May 28

The Terrier Diet

Puppy eatingSince the terrier breeds are so varied, their diet is also variable. That’s even more true when considering the individual. But like any dog diet, there are similarities that run across all.

Dogs were historically descendant from wolves. As such, they were primarily carnivores, or meat eaters. But they’re also somewhat like scavengers and can consume some vegetables or plant material without harm. The net result is that a diet suited to their needs can well be a mixture of meats and grains.

Take care with grains, though. Some individual terriers are prone to wheat or corn allergies although this is less common than in other breeds, such as Golden Retrievers. Commercial dry kibbles that contain wheat gluten are fine for most. But animal meal – chicken, lamb or beef – should be the main ingredient.

Any quality commercial dog food will have the proper balance of nutrients that terriers need. Though many terrier owners prefer to cook their dog’s food themselves, the reasons are often less based on good science than personal values.

It is possible to feed a raw or cooked diet from available ingredients, but it requires great care and expertise in order to ensure the meal is healthy for a terrier. Just as one element to consider, prepared meals don’t contain the proven-safe preservatives that make food last without spoilage. That means anything prepared has to be served within a few days at most, unless it’s frozen, which adds to the effort required.

Creating a dog meal that contains the right mix of protein, fat and vitamins is a challenge. Getting the proportions right is even more difficult. It’s possible, but few will devote the time and effort to do objective research, much less the added task of actually preparing meals correctly.

Boston Terriers, for example, who don’t get the proper diet can become flatulent. That represents not only an unpleasant odor for the owner, but is uncomfortable and unsafe for the dog. As in humans, it represents an inability to completely digest certain substances. Unlike humans, though, dogs’ stomachs are more sensitive to failure and there aren’t the wide range of over the counter remedies to alleviate discomfort.

Such stomach difficulties are not limited to a mild discomfort in many cases, as it may be in humans, but is more often a real health risk, particularly in smaller breeds. More seriously, dogs rarely convey clearly what is ailing them. Play it safe and, unless you can commit to developing a diet on your own based on sound nutritional science, rely on your vet’s recommendation.

That recommendation will almost always be in favor of a commercially prepared kibble and/or soft meat food. Most will tell you to look for a dog food with a ratio of about 40% meat meal and no more than 30% vegetable, with the remainder starches and fats. Vets are not just providing commercial dog food companies with free advertising, since they make only a small profit, if any, from them. Their concern is for the welfare of your dog first and foremost. As, undoubtedly, is yours.

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