Adapting the food to the dog’s breed


Thanks to recent advancements in our understanding of the canine species we now also know that these differences are accompanied by metabolic characteristics that can sometimes be significant. This means that food can be tailored to a specific breed to ensure that the dog expresses its full potential and, in particular, to effectively help prevent certain specific diseases that a particular breed is susceptible to.

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As knowledge evolves nutrition becomes better and better

It has now been well documented that there are major differences between the physiology of the various dog breeds and the specific diseases that affect them. With every year that goes by, the origins of more and more poorly understood dog diseases become clear, leading to new treatments and, where possible, new forms of preventive and even curative nutrition.

It is therefore no surprise that scientific advancements are continually providing food for thought to nutritionists as they look to design and formulate food more directly adapted to a given breed.

Some breeds demand specific nutrition

This is not the place to list the specific characteristics of all the breeds that merit specially formulated food. Instead, the following pages provide information on those phenomena that have been thoroughly studied by scientists and for which proven nutritional solutions exist. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to suffer disorders of a given organ (although by no means all dogs of that breed will be affected). Preventive nutrition is recommended in those cases.

Digestive fragility

German Shepherds, Boxers, Great Danes, Bulldogs and English Setters can all have a fragile digestive system, expressed by fairly frequent diarrhoea or excessive flatulence. Digestion can be significantly improved in these dogs by giving them highly digestible food with high FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) and MOS (mannan-oligosaccharides) contents. These fermentable fibres promote a good balance in the digestive flora and improve the quality of the immune defences in the gut.

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin
© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

Predisposition to skin problems

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

The body’s protective barrier, the skin, is a very complex organ that is responsible for hair growth and sebum secretion (dogs do not sweat, of course). Some breeds have very sensitive skin (including German Shepherds, Boxers, English Bulldogs, Pugs and Westies), while others may spend a lot of time in water (Labradors, Newfoundlands) or may simply have an owner who finds the quality of their skin important (German Shepherds, Poodles, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Setters, Shih Tzus, Yorkshire Terriers).

It is now known that omega 3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA) enable skin inflammation phenomena to be controlled by altering the synthesis by the body of pro-inflammation intermediaries derived from prostaglandins. Likewise, it is also possible to adapt mixtures of B complex vitamin and trace minerals to optimise skin regeneration and hair growth.

Predisposition to formation of dental tartar

Some dogs with overlapping teeth (including Bulldogs and Pugs) or small jaws (including Yorkshire Terriers and Shih Tzu) express a natural tendency to produce tartar in the gums and teeth, which causes pain during mastication for the dog and unpleasant effects for the owner (bad breath). After toothbrushing, the most effective way to combat this harmful deposit is through the food (including polyphosphate salts, zinc salts and polyphenols). The same goes for texture. When kibble texture and ergonomics are right, the dog will bite into them in just the right way to subject its teeth to a light abrasive action.

Special facial morphology

Brachycephalic breeds (which include the Boxer, Bulldog and Pug) and breeds that have small jaws (such as the Yorkshire Terrier and the Chihuahua) sometimes find it difficult to grasp their food. Either they are unable to use their incisors properly or they are unable to keep the food in their mouth. On the other hand, other very large breeds, such as the German Shepherd and the Rottweiler, have wide jaws.

Adapting the size and shape of kibbles to suit the anatomical characteristics of such dogs ensures they are able to properly grasp, masticate and so digest their food.

Adopting this approach with regard to the form of kibbles for giant breeds also reduces the ingestion of air and slows down consumption, which are two factors that help prevent bloat.

Predisposition to excessive weight gain and its consequences

The well-known gluttonous qualities of such breeds as the Labrador and the Beagle predisposes these dogs to weight gain linked to a maintenance energy requirement that is lower than that of most other breeds, which affects Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels, among others. This weight gain can be prevented by giving the dog a food with a moderate energy density, so that the volume of food ingested can be kept at a comfortable level.

The main visible consequence of excessive weight gain is the appearance of the joint problems that large breeds and all dogs with a natural inclination to corpulence are predisposed to. The introduction of nutrients helps protect the joints.

Many specific diseases can be prevented

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

It is rare to find a breed that is not predisposed to one pathology or other, but it is also rare that nutrition is unable to prevent or improve these pathologies. Without the enzymes that are needed to transform uric acid into urea, Dalmatians, for example, cannot consume metabolic precursors of uric acid due to the risk of uric acid crystals being deposited in the bladder or joints. It is accordingly easy to understand that sources of purine (a nitrogenous base in DNA) must be avoided in their food by excluding such ingredients as liver, yeast and the meat of young animals, and that this justifies (together with other arguments) the existence of complete foods specially formulated for this breed.

So many examples, too many to mention here

There is a scientific basis for specially formulated foods for certain breeds in terms of nutritional balance and the choice of ingredients. This is the way to improve the well-being and expand the life expectancy of dogs bred for beauty or working traits.

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Adapting the food to the dog’s breed
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