You can make homemade dogfood or buy it. (Several small companies like Sojos are willing to do the cooking for you and give you a head start.) Of course, cooking is not always required. Raw dog food diets are popular with some pet owners.
Regardless of whether you cook or don't cook, make it yourself or buy it pre-packaged, you must make sure that your dogs are getting all of the nutrients and calories they need. Active dogs like Australian Shepherds need more nutrients and calories in order to remain energetic and live long healthy lives.
Young dogs, puppies, pregnant and nursing dogs all have higher energy requirements than older dogs. Middle age for a dog is around 6 years. Once they pass middle age, their caloric needs are lower due to decreased activity and slower metabolism. But, caloric needs vary for many reasons.
Your dogs love homemade dogfood and you for making it for them.
Above: JG Skymoor's Candid Picture "Houston"
You want to make sure they stay at a healthy weight. If you start to see them putting on weight, you should cut back on the calories. One out of every four dogs in the US is overweight. Overweight dogs have an increased risk of diabetes and arthritis.
A rule of thumb is that older dogs need 20% fewer total calories than middle aged dogs. Your vet can help you determine when your dogs are getting older. Your dogs should have regular checkups to make sure they are staying at a healthy weight.
There are some ingredients that should not be included in homemade dog food. Some foods that people eat are toxic to dogs. So, when you are comparing brands or creating your own recipes, be sure to avoid the following:
The most toxic on the list is chocolate, which can cause sickness in a matter of hours and death within 24 hours. Consuming mushrooms can be fatal, if the species is poison.
There are many ingredients that can be used in homemade dog food. Protein is very important to a dog's health, but feeding mainly meat results in calcium deficiency. To reduce the risk of bone loss with age, calcium is essential, but too much can cause health problems, too. The recommended daily allowance of calcium for dogs is .75 grams.
Some owners add ground and powdered egg shells to their homemade dogfood to increase the calcium content. A medium sized eggshell contains about .75 grams of calcium. So, adding one to the dog's daily food rations meets their calcium requirements for the day. A coffee grinder works well to grind the shells to a powder.
Adding salt is unnecessary and unhealthy. Dogs do need 100mg of sodium per day, but that's less than 1/16 of a teaspoon of salt. Chicken and other meats are natural sources of sodium.
A lack of essential vitamins in a dog's diet will lead to weight loss, even if the caloric requirements are being met. There will also be a lack of energy. If you start feeding homemade dog food and you notice that your Australian Shepherd does not seem interested in playing ball or does not have the energy to play like he used to, the cause may be a lack of vitamins in the foods he is eating.
Planning diets for dogs takes time and can be difficult. But when you get it right, it feels really good to see him enjoy his food. That's the thing I like most about feeding homemade dogfood. The dogs like it.
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