The golden rules of the rational dog diet


Back in 1985, Professor Wolter of the National Veterinary College Alfort set out his rules for feeding dogs. Although they are a quarter of a century old and Professor Wolter himself is long gone, these rules continue to be as relevant today as they ever were and owners that follow them will avoid the most common canine dietary problems.

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1. Make sure the dog drinks enough water


The dog should always have access to clean water, which should be replenished regularly. Average consumption is 60 ml/kg of body weight per day, higher in puppies and suckling females, in warm climates and during work.

2. Do not implement sudden changes

Any change to the dog’s food should be made gradually over the period of a week. This is the time needed for the dog’s taste, digestion and metabolism to adapt, to ensure that it does not refuse to eat or experience digestive problems.

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

3. Monitor the quantities given to the dog

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

Daily feeding amounts are calculated on the basis of the dog’s energy requirements and the calorie content of the food, so they should be weighed to avoid a slow slide towards obesity. The dog should be weighed regularly, too, so that the feeding amount can be adjusted if need be.

4. Give the dog a balanced food

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No matter whether it is prepared by the owner or shop-bought, the food must contain all the nutrients the dog needs in adequate quantities, adapted to the dog’s size (small, medium, large or giant), physiological condition (maintenance, reproduction, sport), age (puppy, young adult, mature adult, ageing adult) and its pathological condition (if the veterinarian prescribes a clinical diet).

5. Select the right food for the individual dog

The choice of a food is an important one, which should be based on the best nutritional balance. There are three criteria for selecting a dog food: age (puppy, young adult, mature adult, ageing adult), activity level (maintenance, reproduction, sport) and size (small, medium, large or giant).


There are three criteria for selecting a dog food: age, activity level and size.


The dog’s weight, coat and faeces quality, appetite and everyday behaviour are gauges of how well suited the food is to the dog and whether it should be adapted.

6. Use common sense


When serving prepared food the manufacturer’s instructions should be followed in full, although the quantities may be tailored to the dog’s activity level. In the event of home-prepared food, it is vital that the dog is never fed with leftovers, sweets, cakes or chocolate (poisonous to dogs). Dogs are not humans and should not be fed like humans. If treats are given, they should be specially formulated for dogs and must not exceed more than 10% of overall energy requirement.

7. Proper hygiene is essential

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

Prepared food is always the most hygienic option. Opened cans and fresh or frozen food may be stored in the fridge for a limited time, whereas kibbles should be kept in a sealed bag in a dry, cool place. If the dog does not finish its meal, any leftover should be thrown away and the bowl should be cleaned every day.

8. Never hesitate to consult a veterinarian

Veterinarians are trained to be dog dieticians. They know what dogs need, whether they are ill or in the best health. The veterinarian should be consulted in the event of any change to the dog’s appetite (anorexia or bulimia) or weight (loss or gain), any digestive disorders (vomiting, diarrhoea, flatulence) and, of course, any change to its food. The first sign of many diseases is a change in thirst, appetite or weight.

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The golden rules of the rational dog diet
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