If ever there was a volatile subject in dog groups, it is the perfect husky diet. Kibble vs raw food, home-cooked, or kibble-based diet. Just mention one of these subjects and watch the proverbial fur begin to fly. People will argue at length how their choice of diet is preferable over the others. All diets have their strengths and weakness. Debating the “rightness” of these diets is pointless. So instead, I am going to relegate myself to offering you information so that you can make your own well-informed choice about what to feed your Snow Dog.
The Importance of Diet
To look at Siberian Huskies and Malamutes you would not think that these tough and hardy dogs would be prone to sensitive stomachs and easily upset digestive tracts. But these dogs do have special needs and requirements when it comes to feeding and diet. All breeds of dogs require good nutrition that optimally supports their daily requirements for the production of fuel for their body. Huskies and Malamutes have a need for good quality high protein foods but low carbohydrate needs (sources not from wheat, corn, or soy).
Feeding a diet high in simple carbs will cause much needed zinc, iron, and calcium to bind to the carbs making them unavailable to your dog. This will further cause eventually issues of zinc deficiency and zinc malabsorption issues that will lead to, but not limited to, Zinc Responsive Dermatosis, a condition of raised patches of itchy lesions that lead to irritated hot spots.
“Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There is so little hope for advancement.”
~ Snoopy, in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown~
Zinc Malabsorption and Zinc Deficiency in Snow Dogs
Zinc deficiency in huskies and malamutes is common. Zinc is the second most utilised mineral in the body. It is used as a building block for nearly every body process. Huskies and Malamutes both have a higher than normal requirement for zinc in their diet and they have the added complication of having problems being able to absorb enough zinc from their diet.
This malabsorption and deficiency will cause a host of health issues that constantly morph and shift into secondary and tertiary health problems. Some of the most common zinc-related ailments in Huskies and Malamutes are Zinc Responsive Dermatosis and other skin and coat issues, chronic digestive issues, failure to thrive, thyroid issues, immune system issues, and even idiopathic seizure activity/ epilepsy.
Huskies and Malamutes require a comparably small amount of food for their size. They have a very high metabolism, so a little food will supply their nutritional needs. These Snow Dogs differ from other breeds notorious for eating as much food as possible to the point of becoming sick. Notably, when a husky is satiated, it will not eat. If they get a lot of physical exercise, they will eat more food to adjust to it.
If inactive, they will eat less to adjust to their activity level. In cold weather, huskies will consume more calories. In hot weather, huskies will consume fewer calories because they simply do not burn as many calories. There are notable exceptions to these “husky eating rules”.
How To Keep Your Husky Interested In Their Food
Many huskies are fussy eaters and can drive their owners crazy as they scramble to find foods their dogs will willingly eat. This certainly can be an area of trial and error. Some possible reasons for these dogs to turn their noses up at their food include the following:
- They are bored with their food. Many experienced breeders discovered that switching the protein base every 4 months helps to keep Snow Dogs interested in their food. Or you can add other appropriate meat or veggies to his diet mixed in with his kibble to see if that makes his meal more palatable.
- They don’t like the size or shape of their kibble. Some dogs have preferences so try changing up the size and shape and see if that makes your dog more receptive to their food.
- If your dog was sick, he might now attribute the food he was eating at the time to him being sick. Even if the dog’s illness had nothing to do with his food, he might now avoid eating that food, so you may as well go along with him on this one and don’t offer him that food for a while.
- If your dog is not excited by dry food, try wetting the food with water or with meat broth. And if the texture of soggy food puts off your dog, try dry kibble. Find whatever works to keep your Snow Dog happy and eating well.
If for some reason, you decide that you want to change your husky’s diet completely, it is vital that you do this gradually over one to two weeks. Slowly add more of the new food every day until your dog is eating the new food.
What Not To Feed Your Husky
The standard list of unapproved foods for dogs applies to Snow Dogs as well. Among them are no cooked bones, avocado, macadamia nuts, hops, bread dough, alcohol, mouldy foods, onions and garlic, grapes, raisins, chocolate, caffeine, green tomatoes, Xylitol (artificial sweetener) and use only limited amounts of dairy products in the Snow Dog diet.
Avoiding Bloat or Torsion
It is worth mentioning at this time that large dogs with deep chests, like Huskies and Malamutes, have a predisposition to Bloat or Torsion (flipping or twisting of the stomach, causing blockage and death), so these dogs do best with two or smaller meals per day rather than one large meal. NEVER allow your dog to run around with a full stomach rambunctiously. Encourage quiet time after meal time for at least one hour after eating. Walks and runs should be done before meals, never after meals, with full stomachs.
In Part 2 of this article, we will examine the standard kibble diet, how kibble is made, the AAFCO standard of “complete nutrition” for kibble foods, and what to look for when choosing a good kibble diet.