Like humans, what your dog eats can have a direct impact on their health and wellbeing. Below are some of the most common sensitivities found in pets and some guidance in selecting a diet that is suitable for their nutritional requirements.
Skin and Coat
17% of dogs are affected by skin and coat sensitivities such as itching, irritation or dry coat*. The skin and coat are closely linked, both form part of an essential protective barrier between your dog and the outside world and as such need to be kept in top condition. Your dog’s glossy shiny coat is not just beautiful, it also reflects his or her general good health. A dull, dry coat with excessive moulting can indicate that all is not as it should be. Itching and irritation of the skin is unpleasant for your dog and affects their comfort and wellbeing. Sensitive, itchy skin means a lot of scratching, which can lead to the skin becoming damaged. One of the best ways to look after your dog’s skin and coat is from the inside out, starting with good nutrition. Both the skin and coat are greedy for nutrition, as they grow and change every day they need a constant supply of good quality protein to supply essential amino acids, along with vitamins and minerals.
Dogs have 42 adult teeth, 20 in the upper jaw and 22 in the lower. Tartar build-up on your dog’s teeth not only affects their appearance but can also impact on his or her wellbeing. After your dog finishes eating, bacteria will settle on the teeth resulting in a soft film called plaque. Plaque is difficult to see but if it is not regularly removed, over time, calcium which is naturally found in saliva will stick to the plaque turning it in to tartar also known as dental calculus, this is the hard yellow/brown material you might see on dog’s teeth. Once formed tartar cannot be removed by tooth brushing or by chewing and requires a scale and polish under veterinary supervision. There are many ways of removing the soft plaque before it becomes dental tartar including daily tooth brushing but to be effective this must be undertaken daily using a suitable toothbrush. Few owners have the dedication required and many dogs are not amenable to the practice making it a challenge to get good results.
Digestive sensitivity affects around 12% of dogs* and can be identified as loose, smelly or large volume stools. Other signs might include digestive discomfort, flatulence or needing to defecate multiple times in a short period, on a single walk for example. Digestive sensitivity can be influenced by many things; larger breeds are more predisposed to loose stools and small breeds are more likely to experience firm stools. Age and breed can also be a factor. What, when and how you feed your dog will also have an influence on your dog’s digestion and the stools they produce. Many owners are not sure what “normal” really looks like. An ideal stool should be well formed and easy to pick up leaving minimal residue behind. For the majority of adult dogs passing 1–2 stools per day is considered normal.
A dog’s skeleton contains 280 bones and many different types of joints; which in combination allow movement as well as giving the body structure. Healthy joints make moving easy, large dogs — especially active ones — can place added pressure on their joints due to their size and weight, which over time may become sensitive and slow them down. As well as activity, excess bodyweight is another factor which contributes to joint sensitivity (as well as many other health considerations). It is essential to consider calorie intake as part of the package of nutritional support for dogs with sensitive joints. With 45% of large breed dogs being affected by joint sensitivity it is worth considering if your dog could benefit from some tailored nutritional support.
Neutering and Weight Gain
According to the PDSA’s Paw Report 2018 “80% of dog owners stated their pet was an ideal weight, but 40% knew neither their pet’s weight nor body condition score”, so perhaps it is no surprise that over 65% of dogs are actually overweight.** Maintaining an ideal body condition (4 or 5 out of 9 on a body condition score chart) contributes to good health, more vitality and better all-round quality of life. Even small amounts of excess weight can start to affect health and wellbeing so it is important to address this issue with tailored nutrition, ideally before it becomes a problem.
There are many factors which can contribute to a dog being predisposed to weight gain, breed and lifestyle being just two but a third major factor is neutering. After neutering, it is common to notice a change in your dog’s behaviour, with an increased appetite and reduced energy needs. This places your dog at risk of weight gain unless the diet is adapted to meet these specific requirements. If weight gain is already starting to occur it is important to address this as soon as possible before it starts affecting your dog’s health and wellbeing. “Light” diets can be fed to dogs who are predisposed to weight gain and are up to 10% above their ideal (6 out of 9 on a body condition score), but if your dog’s weight has increased beyond this it is important to seek veterinary advice.
Maintaining urinary health
Small breed dogs can be particularly predisposed to urinary concerns, this is thought to be linked to their tendency to drink less and therefore produce less urine. Small breeds also tend to urinate less frequently leading to urine spending longer in the bladder which can increase the risk of crystals or stones forming. There is also a tendency for some breeds to be more affected by urinary concerns, many of these are small breeds such as the Miniature Schnauzer, Miniature Poodle, Bichon and Lhasa Apso. Diet is a factor in helping to maintain a healthy urinary system by taking into consideration a balanced mineral content, and by encouraging an increased water intake, by mixed feeding for example. Fresh clean water should always be available to all dogs and it is also important to recognise that although dogs may be able to hold their urine for some time, providing frequent opportunities for urination is beneficial. At the first sign of urinary sensitivity veterinary advice should be sought with urgency.
The ROYAL CANIN® Canine Care Nutrition range is a specialised range of complete and balanced nutritional solutions available in compatible wet and dry formats for healthy adult dogs. Each product is dedicated to a specific care target where the right nutrition can really make a difference in maintaining health. Each product is precisely tailored and provides active nutrients specific to that area of care.
* Source: Royal Canin Internal study.
** Source: German, A.J., Woods, G.T., Holden, S.L., Brennan, L. Burke, C. (2018). Dangerous trends in pet obesity. Veterinary Record 182 (1): 25
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