their action and the ultimate result.
For instance, a friend of mine has a beautiful, extremely smart little cuddly mutt called Frida. She never eats more than what she deems appropriate for the day – no matter how much food she has on her plate she will eat just a little if she spent her day lounging around the backyard and appropriately more if she was out hiking, playing and generally frolicking around.
She always knows how much is enough for her and keeps an astonishing and healthy figure at all times. In short, she isn’t a glutton (like some other beautiful pups we know eh Kala? wink). She’s also quite stingy about her food and refuses to eat various types of meat (most prominently pork).
Her favorite food in the whole world is chicken which becomes a problem recently because she became allergic to it. Not so strange once you know that chicken is the most common food-related allergen in dogs, and it’s unfortunately found in most dog food.
Once she was completely off of chicken and on other kinds of meat proteins like those in the deliciously fishy Acana Pacifica she stopped scratching, her skin and hair recovered and is now feeling peachy.
The problem is that she would still gladly trade all the comfort and good health in the world for that yummy piece of chicken (I seriously believe she has an altar to a crispy chicken nugget hidden somewhere). Naturally, my friend must stay vigilant so that poor Frida doesn’t do something stupid and start her allergy all over again.
The moral of the story is: you must be a responsible parent and take care of them because they sometimes don’t know how or why something is happening to them and that it’s bad.
Be it overeating (to which Jack Russell Terriers are especially prone to), drinking polluted water from a pond or snacking on food that will cause them gastrointestinal problems or worse.
It’s always best to consult a professional, your veterinarian or an animal nutritionist about your pet’s diet and possible changes or additions to the same.
We are providing food for our four legged family members and it’s, therefore, our responsibility to make sure that we are feeding them properly.
We’d like to hear your advice, thoughts, and recommendations concerning your experiences with pet food in the comments below.