Normally the problem of dog feeding is conditioned by the number of dogs one keeps; a pack of hounds must be fed with greater regard to economy than a single pet. A small chihuahua will not be as costly as a great dane as far as quantity is concerned.
The basic requirements of all individuals are similar, whatever their station in life. The main difference lies in the amount of energy the dog is required to expend and, somewhat ironically, it is usually the idle lapdog that fares better than the industrious hound.
The fact remains, however, that in the majority of instances, neither is being fed to the best advantage.
One of the common errors associated with nutrition lies in widely-accepted belief that the so-called carnivorous animals, including the dog family, as well as all animals that kill and cat each other, are essentially meat eaters and should be restricted to a diet of meat whenever circumstances and economical circumstances permit.
The truth is that very few animals can, or ever attempt to, live on meat alone. All of them require a proportion of their diet to be vegetable material if they are to maintain condition and remain fit and reasonably healthy. Although nobody would suggest depriving dogs of meat, it is a common mistaken belief among dog breeders that dogs cannot live without a high proportion of animal protein in their diet. This belief has no scientific foundation.
Dr. Walter Schwick, in his well-known book on dog nutrition, quotes Koehn, who composed an all-vegetable ration containing yellow maize meal, wheat shoots and peanut meal as the chief sources of protein, and found that dogs fed on it retained their fitness and health, with a good rate of growth.
Foxes raised on a fur farm where no meat was fed grew as well as those receiving meat and produced furs of equal quality to those from meat-fed foxes.
Research conducted at Wisconsin University several years ago proved that a diet of ground yellow corn, soya bean oil meal, alfalfa meal, cottonseed oil, mineral supplement, niacin and irradiated yeast, was adequate for the growth and maintenance of dogs, although successful reproduction and lactation were achieved only when liver, fish, and certain vitamins of the B group were added as a supplement.
All mammals require:
proteins for body building:
carbohydrates for energy,
fat for warmth.
It is probable that ill-health, unthriftiness, thinness or over-fatness, are due in dogs not so much to the quantity of food supplies, as to its quality and, particularly, to the relative proportion of its essential ingredients. A great deal of money can be wasted on foods in which the various nutritive elements required by the body arc improperly balanced.
The vegetable material consumed by the wild carnivores is seldom gathered first hand from the land, although in their natural native environment Basenjis eat a certain amount of fresh green material, while the Mexican Hairless Dogs actually graze after the manner of goats, and seldom eat meat in their native habitat.
The regular source of the vegetable material consumed in quantity by all the wild carnivora is that contained in the stomach and digestive organs of the animals they kill. This has been partially digested by fermentation set up in the warm interior of the animal by the action of yeasts, bacteria, and natural enzymes. The rumen of a bullock, or a buffalo, is capable of holding up to half a hundredweight or more of this partly digested vegetable food material. Fermented vegetable material obtained from this source is more valuable to the dog than actual flesh, since it contains the essential vitamins and a variety of other food materials unobtainable by the dog from elsewhere.
The dog, fox, or other carnivore, immediately after making its kill rips open the skin of the abdomen and at once devours as much as possible of the rumen contents of a deer or antelope, and in the same way eats the stomach contents of a rabbit, as well as its intestines.
The flesh may be left alone until the animal’s vegetarian requirements are satisfied, and it is not unusual for the flesh to remain untouched for several hours longer. It is in this way that carnivorous animals in the wild obtain the bulk of their vitamins, particularly those of the B-complex, together with a number of enzymes, and in all probability a selection of vitamins as yet unrecorded.
Later in the day, or even after a couple of clays if it has not been forestalled, the predator will return and eat part of the victim’s liver, melt, lungs or kidneys, all of which contain essential vitamins. Flesh is often left until it is partly decomposed, when it is likely to contain other substances useful to the dog.
A rather interesting story centres around the sheepdogs living on certain hill farms and used entirely for herding sheep on the higher ranges.
When myxomatosis first broke out and the rabbits temporarily disappeared, many of these dogs began to waste away, and many died. It was immediately presumed that the dogs were ill because they were deprived of rabbit flesh, as without this they were fed only ground barley, maize meal, and pig swill. The fact was, however, that few of these dogs ate the flesh of a single rabbit in a month, but they did consume the entrails of all of those that were systematically trapped or shot and gutted on the hills before being taken off the farm. These rabbit entrails had provided the greater part of the dogs’ vitamins.
On the lower pastures where the cows grazed, the cattle dogs remained fit and healthy although they had also lost their rabbits. The reason was that they had learned to eat dried cowdung, which also contained the same vitamins, and this supplied their requirements. On the higher ground, the sheep pellets were not eaten by the dogs.
Not so many years ago many dog breeders made a habit of visiting the local slaughterhouse or the knacker’s yard and bringing home rumen contents, uncleaned tripe, and melt. These were found to be a valuable pick-me-up for dogs that were not thriving or were out of coat, and were particularly useful in keeping showdogs in tip-top condition. Nowadays, slaughterhouse regulations make it difficult or impossible to obtain such material.