The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to French Bulldogs" by David Anderson. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.
Author Credit: David AndersonWhile some might argue that training your dog is your biggest responsibility as a dog owner, feeding your dog a healthy diet may be even more important. Without a healthy diet, your dog won’t be healthy – it’s as simple as that. In this chapter, you’ll learn about the importance of a healthy diet and you’ll learn all you need to know about canine nutritional needs. Then we’ll discuss the proper way to shop for dog food and explore some of the dangers associated with obesity in dogs.
Why is a Healthy Diet Important?
Your French Bulldog’s body is like a machine. It is made up of different parts and systems that all work together. Each part and system requires fuel in order to do its job, and that fuel is a healthy diet. Without a healthy diet, your dog’s body won’t have the nutrients it needs to support basic functions and your dog won’t be healthy. The effects of an improper diet can compound over time, leading to serious nutritional deficiencies and other health problems.
Fortunately, choosing a healthy diet for your French Bulldog is easy. All you have to do is learn the basics about canine nutrition and then apply that knowledge to your selection of a commercial dog food product. Commercial dog foods, much like food for people, all come in packages that contain the information you need to make a smart choice. You’ll learn more about reading a dog food label later in this chapter.
Canine Nutritional Needs
All living things need a balance of nutrients in order to survive. For dogs, like for humans, the three most important nutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrate. It is important to note that the ideal ratio for these nutrients is very different for dogs than for humans. The average human diet is very carbohydrate-heavy because the human body is designed to utilize glucose as its primary source of fuel. Dogs, on the other hand, are designed for a more meat-based diet. They are not obligate carnivores like cats are, but the majority of their nutrition should come from animal-based sources, both proteins and fats.
If you want to know exactly what to look for in a healthy diet for dogs, you should consider the minimum requirements for protein and fat. Growing puppies, as well as pregnant and lactating females, have higher requirements for protein and fat than adult dogs. A balanced diet for puppies should consist of at least 22% protein and 8% fat. For adult dogs, those minimums are 18% and 5%. Keep in mind, however, that more is always better when it comes to these requirements.
Protein is made up of amino acids and it plays a role in developing healthy tissues and muscles. There are twenty-two different amino acids that a dog needs in its diet, but it is capable of synthesizing (producing) only twelve of them. The remaining ten are known as essential amino acids because they must come from the diet. Animal-based proteins like meat, poultry, eggs, and fish are considered complete proteins because they contain all ten of these essential amino acids.
Fats play an important role in a dog’s diet because they are the most highly concentrated source of energy available. Proteins and carbohydrates each contain four calories per gram – a calorie is simply a unit of energy. Fat, on the other hand, contains nine calories per gram. This is especially important to know for small-breed dogs like the French Bulldog because they actually have higher energy needs than larger dogs. Small dogs have very fast metabolisms so they burn more calories per pound of bodyweight than larger dogs. For this reason, commercial dog foods that are formulated for small dogs tend to be higher in fat.
When it comes to carbohydrate, dogs have no specific requirements. Certain carbohydrates can provide energy, but they are more valuable as a source of dietary fiber to support your dog’s healthy digestion. It is important to remember, however, that your dog’s body can more efficiently process and digest animal-based foods than plant-based foods, so you should limit your dog’s carbohydrate intake. A high-quality commercial dog food won’t contain any more than 5 percent crude fiber.
Your dog also needs an assortment of vitamins and minerals in its diet. Fortunately, commercial dog foods are required to meet certain nutritional minimums in order to be sold as a staple diet. The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is the governing body that controls this. If a dog food product contains an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy, you can rest assured that it will provide for your Frenchie’s basic nutritional needs in terms of the three core nutrients and vitamins and minerals.
Choosing a Healthy Dog Food
Now that you understand the basics about canine nutrition, you should have a better idea of what to look for when it comes time to shop for your French Bulldog’s food. If you look nowhere else on the dog food label, be sure to check the ingredients list. The ingredients lists for dog foods are written in descending order by volume – this means that the ingredients at the top of the list are used in higher quantities than those at the bottom of the list. So you want to see high-quality ingredients at the top.
If you remember the fact that most of your dog’s nutrition should come from animal-based sources, it should make sense that you want to see high-quality sources of animal protein at the top of the ingredient list for any dog food you choose. Some quality sources include things like chicken, turkey, salmon, and other meats, poultry, and fish. Don’t be thrown off by the word “meal” here – meat meals are simply fresh meats that have been cooked to remove moisture which makes them a more highly concentrated source of protein.
After high-quality meats, you want to see some animal-based fats on the list. Things like chicken fat and salmon oil are great choices. Plant-based fats like flaxseed are okay because they help to ensure a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but just remember that animal-based ingredients are preferable. Avoid hydrogenated plant oils and unnamed fats like “animal fat”. If the ingredient comes from an unnamed source, you have no way of judging its quality so it probably isn’t something you want to feed your French Bulldog.
When it comes to carbohydrates, you want to see that they are digestible sources. Whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal are generally considered digestible for dogs, but keep in mind that French Bulldogs are prone to food allergies – particularly grain allergies. You may want to look for gluten-free and grain-free options like sweet potato, tapioca, or beans and legumes. And remember, the dog food should be high in protein and fat with limited carbohydrate content and no more than 5% crude fiber.
One of the easiest ways to choose a quality dog food is to buy one that is formulated for a dog of the right size. As mentioned earlier, small-breed dog foods are higher in fat than other foods to meet the high-energy needs of smaller dogs. If you choose a reputable brand of dog food you can trust that one of their small-breed formulas will be a good choice for your Frenchie. Choose a high-quality small-breed puppy food for your puppy until it reaches about 80 percent of its adult size. Then you should switch to a small-breed adult food – ideally one from the same brand, or even the same formula, to reduce any digestive problems that might result from a change in diet.
The Dangers of Obesity
In addition to choosing a high-quality dog food product for your French Bulldog, you should also be mindful of how much you are feeding it. Obesity is very dangerous for dogs, especially for smaller breeds where a gain of one or two pounds can be significant. Your best bet is to follow the feeding instructions on the pet food label according to your dog’s weight.
Follow those instructions for a few weeks while carefully monitoring your dog’s weight and condition. If it loses weight or becomes lethargic, you might want to increase its daily ration a little bit. If it gains too much weight, scale back. Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine what is a healthy weight for your dog.
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