A glossy coat is a tell tale sign that your dog is in tip top condition, so what factors play a role in your dog’s skin and coat health?
- Internal or external parasites
Although heredity factors determine the thickness, length, colour and texture of your dog’s coat, your care will also have a big impact on skin and coat health. So, what is the best thing you can do? Feed a good quality nutritionally balanced diet.
Dogs need a good supply of protein in their diet for healthy body function and hair is actually 95% protein! Studies have found that certain fatty acids play a vital role in canine skin and coat health too. Vets and scientists have known for some time that linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid is good for achieving and maintaining a full, glossy coat. However, consuming large quantities is not best. Recent research has shown that it’s not the precise amount but the balance of omega- 6 and omega-3 fatty acids that is important. But remember, if you’re feeding a ‘complete’ diet, you don’t need to supplement it as it’ll already contain all the nutrients your dog needs.
Whilst diet is a major contributory factor to a good coat, regular grooming is a must too. Grooming removes loose hair, dirt and distributes skin oils, plus it’s a great bonding activity.
Learn about Potential Toxins/Poisons or food that can be harmful to your dog.
The sweetener Xylitol, which is found in many sugar-free products, is known to be toxic to dogs and thought possibly toxic to other animals including dogs.
Xylitol can be found in products such as:
Xylitol can cause blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low resulting in vomiting, seizures and coma. Toxicity can also be deadly and cause liver failure.
If you suspect your dog has consumed Xylitol you must contact your vet immediately.
Anti-freeze contains a substance known as ethylene glycol which is very poisonous to pets. Only a small amount of anti-freeze will poison any pet and even humans. Poisoning from ethylene glycol affects the liver, kidneys and brain. It can cause long term damage and can be fatal
Be careful when using anti-freeze on cars as it can drip off into puddles on the Ground which are easily licked by pets. Always clean up after using the chemical and never leave full or even empty containers lying around where pets may get hold of them.
Anti-freeze poisoning symptoms can include:
Change in behaviour
Loss of appetite
If you suspect your dog has consumed anti -freeze you must contact your vet immediately.
Onions and Garlic
Dogs should not be regularly fed onions or garlic in homemade diets or treats, raw or cooked. Both contain disulphide which when eaten by a dog can cause Heinz body anaemia. The anaemia damages the red blood cells and prevents them from carrying adequate oxygen to where it is needed in the body. Other vegetables from the same family should also be avoided such as chives and leeks.
Some pet food manufacturers use a very small amount of onion in their products, mainly in a powdered form. Onion can be used to enhance taste and increase palatability of food. Any pet food manufacturer will ensure that the amount of onion in the product is carefully controlled so that when the product is fed as recommended there is a large safety margin and therefore no risk to the pet's health.
Poisoning from chocolate can be fatal in dogs. Chocolate that is intended for human contains substances called methylxanthines, which act as stimulants to our pets. The darker the chocolate, the more methylxanthines it contains. Chocolate can cause;
High heart rate
Never feed your pet human chocolate. There are many specially formulated doggy chocolates available
that are ok to give as treats. But remember to always reduce the size of their regular meals accordingly and
don’t feed so much that the nutritional balance of the diet is disrupted.
If you suspect your dog has consumed chocolate you must contact your vet immediately.
Grapes & Raisins
Although people have traditionally used raisins and grapes as treats for their dogs just a few can make a dog
ill. The consumption of grapes and raisins presents a potential health threat to dogs. Grape and raisin toxicity
in dogs can cause the sudden development of kidney failure (acute renal failure).
Vomiting and diarrhea, where pieces of grapes or raisins may be present, are often the first symptoms of grape
or raisin toxicity in dogs. They often develop within a few hours of ingestion. Further symptoms include
weakness, not eating, increased drinking, and abdominal pain. Acute renal failure develops within 48 hours of
If you suspect your dog has consumed grapes or raisins you must contact your vet immediately.
When feeding your dog homemade snacks and treats, always ensure meat and fish have had every last bone
removed regardless of the size and whether raw or cooked. Never give your dog large animals bones. As an
alternative buy mock bones that have been specially developed for feeding to pets and therefore are safe.
Bones can be very dangerous if fed to any pet – they damage teeth and splintered parts can tear anywhere from the mouth through to the digestive system where they can also cause obstructions.
Damage from bone chewing and ingestion can be extremely painful and will often need veterinary treatment.
Grapeseed extract and grape pomace are very widely used in pet foods as they have excellent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants in the diet are useful because they help combat harmful free radicals, support the immune system and may help to delay ageing.
Grape pomace is the dried and extracted grape skin and seed, rather than the whole grape. There's no risk in feeding it to dogs. Dogs can suffer from fatal renal failure after eating grapes or even raisins, but the seed and skin are considered safe. Studies indicate that the toxic element is in the flesh of the grape, which is not included in grape pomace.
Other alternatives commonly used in pet foods now are rosemary extracts, mixed tocopherols, Quercetin and green tea. Antioxidants on a pet food label may be listed by name or may come under the catergory term ‘EC Permitted Antioxidants’. If pet owners want to find out what specific antioxidants are included in the recipe, they can contact the pet food manufacturer who is on hand to provide recipe information.
Dog owner concern: I have been given conflicting advice and don't know what to do, My puppy is 20 weeks old and has been on a diet containing about 29% protien and 30% chicken, mainly rice to bulk it up. I have been told that this is too high by a breeder who specialises in the breed (border collie) and that I should put her on to a low protien diet adult food. about 19%. A field and trial mix. I also live close to a shop which makes it's own food and promotes a low protien diet so that your puppy doesn't fatten up too quickly and result in joint and bowel problems! Help!
Expert Advice: Based on scientific evidence, it is now widely accepted that large breed dogs (those with an optimal adult body weight of 25 kg, or heavier), such as Labradors, are at an increased risk of developmental orthopaedic disease and this usually arises because their growth rate is too fast. Overfeeding (i.e. consumption of too many calories, not too much protein) increases growth rates in puppies, especially large and giant breeds. Ideally all puppies should grow at an average, rather than maximum, growth rate for their breed. It has been shown in studies that foods containing between 23 to 32% protein do not have any negative effect on skeletal development and they support optimal growth, provided that the calcium, phosphorus and energy levels (i.e. calorie levels) are appropriate.
Our advice would be to speak to your vet as you require tailored advice for your dog. Your vet will be able to provide specific dietary advice and behavioural advice. If they feel it is needed, they can also give a referral to a behaviour specialist. What would be useful in the first instance, is for the vet to rule out any underlying medical cause. Members of the PFMA do make specially formulated pet foods to help with dietary sensitivities and there may be a product which is already made and suitable to your pet’s needs rather than worrying about a homemade diet. In the unlikely event the dog cannot tolerate any prepared pet food, the vet can help design a balanced homemade diet.
A balanced puppy food is the ideal diet. A number of manufacturers produce specially formulated puppy foods that have been designed to meet the specific needs of the dog at this stage in life. They are widely available on the market.
British Small Animal Veterinary Association advises against feeding raw (or cooked) bones to dogs and cats as splinters from bones can cause extensive internal injuries by lodging in the mouth throat or chest, in addition to damaging stomach lining and puncturing intestines. These problems can be life threatening.
To ensure a nutritionally balanced diet, we recommend feeding a commercially prepared pet food which has been specifically designed to meet your pets’ nutritional needs. All pet foods are subject to stringent legislation to ensure safety and undergo microbiological testing. There are concerns that feeding raw meat to pets (e.g. bought from a butcher’s) which is not managed in line with the Animal By-Products Regulations (2005) can present a human/animal health risk (e.g. salmonella contamination).
Some members of the PFMA produce commercially prepared frozen pet foods for the consumer who chooses to feed raw meat diets as part of their feeding regime. These pet foods are subject to the same stringent legislation.
There are also specially formulated puppy foods available on the market, which have been produced to address your pets’ requirements at this life stage.
Puppies require about two and half times as many calories per kilogram bodyweight as an adult dog while they are growing. As a result, food for this age group should be higher in calories, protein and other key nutrients. Although many nutrients are needed in higher quantities, some nutrients may need to be adjusted in other ways. For a very young puppy the food needs to be easy to chew and eat. A specially formulated puppy food will take all these factors in to account.
A balanced puppy food is the ideal diet formulated to allow for the specific needs. There are a number of factors you need to consider when deciding the best pet food for your dog, for instance age, body shape and level of activity. Specially formulated puppy foods are available on the market that have been designed to meet the specific needs of a dog at this stage in life.
Puppies require about two and half times as many calories per kilogram bodyweight as an adult dog while they are growing. As a result, food for this age group should be higher in calories, protein and other key nutrients. Although many nutrients are needed in higher quantities, some nutrients may need to be adjusted in other ways. For a very young puppy the food needs to be easy to chew and eat.
A specially formulated puppy food will take all these factors in to account.
Far from it. It is widely recognised by the veterinary profession that pets today are now living longer, healthier lives and that a balanced diet of prepared pet food has played a significant role in this development.
There is a lot of information on pet care and pet nutrition which can make it difficult to find credible and accurate guidance, particularly on the internet. I’d like to reassure you, the UK pet food market is strictly regulated to ensure products of safety and high quality.
There are over 50 pieces of legislation which cover all aspects of pet food production, from the ingredients used to labelling. For instance, legislation states pet food manufacturers can only use raw materials from animals which have passed veterinary inspections as fit for human consumption.
Members of the PFMA produce their diets in line with the FEDIAF (European Pet Food Association) Nutritional Guidelines. These guidelines detail the nutritional requirements of cats and dogs at varying life stages. The document is peer reviewed by independent veterinary nutritionists in Europe. The document is updated to ensure the latest nutritional science is included. Pet owners feeding a prepared pet food can have complete confidence they are addressing their pet’s nutritional needs.
Is feeding semi skimmed milk as part of the main meals to help soften dry dog food harmful to the dog?
As with cats, most dogs tend to be lactose intolerant. A puppy has the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the sugar in milk called lactose. Once the dog is weened, he generally stops producing lactase and loses the ability to digest it. Milk products can then cause an upset stomach and diahorrea. On the other hand, some dogs can tolerate milk and do enjoy small amounts.
Milk is a food and although skimmed milk has fewer protein and calories, this can add up, particularly for a small dog. An alternative is to soften with warm water or speak to the manufacturer’s customer care team who will give you some tips.
At this age a puppy can be like having a willful youngster who is pushing the boundaries to see exactly how far they can go! Hopefully the tips below will help you successfully transition your dog to eating their own food.
• At 8 months, your dog is still a puppy and we would recommend a specially formulated puppy food (these are widely available in the shops). This means all the nutritional needs at this specific life stage will be met, they are also very palatable.
• Introduce the new food gradually. This is the most successful way to ease your dog into the change in diet. Start by mixing 25% new food with 75% old food. Slowly change the proportions over the next three days or so by gradually increasing the amount of new food and decreasing the amount of old food. At the end of this weaning process, you should be feeding 100% of the new food. You may encounter some difficulties such as your dog choosing to eat only the old food, or not eating at all.
• Food left out for 2 days will not be appealing to the dog as it will lack freshness and become stale. We suggest putting down small amounts at first and taking it away after 20-30 minutes. Do not offer anything else but repeat with fresh dog food every 4 hours or so. It is important not to give up too soon. During the initial 3-5 day period, do not give your dog treats or table scraps. Giving in to their demands only reinforces refusal behaviour and makes it more difficult to make a nutritious dietary change.
• Watch your body language. Bringing a new food into the home, placing it into a bowl, and declaring that your dog had better eat it might cause your dog to go on hunger strike. It is better to introduce the new food to the dog using a pleasant tone of voice. Gently encourage the dog to try the new food.
• Switching diets may be more challenging when changing from a canned food to a dry food. If your dog continues to resist eating dry food, mix a little warm water with the food. You may even want to put the moistened food in the microwave for a few seconds. If you mix the food with water it is important to discard the uneaten portion after 20 minutes. This prevents spoilage. The same rule applies for canned food. After the dog has become accustomed to the moistened food, you can wean him or her onto the dry food. To do this, follow the same mixing instructions as outlined above.
• Speak to your vet nurse who is likely to be answering these sorts of questions frequently; they will have some tips and advice for you.
The feeding guidelines on a pet food packet and your local vet will provide guidance on how much you need to feed and at what intervals. It is always important to read the feeding guidelines as these can vary from product to product. As well as speaking to your vet, many pet food manufacturers provide customer care lines with feeding advice for owners, a number also have dedicated puppy/kitten clubs.
In terms of what is the best pet food, we would recommend a specially
formulated puppy diet as these have been specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of your pet at this time in her life. It is also important to monitor your puppy's health and development and adjust the amount fed as your puppy grows. Regular weight checks are also beneficial as being at the ideal weight during this period can help prevent certain health conditions in the future.
Nutritional needs for bitches during lactation are higher than at any other life-stage. Successful lactation hinges on getting the nutrition right throughout pregnancy and supporting the specific needs during the lactation period itself.
As energy requirements can be 2-4 times adult maintenance at the peak of lactation (weeks 3-4 post birth), if this is not provided for the dam may suffer severe weight loss and loss of body condition. Energy requirements of the dam should return to normal at 8 weeks post birth.
For further support and guidance, please consult your vet.
There is no fixed answer as when to feed a dog, it is completely individual. Some owners may feed their dog once a day only, some owners may feed their dog twice a day, whilst other owners may feed their dog three or four times throughout the day.
The key to a happy, healthy pet is feeding them the right type and right amount of food specific to their individual age and lifestyle. Historically dogs are scavengers, so will eat whenever the opportunity arises, however this can easily lead to overfeeding. Manufacturers’ guidelines found on all commercially prepared petfood packaging (including dry food and wet food)
recommend total daily amounts which can then be divided into a chosen number of meals. Your petfood manufacturer should also be able to provide further individual advice if you contact them directly. It is important to remember that your dog's nutritional requirements and appetite will vary as they go through life and depend on a number of factors including;
- Life Stage/Age
- Activity Level
It is essential that your pet maintains an ideal body condition throughout life for optimum health and to try to minimise the risk and impact of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. To see if your dogs fall into a healthy body size why not take the 'Healthy Pet Test' by using the PFMA 'Pet Size-O-Meter' available on this website at
Use regularly to check that your pet is maintaining the right weight throughout life. If your pet appears to be under or overweight then food quantities, and possibly diet type, will need to be adjusted to correct this. Your vet will always be the best person to advise you for your dog’s own individual health and nutrition needs as he/she will be able to assess them directly.
A puppy can be transitioned from puppy to adult food from skeletal maturity so it depends what the anticipated adult size of your puppy is. Small breed dogs (such as Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers) have a shorter growing period and may be considered adult as early as 8 months. Larger breed dogs, like Great Danes or St Bernard's may still be growing at 2 years of age. We would strongly recommend that a vet has actually assessed your dog prior to making this decision, a vet of pet care specialist should be able to advise.
It is also important to remember that when you do transfer your puppy from a growth or puppy food to an adult food then remember to do so over a period of 7 days. Gradually introducing the adult food to the puppy food over time to allow the puppy's tummy to adjust.
*Always remember to give your dog a bowl of clean and fresh water with their food.*