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Thoughts on Feeds and Feeding

by Bill Braddock

          In this article, and the articles that follow, I hope to bring to light some ideas concerning the feeding of our dogs. I know, feeding dogs is not unlike feeding horses or choosing your favorite soda, we all have our own ideas on the subject. But while we all have different ideas, we still have to recognize that there are basic nutritional requirements that must be met to have healthy , durable and energetic hounds.

          Seems to me, on today's market, a person can spend just about any amount of money for dog feed one feels they can or want to afford. This said, I feel that we should purchase the highest quality feed we can to ensure proper nutrition and optimum performance. I know economics is always a factor. But by feeding as high a quality of feed as possible, we can actually feed less because the nutrient requirements are being met due to feed ingredients that possess a higher biological availability. When feeding lower quality feeds, such as grain/plant based feeds, the dog must eat more to meet its caloric intake requirements. Low digestibility of these feeds also have a tendency to increase the amount of waste to be cleaned up in the kennel or yard. In essence, a lot of the money you are spending is going through ole buck and onto the ground.

          Protein and Fat content of feeds seem to be the most talked about nutrients. Protein is where we will start. Animals generally eat protein to satisfy two basic needs, one for nitrogen to synthesize amino acids and two for the essential amino acids that the body cannot synthesize. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and each one has a very specific role in the nutritional and developmental process of the body. The animal needs protein for both the growth and repair of tissues. The regulation of antibodies within the immune system and the transfer of nerve impulses. Also, for the growth and regeneration of skin, hair and nails. I would like to add here, that my background is in Animal Nutrition, teaching, practical application and in a research setting, in which has nothing to do with Veterinarian practice or the treatment of aliments of animals. Although, ailments due to nutrient deficiency were studied.

          If we are feeding grain based feeds, we will not be able to supply the dog with all of the essential amino acids that are needed for optimum health. As far as obtaining a balanced ration, just short of doing your own feed study, we might consider feeding a feed that contains both meat and grain. By doing this we can at least insure that most if not all the amino acid requirements are being met. Here I might add, dogs need a certain amount of calories from protein to maintain good health. Protein requirements for general maintenance generally range from 18% to 21% depending on which sources you read. As for the protein requirements in the sporting dog, in a commercial dog food, 30% would not be to high.

          We all have read the guaranteed analysis label on the feed bags. To some extent we can believe what we read, but to another extent we can't . As we read the label on the bag, all ingredient percentages are presented in an as-fed percentage. If we figure the ingredients on a dry matter basis, we will have a more accurate idea of the actual nutrients being presented in the feed. Lets say the label indicates that we have 21% protein and 10% moisture. We have a feed that has 90% dry matter. Now we determine the amount of protein on a dry matter basis in the feed. We divide the percentage of protein by the percentage of dry matter and we get a general view of the amount of protein we have. In this instance we would have, 23% protein in the ration. Now then, this does not mean we will have 23% usable protein. Here again, unless we do a feed study, we can't be sure of the actual activity of the protein. Therefore, the result of our simple formula is a guideline. This is where the addition of meat in the ration can be beneficial in terms of readily available and usable protein. In the processing of grains for the feeds, oftentimes proteins and/or amino acids are destroyed or 'bound' and deemed unusable to the animal. This occurs in the processing of meat, but to a lesser degree.

          Hopefully, in this first article, I have both informed you and also caused some questions to come to mind. What I have presented is very brief and opened ended. Volumes can be written on this subject, but I will try to answer all of your questions in up coming articles. In my next article I will cover Energy Density of feeds and we will then delve into the subjects of fat in the ration and it's relationship to protein and hopefully come to some useful conclusions that will profit both you and your hounds. I am always open to questions. email: [email protected].

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).