Scottish Terrier Nutrition – How Much, What, and When to feed your new Scottie

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Scottish Terriers" by Tracey Squaire. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Tracey Squaire

Importance of Good Diet

All animals require a specific balance of nutrients to keep their bodies functioning how they were designed to, and your Scottish Terrier is no different. An unbalanced diet for your Scottie can cause problems such as obesity or weight loss, skin disease, low energy, moodiness, and acting out.

Poor nutrition can be caused by a lack of food or a lack of quality food. Medical conditions can also cause poor nutrition if that condition limits the desire to eat or limits the absorption of vital nutrients. Intestinal parasites are a major cause of poor nutrition as they consume nutrients before your dog’s body is able to absorb those nutrients.

Your Scottish Terrier’s diet should not stay the same throughout her life since there are different dietary needs for different life stages. It’s important to consult a veterinarian at different points in your Scottie’s life to get advice on what kind of food to feed your companion.

Balanced Nutrition for Your Dog

Your Scottish Terrier requires a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals in the food she eats every day. Without the regular ingestion of these nutrients, your dog’s body won’t be able to work how it was built to work. Simply put, your Scottish Terrier needs to eat, and she needs to eat quality ingredients! Even though her body is small, it is still made up of a lot of muscles that your Scottie uses every day to run, jump, and play.

All that exercise burns a lot of calories, and depending on your Scottie’s activity level, life stage, or pregnancy status, she may require between 709 and 1575 calories a day to maintain her health. Specific dog foods are made for different life stages, and your veterinarian can suggest an appropriate food based on your dog’s specific needs.

Proteins are most important for very young animals or animals in stages of growth. A pregnant Scottish Terrier or one younger than 8-10 months should eat a dog food high in protein to support the growth and changes their bodies will go through.

Scottish terrier wheaten
Photo Courtesy – Michelle Lynch

Protein is a vital ingredient in the building and structure of the body including skin and hair cells, muscles and tissues, and internal organs. Without proteins, your Scottie will be unable to build and maintain muscle mass.

Carbohydrates are just as important as proteins in your dog’s diet, though that fact has been hotly debated by those who would prefer to keep their dog’s diet as close to a wolf’s diet as possible, but dogs are not wolves and have their own dietary needs based on how their bodies have developed alongside humanity’s.

Carbs are vital in the modern dog’s nutrition. The first dogs scavenged the scraps and leftovers found around human encampments, meaning they had access to carbohydrates from plants, grains, fruits, and vegetables. The modern dog’s body reflects the changes those ancient wolves made to become the dogs we know today.

Carbohydrates provide a quick source of energy since carbs are usually very easy to digest. Since dog foods contain a mix of nutrients, not all of them will be absorbed all at once; carbs help your dog get energy now to engage in regular activities as well as to digest those other sources of energy. Besides being an important source of energy, carbs in kibble give it a texture that’s easily chewed by dogs and helps with controlling tartar build up and provides a source of fiber.

Essential fatty acids contribute to the health and quality of your Scottish Terrier’s skin and coat, but these nutrients also help maintain the structure of smooth muscle organs such as the heart. Dogs eating a diet rich with fatty acids will have shiny fur. The most common category of fatty acids important to a dog’s health are omega-6 and omega-3. Sources of these essential fatty acids are foods such as seeds, vegetables, fish, and some meats.

Vitamins are vital for many different aspects of your dog’s health including vision health, immune health, bone health, and more. Certain vitamins are necessary for the absorption of other vitamins, so a balanced mix of vitamins in your dog’s diet is essential. Minerals are no different as they support the growth of bones and teeth and provide other nutritional benefits that contribute to the overall health of your dog.

Signs and Symptoms of Improper Nutrition

Sometimes, it’s hard to notice when we as humans are missing a nutrient in our diets. We may have a general feeling of illness that we can’t quite pinpoint or have aches that come out of nowhere. With dogs, the same may be true, but they cannot tell their owners these things. You must recognize what “normal” behavior is for your Scottie so you can realize when something is wrong.

Fortunately, there are some physical signs of malnutrition you can watch for to ensure your Scottish Terrier’s health.

A protein deficiency is caused by the body’s failure to absorb enough protein either because it just isn’t present in the diet or because something is blocking absorption. Protein deficiency can cause weight loss, a decrease in muscle mass, difficulty breathing, weakness, or a lack of energy in an otherwise energetic pup.

While your Scottish Terrier does need protein, she can have too much in her diet. An excess of protein can cause your dog’s kidneys to work harder as the unused proteins cannot be absorbed for normal bodily functions and will be filtered out through the kidneys or stored as extra fat, causing weight gain.

Scottish terrier black brindle
Photo Courtesy – Ambre Bethoux and Jake Wehner

A deficiency of essential fatty acids can cause scaly skin, hair loss, a dull coat, digestive problems, degenerative eye disease, and cardiovascular disease. You may notice dandruff, ear infections, or excessive itchiness.

The anti-inflammatory benefits these fatty acids provide also reduce itchy and dry skin caused by environmental factors such as dry or cold air, though too much of these fatty acids can negate the positive effects and cause inflammation as well.

Itchiness may not seem like a big deal, but constant scratching can drive both you and your pup crazy and may give guests the impression that your home may be infected with fleas when, instead, she’s getting too much or too little of the nutrients meant to keep her coat and skin healthy.

Too few carbohydrates in your Scottie’s diet can result in low energy since carbs are a quick source of fuel.

Even though carbohydrates play a role in your Scottie’s energy levels, some dog foods supply more carbohydrates than your dog may actually need. Dog foods can be composed of between 30 and 70 percent carbohydrates. With too little exercise or a predisposition toward weight gain, a diet high in carbohydrates can be detrimental to your dog’s health.

A lack of adequate vitamins and minerals can cause lethargy, muscle pain, trembling, eye disease, heart failure, and more, depending on the missing nutrient.

These conditions can be caused by under- or overfeeding, lack of quality food, food allergies, intestinal worms, bowel diseases, cancer, heart failure, or any number of other conditions. Your veterinarian can diagnose and advise you on treatments for whatever is causing these symptoms; it’s important that you observe your dog regularly for changes in activity, behavior, appearance, food consumption, and bowel movements.

Besides medical conditions or infections that can prevent or drain these vital nutrients, your Scottish Terrier shouldn’t have the chance to become malnourished as long as she is regularly eating commercial dog food, which is required by the FDA to meet a variety of basic nutritional needs for dogs. Not all dog foods are created equally, though, and some may have a higher concentration of some vitamins or nutrients than others.

Good Foods for Scottish Terriers

Puppies naturally need more energy to support their growth and development, but Scottish Terriers young and adult burn a lot of calories like many other small-dog breeds, so a food high in both protein as well as carbs is essential to provide these pups with the fuel they need to get through a day of defending your home.

When searching for a dog food for your Scottish Terrier, you want to look for quality ingredients. Proteins should come from an animal, and that animal should be named. A simple label of “meat protein” is too vague and should set off red flags. Carbs are a must, especially for puppies, but make sure that the amount of carbs in your dog’s diet reflects the life stage she’s in as well as her activity levels.

Fatty acids will be labeled a variety of ways, but they are typically labeled as omega-3 and omega-6. Just ensure that there are indeed essential fatty acids, but be aware that omega-3 has a shorter shelf life than other fatty acids and may not be as potent as the dog food label claims.

Scottish terrier silhouette
Photo Courtesy – Jada Blankenship

A balanced diet for your dog should include vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, as well as the vitamin choline. Trace minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, copper, and iodine are also something to look out for on the ingredients list.

Other than the above nutrients, you want to ensure that the food your dog is eating is made with quality ingredients. Many of the nutrients listed can come from several sources, not all of which will be healthy or easy for your Scottish Terrier to ingest.

The inclusion of vegetables and fresh ingredients in general is a good sign. Some dog foods even include nonessential nutrients such as probiotics or extra fiber. The specific nutrients you want to look for depend on your Scottish Terrier’s age, activity level, and health. You can consult your veterinarian or an animal nutritionist to find the right diet for your Scottish Terrier.

Different Types of Commercial Food for Scottish Terriers


Canidae Life Stages Chicken & Rice Formula is a wet dog food that can stay in your pantry throughout your Scottie’s life. Since the formula is made for different stages of a dog’s life, your Scottie shouldn’t have to go without a familiar food just because she happens to be getting older. This food is appropriate for puppies, adults, and seniors.

Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Puppy Turkey, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe aims to give your Scottie the most out of each meal. With turkey as a source of quality protein and carrots as protection against eye and heart disease, this formula is designed to meet the specific health needs of small dogs like your Scottie.

Free of artificial flavors and colors, Hill’s Bioactive Recipe Grow + Learn Chicken & Brown Rice Puppy Dry Food is easily digestible to make the most of the nutrients provided. This formula is made without corn, wheat, and soy and is made with apples as a source of antioxidants.

Canidae Under the Sun Grain-Free Puppy Food is a good choice for those who want a higher-protein, lower-carb diet for their companions. The grain-free formula contains probiotic, antioxidants, and farm-grown fruits and vegetables. This recipe does not contain red meat or potatoes.

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Puppy Recipe is another quality high-protein option. The formula is meant to bring the best of what earth has to offer to your dog’s bowl. The recipe is made to be easily digestible and support a shinier coat with less shedding. Chicken and salmon proteins provide all the energy your puppy needs to grow and play.

Adult Scotties

Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Small Paws for Small Breeds, Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Recipe is enhanced to provide precise and balanced nutrition. The formula is designed to support a long life for small dogs and is clinically proven to support bone and muscle strength, digestion, and healthy immune function.

With Rachael Ray’s Nutrish Little Bites Small Breed Natural Dry Dog Food, Real Chicken & Veggies Recipe, you can give your Scottish Terrier a happy and full belly along with energy for her small but muscled body. This formula is made with cranberries, which are high in antioxidants and may reduce stress levels.

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Natural Adult Small Breed Wet Dog Food contains high-quality chicken that provides essential amino acids. Whole grains such as brown rice and barley give your Scottie a source of carbohydrates for quick energy, and the fruits and garden vegetables provide a rich mix of nutrients. This recipe is free of wheat and soy products and does not contain artificial flavors or preservatives.

Halo Holistic Chicken and Chicken Liver Recipe for Small Breed Dogs is an easily digestible kibble small enough to fit the tiny mouth of your Scottish Terrier. Halo delivers a deliciously nutritious meal with its premium protein that never contains any animal byproduct. Halo products include the brand’s own DreamCoat nutrient mix designed to support smooth skin and a shiny coat.

Nature’s Recipe Grain Free Dry Dog Food Small Breed Chicken, Sweet Potato & Pumpkin formula is made to be easily digestible. With real chicken as the first ingredient, you can be sure your Scottish Terrier is getting protein from a quality source. Natural sweet potato and pumpkin offer a grain-free source of carbohydrates, and the formula contains copper and zinc proteinate to help maintain a healthy coat.

Senior Scotties

Another option for all your Scottie’s life stages, Canidae All Life Stages Less Active Formula Dry Dog Food is made specifically for dogs who are less active, overweight, or senior. The recipe contains a lower mix of fat but contains the brand’s personal HealthPLUS Solutions mix of probiotics, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids.

Ultra Senior Dog Food is a safe option for older dogs who have food allergies. The formula is free of wheat and corn and uses rice grain to provide fiber for easier digestion. Ultra dog food contains proteins from chicken, lamb, and salmon. The recipe contains superfoods such as blueberries, chia, coconut, and kale.

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Senior is a grain-free dry food option full of protein and is specially formulated to support joint and immune health. This kibble is raw, retaining many of the essential nutrients inside. The recipe contains freeze-dried raw meat as a special treat for your aged Scottie warrior.

With a complete and balanced offering of nutrients in this dry food, Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Senior Deboned Turkey & Peas Recipe is a great option for the salt-sensitive elder Scottie. The formula focuses on heart health and weight maintenance for older dogs who’ve packed on a few pounds.

Another grain-free option for your elder Scottish Terrier is Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken. This recipe is full of real, cage-free chicken as the first ingredient. Seventy percent of this recipe is animal ingredients and healthy oils with the remaining 30% being fruits, vegetables, and other nutrients.

Feeding During Pregnancy

Pregnancy and nursing are times when you need to pay special attention to your Scottish Terrier’s diet. Your Scottie will be giving much of her nutrients to her puppies before and after the birth. Malnutrition during pregnancy can lead to health problems for both the expectant mother as well as her unborn pups.

Pregnant dogs need more food later in the pregnancy compared to the first few weeks, and as her appetite increases, so too will the amount of food she consumes. Consult your vet on how much to feed your specific dog. You can purchase a food with more proteins and fats to ensure your Scottie has all the nutrients she needs for her pregnancy, but typically you can just increase the amount of her regular food.

Pregnant dogs have a tendency to lose their appetites, so you may want to switch to a wet food or moisten her food during this time. Allow her to eat as much as she wants during this time, and do what you can to make her food as appetizing as possible. Look for foods that are easily digested as these foods provide the most nutrient absorption.

Subscription Services, Homemade Foods, Recipes

Many owners want their dogs to enjoy the same type of fresh, quality ingredients they themselves eat, so they invest money or time into subscription services or homemade dog food recipes.

Not every pet food company can be trusted. Even if it has previously had a clean record, the claims on the labels could be false, or the food might just not work for your Scottie.

Making dog food at home isn’t hard, but it is vital to know what you’re doing; not just any food can be given to dogs, and even the food that your dog can eat needs certain nutrients added to it to address all of your dog’s dietary needs.

You can find free dog food recipes online or purchase a recipe book. Although not every meal needs to have every nutrient as long as you are feeding diverse recipes, in general, you want to include the following nutrients in the different foods you make at home for your Scottish Terrier:

  • Meat and animal products
  • A source of calcium
  • A source of vitamin D
  • Fruits, vegetables, leafy greens
  • A source of carbs
  • Cod or salmon oil
  • A source of vitamin E

It’s important that you consult your veterinarian or a licensed pet nutritionist before making drastic changes to your dog’s diet. A nutritionist can provide you with a full list of all the vitamins and nutrients to include in the food you make for your Scottish Terrier and can also recommend specific sources of nutrients and places to buy supplements.

If you don’t have time to cook your dog’s food, you can purchase a subscription to receive fresh food delivered directly to your home. Since this trend of having fresh food delivered is becoming more and more popular for humans and animals alike, there are many options to choose from. Fresh dog food can help improve your dog’s coat and skin, energy levels, and digestion.

People Food – Harmful and Acceptable Kinds

People food can serve as a suitable treat for your pet once in a while, but most foods humans eat are processed, over-salted, or otherwise contain ingredients that are detrimental to the long-term health of dogs.

To keep your Scottish Terrier healthy, limit how much of your own food you share. Besides the food mentioned in Chapter 3, you should avoid feeding your Scottie human food in general unless that food is prepared in a recipe suitable to meet your dog’s nutritional needs. It would be unwise to waste your dog’s daily caloric intake on foods that won’t provide the other nutrients she needs.

That isn’t to say your Scottie doesn’t deserve a special treat that doesn’t provide anything other than tastiness, but be aware that some “safe-to-eat” human foods, especially in excess, can cause health problems. Bread is a food that can definitely be high in carbohydrates and can cause weight gain. Ham is an acceptable snack, but its high sodium levels aren’t ideal for it to be a regular treat.

Fat trimmings and other fatty foods can cause liver and pancreas problems. The liver is responsible for aiding digestion and removing toxins from the body. Treatment can be anything from a change of diet to medication to surgery. The meaty taste of animal fats just isn’t worth the risk of permanently damaging your dog’s liver. Cheese is a food that can be a good treat for your dog but can also be high in fat.

Weight Management

While the breed typically weighs between 19-22 pounds, there certainly will be Scottish Terriers who are either bigger or smaller than the breed standards. With that in mind, whether your Scottie is overweight shouldn’t be decided just by what the scale says. Your veterinarian will warn you when your Scottie is hitting an unhealthy number on the scale, but you can notice for yourself when you need to reduce treats and increase walks.

To see if your Scottie needs to shed a few pounds, attempt to locate her ribs with your hands. You should be able to feel the outline of the rib cage without feeling extra flesh. If you can’t find your Scottie’s rib cage, it’s time to consult your vet about a diet and exercise plan.

Remember that “overweight” isn’t “obese,” and the sooner you realize that your pup needs a lifestyle change, the easier it will be to guide her health back to where it should be. If your Scottie is prone to weight gain, consider purchasing a scale for frequent weight tracking. You can weigh yourself, then weigh yourself holding your dog to figure out how much she weighs. Just subtract your weight from you and your dog’s combined weight.

Scottish Terriers are prone to obesity, so you should be conscious of the portion sizes you feed your pet. Use treats smartly during times such as training; training can involve physical exercises that help burn off the calories from those treats, and keeping treats to training sessions can help reduce begging because your Scottie will learn that she needs to earn her treats. Just make sure you can resist begging if and when it does happen.

Diet and exercise are the simplest ways to control your Scottie’s weight, but if your Scottish Terrier is too overweight to exercise, you should definitely seek medical advice.

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