These few notes
are intended for anyone who hasn't owned a dog before and will hopefully point
you in the right direction. Most of what you'll need to know can be found in one
of the good reference books such as "The RSPCA Complete Dog Care Manual"
by Dr Bruce Fogle. It offers straightforward and reliable advice on all aspects
of care and should be available from most public libraries.
When your new dog arrives it's usually best to continue with the same food it's
become familiar with at the kennels or previous home. Sudden changes of diet can
cause upsets so it is worth asking for as much detail as possible. If you want
to change to another type of food do this gradually over several days or weeks.
Dogs are not true carnivores so as well as the protein provided by meat they require
carbohydrates from dog-meal or similar for energy. Most will thrive on a good-quality
commercial dog-food containing a proper balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates
The main choice in commercial foods is between tinned, dry, or semi-moist foods.
Tinned food is either 'supplementary', which needs to be balanced by the addition
of dog-meal, or 'complete', which does not. Dry "kibbled" food has the advantage
of helping to keep teeth clean and is always sold as 'complete' but may need the
addition of water. Fresh water should always be available with all foods.
Whichever you use you should read the packaging for instructions and several manufacturers
offer a free-phone advice line if you're unsure. Cat-food is not formulated for
dogs and isn't suitable for them.
Many owners choose to feed their own specially-prepared fresh food and while this
doesn't need to be expensive it does require more time and care to maintain a
proper balance. Meat such as heart and liver should only be fed in moderate quantities.
Pasta or rice is a useful source of carbohydrates.
All meat, especially chicken and offal produced using 'factory farming' methods,
needs to be cooked sufficiently to kill any harmful bacteria or parasites. Although
wild animals naturally eat meat raw, they will frequently suffer from disease
and live shorter lives than we can expect for our pets.
If your dog requires a special diet for health reasons you should carefully follow
your vet's instructions. Chicken or fish with rice, although easily digested and
ideal for dogs recovering from illness, are not suitable for most dogs over a
prolonged period without supplements.
Whatever a dog eats, it needs to be in the right quantities because the most widespread
health problem in dogs is obesity. Keeping a dog's weight down by giving the right
amount of good food and sufficient exercise will maximise its chances for a long,