Southern English Springer Spaniel Society
The majority of dogs are normal, healthy, non working, non breeding animals. These are by far the easiest to feed as they have the least demanding nutrient requirements and, for the most part, their problems can mostly be related to over-feeding rather than nutritional deficiencies.
Dogs have developed as omnivores, meaning that they eat a wide range of different types of food ingredients to fulfil their nutritional requirements. They have teeth that are adapted to tear and shear, as well as flatter teeth that can crush plant material. The dog's intestine is also relatively long - about 6 times the length of the body - to allow fermentation of more fibrous plants. Meats, cereals and vegetables can all be used relatively easily by the dog's digestive system.
Both puppies and adults will thrive on all types of diet from complete (dry) foods, canned foods with or without biscuit, the BARF diet, raw meat and biscuit or home-made mixtures of fresh foods. The nutritional needs of dogs can vary through life depending on how active they are and their life stage. What type of food best suits your ESS is probably first going to be determined by the diet recommended to you by the breeder. You may wish, or find you need, to alter this as the puppy grows into adulthood. If this is the case, the choices open to you are enormous, so it should not prove difficult for you to choose which one you think is best for your ESS.
Puppies require large amounts of food in relation to their bodyweight, although do remember that their stomachs have a very limited capacity. As a guide, puppies need 2 -3 times as much food as an adult dog, because they need to supply energy for maintenance and activity, in addition to the materials needed for growth and bone development.
As a guide, an ESS up to 18 weeks old should be fed four meals a day at regular intervals. Then from 18 weeks up to 9 months three meals a day at regular intervals. 9 months to 18 months two meals a day at regular intervals. Over 18 months old only one meal per day is required, however, often it works best to split the meals into two smaller feeds, given morning and evening, as this can help to settle the dog better. You must decide what is best for your dog; your own daily routine and the amount of exercise your dog is having, so that you can feed them accordingly.
Adults should be fed a high quality, well balanced nutritional diet, appropriate to their specific needs. For example, dogs which are working (gundogs, hounds, terriers, police, sheepdogs, sled dogs etc) have higher energy needs than pet dogs of the same breed type, size, sex and age. Dogs living outside (in kennels) especially in winter will require more food to maintain bodyweight than in other seasons.
Careful consideration and understanding should be given to the feeding of breeding bitches before, during and after mating, increasing food intake and quality of food particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy and during lactation (feeding puppies).
Stud dogs too need to be kept in the peak of health and fitness, and maintenance of a good diet is also important for them.
The older dog, as it perhaps becomes less active, also needs to have adjustments made to its diet, especially should there be health issues that arise because of its age. For the older, and sometimes sick dog, the guidelines are the same as for puppies and adults - provide a specially formulated diet which is tasty, digestible and which has appropriate nutrient content.
Some older dogs can suffer temporary loss of appetite, making it more likely for them to lose weight because of inadequate energy intake. This may require the addition of supplements of extra vitamins and minerals. You should speak to your Vet about this.
Specific illnesses in dogs too require special dietary treatment. For instance, the diabetic dog will require consistent energy and carbohydrate intake; dogs with kidney problems, a protein diet containing high quality protein; and dogs with heart problems, a low salt diet. All of these, of course, are likely to be needed in conjunction with other treatment(s), and Vets will often prescribe special proprietary diets, together with specific medication.
There are 37 ‘essential' nutrients that dogs must eat in their food. Commercially prepared dog foods are formulated to provide all of these in the right amounts and proportions, and great care is taken to ensure that there are foods available that suit dogs of all shapes and sizes, whether they are small or large breeds, puppies or adults. Although many nutrients are needed in higher quantities, some nutrients may need to be adjusted in other ways. For example, large breed puppies are susceptible to bone problems, if too many calories and calcium are given during this growth phase. Therefore, dog owners should always be aware of the risks of adding supplements to a carefully formulated puppy food. For a very young puppy the food needs to be easy to chew and eat.
ESS are rarely fussy eaters, and really do not mind being fed the same food each day. Do not fall into the trap of indulging your ESS by offering choice cuts, scraps at the table and special treats as an alternative or extra addition to his diet. This may well cause the dog to turn his nose up at ordinary food, making him choosy, because he has worked out that there is a possibility of something better on offer.
Should you find that your ESS is reluctant to eat what you are giving (or goes ‘off' his food):
1. Make sure that the diet you are offering is complete, balanced, digestible and with a high nutrient
2. Feed little and often, dividing the total daily intake into 3 - 4 meals.
3. Temperature can have a marked effect on palatability, and warming (to 38 degrees Celsisus, or 100
degree Fahrenheit) the food (in a microwave) can sometimes help considerably.
4. Include more fat in the diet (providing it does not upset the digestive process), as in addition to being a
rich source of energy, it helps to increase the flavour of the food.
5. Always remove food that is not eaten after 10 - 15 minutes as fresh food is likely to prove more
6. Make sure there are no visible clinical signs of an underlying health problem (persistent diarrhoea,
sickness, depression, temperature, excess drinking or urination).
The amount you feed each mealtime is an individual calculation, but you should be guided by the manufacturer's instructions in relation to the age of your ESS. You should aim for a dog to be well covered, but still retaining a shape (i.e. be able to feel his ribs and see his waistline). Please remember not to be over generous when feeding your ESS, as those appealing, pleading eyes might just tempt you to give more food than you should.
Obesity is the single most common nutritional problem in dogs (and people) in the developed world. The cause in most instances is simply eating more than is needed by the body, resulting in storage of the excess fat in adipose tissue. However, not feeding your dog enough food is also detrimental to their wellbeing.
For more detailed recommendations on canine feeding and dietary requirements, go to the Kennel Club Website