At the heart of the controversy, many nutritionists and pet food salespersons take the stand that puppies require expensive, specially formulated, high protein, calorie-dense diets, to maximize skeletal developement.
However, clinical research on the occurence of skeletal diseases in growing dogs have veterinarians and canine orthopedic specialist taking the opposite side that high side nutrition increases risk of skeletal diseases in medium and large breeds, predisposed to developmental bone disorders (including hip dysplasia, osteaochondritis dessicans, panostitis, hypertrophic osteodystrophy etc).
To minimize occurrence of these disorders, they recommend that foods encouraging rapid and maximized growth in puppies be avoided with the premise that a gradual, progressive growth curve obtained through restriction of high calories and avoidance of rapid weight gain, particularly between the ages of 4-8 months, ensures less stress on developing joints and bones. Thus it is very important to feed your Saint Puppy with a good (usually expensive) brand of Large Breed Puppy food. This type of food is specially designed to inhibit rapid growth for abovementioned reasons.
Dogs are considered carnivores -meat eaters -however, to acquire complete nutrition, a dog must eat a wide varietey of cereals and vegetables as well as meat. Therefore meat-only diets, particularly those which must be supplemented with excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals are not recommended since they often do not provide the critical balance of nutrients required.
Unfortuantely, there is no one superior brand of dog food on the SA market which will work best for a Saint Bernard. This is primarily because nutritional requirements differ from breed to breed, and dog to dog, and based on factors related to genetics, body weight, level of activity, environment, pregnancy or lactation , and age. It is therfore, important to take these factors into consideration when selecting a commercial dog food that will provide the necessary levels of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.
Giant breed dogs with rough coats will need even more animal fat in their diets to keep the coat soft and shiney.
The most ideal ratio to look out for (read the labels) is 26% PROTEIN (prefferably chicken based), 15% fat (animal fat) and as little as possible Carbs -dogs don’t have need for much carbs. Also, minimum of 1.5% Calsium. More then that can make bones weak and brittle.
Currently none of the locally available brands of food provide above ratio. But supplementing is dangerous. The best way to go would be to choose a brand as close as possible to above, and make sure you ‘add’ some natural animal vat, since the fat level is usually inadequate in most brands. A good idea would be to ‘safe’ the left over fat after preparing breakfast or dinners from the pan, and add that to the pre-soaked kibble.
Do not supplement with calsuim or any other ingredients unless supervised by a vet.
Most dog foods list the recommended amount for feeding based on weight of the dog. In my experience, puppies are usually eating between ½ to 1 cup of food (1 cup being 400ml -about the size of a feta-cheese packaging cup) at each feeding 3 times daily up to 8 weeks of age -using a high quality brand. Therafter 1½-2 cups twice daily up to about 16 weeks should be fine. Between 16 weeks and 6 months feedigg goes up to between 2½-3 cups per feeding twice daily.
From 6 months to and throughoutd adulthood, feeding should be about 4-5 cups once daily .
Bear in mind that the less expensive kibble is, the more fibre (like corn) is part of the ingredients, and the less valuable it is with regards to good nutrition. It will make the dog feel full quicker, but will go right through the system without benefitting the dog at all. Thus you’ll need to feed more.
To judge feeding it’s important to remember that Saint puppies should look chubby until about 16 weeks, and then the legs starts to grow and the puppy goes into the so-called ‘uglies’. Then the puppy should rather look lean, and ribcage and back bone should be felt (not seen). Looking down on the dog, there should be a slight indentation between the end of the rib cage and the hip bones.
Especially male Saint puppies will always appear sowehat on the thin side, and they will only fill out in adulthood between 18-24 months. Females are somewhat more balanced.
When it is necessary to change foods, always make the change a gradual one, by mixing old kibble (and in decreasing amounts) with the new (in increasing amounts) to prevent gastro-intestinal irritation. Be aware however, that it can take anywhere from 6 weeeks to 3 months to see inprovements related to switching to a new dog fodd from one which was not tolerated.
Indications that you are feeding the wrong brand dog food might include pinkish skin color, (noticable on the white parts of dogs, normally on the inside of legs, elboes and between toes) coat loss, loss of coat shine and general coat condition, more then two stools per day, and overall thin appearance.
Sometimes a wrong diet can even lead to skin conditions and dogs might be prone to hotspots, or it can indicate food allergies. In these cases diet should be changed.Bloat/stomach torsion is a common problem among puppies who are fed too much food at one feeding. Puppies can easily over feed. It is for this reason that dogs should be fed amaller portions, more frequently, and kibble should always be soaked. Furthermore dogs should not be allowed to drink large volumes of water or excercise immediatly after feeding.
Food Allergies and Sickness
Some dogs have food alergies.
Symptoms of food allergies vary widely, but common symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, hair loss, skin lesions, dull coat, and chronic ear infections. That will be a good time to experiment with another brand of food to see if conditions would clear.
When food allergies do occur (mostly caused by a specific ingredient in the mix), they commonly do so when the dog reaches about 2 years of age (maturity). For years veterinarians have used chicken and rice based dog foods (Or even fresh) for the treatment of dogs who have developed hypersensitivity to common dog foods.
When a dog is sick, and all else fails, try a normal chicken and rice combo. Don’t add salr or any other flavourants. Very few dogs will refuse to eat this, and its’s very seldom that dogs will have a reaction to this, and it contains most of the nutrition dogs might need while regaining health. For a runny stomach, try to add some yoghurt into the food. The good probioticks should do the trick.