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The Good, The Bad, and the Truly Awful
If ever there was a volatile subject in Snow Dog groups it is the topic of what to feed your dog. Just mention the subject and watch for the proverbial fur begin to fly. People will argue at length how their choice of diet is preferable over the others.
All diets can have their strengths as well as their weaknesses.
- Feeding your dog poor nutritional quality kibble is an incomplete diet.
- Feeding your dog only chicken necks and too many raw bones is an incomplete diet.
- Feeding your dog white rice, cooked chicken, and few cooked veggies for every meal is an incomplete diet.
This series of articles will address keeping your dog healthy, so instead of debating, I am going to offer you information so that you can make your own well informed choice about what to look for when choosing foods to feed your Snow Dog.
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, moderately high fat, and low carbohydrate needs (sources not from wheat, corn, or soy). Why these grains are undesirable in the Snow Dog Diet will be further discussed later in this article.
Good quality nutritious foods suitable for your Snow Dog will:
- Get their protein from whole meat and meal and it will appear as the first ingredient on the list. This tells you that a food primarily contains protein. Good sources of protein come from Grades of meat A through C.
- Primarily use fish, fowl or other grassland animals as a protein base.
- Use quality sources of fat in their food obtained from their whole meat sources.
- Be over 30% protein, approximately 20% fat, and approximately 30% complex carbohydrate.
- Use a source of complex carbohydrate from legumes, seeds, fruits and vegetables (but not corn or wheat for Snow Dog diets).
- Include whole sources of fruits or vegetables.
- Include dog safe herbs for digestion or immune system support.
- Contain pre and probiotics to aid with digestion.
- Use natural sources for their vitamins, minerals, and supplements, not synthetic.
- And will use natural pure Vitamin E oil sources ( not synthetic), to preserve the food.
High Protein and Mid Range Fat
These dogs require a higher than average protein in their diet. That means if you are feeding kibble, the protein content should be close to 30% to 40% (depending on the activity level of the dog). The fat content should be around 18% to 20%. The best proteins for Snow Dogs come from lots of fish and fowl based foods. Red meats like beef, lamb, or bison should constitute a smaller percentage of their protein intake. Adding rabbit, venison, elk, and bison as a switch up from their regular protein source is also a good option.
Change the Protein Base With the Changing Seasons
Very often Snow Dogs do well with a change of protein base as the seasons change.
- That means you may want to feed primarily a fish based kibble high in Essential Fatty Acids in the Winter to support healthy skin and coat.
- In the Spring you may want to start adding lighter proteins like more fowl to the diet.
- In the Summer months with their lowered energy levels and calorie requirements, they really don’t require as much protein and fat in their diet, so switching to a mixed protein base lower in fish and higher in fowl and some added grassland animal protein may be welcomed thing for them.
- Then in the cooler temperatures of Autumn, begin adding more fish based protein and higher fat content to support their need to grow a thick and healthy coat.
How Much Food Does My Snow Dog Need?
Huskies and Malamutes require a comparably small amount of food for their size. They have a very high metabolism so a small amount of nutritious food will adequately supply their nutritional needs. These Snow Dogs differ from some other breeds that are notoriously well known for eating as much food as they can to the point of becoming sick.
Notably, when a husky is full, they will not eat. If they get a lot of physical exercise, they will eat a bit more food to adjust for increased activity. If they are inactive, they will eat less to adjust for their activity level. In cold weather, huskies will consume more calories. In the hot weather, huskies will consume less calories because they simply do not to burn as many calories. As always, there are notable exceptions to these “husky eating rules”.
Nutrient dense foods supply nutrition efficiently so less food is fed at each feeding as compared to feeding of cheaper foods. When feeding kibble, it can be hard to imagine that you only need 1 to 2 cups of good food per day while you may be required to feed 3, 4, or even 5 cups per day on a food that is full of corn and animal by-product.
This is something must be factored when calculating the true cost of your dog’s food.
Note on Feeding Puppies
If you are feeding a puppy, you not only have to feed a Breed Appropriate food but an age appropriate food as well. Many high quality puppy foods are designed to feed for the entire first year of a puppy’s life. The nutritional requirements of a growing puppy are very different from that of an adult dog so please feed a Puppy Formulation to your puppy.
Also, for dogs that will grow to be 50 pounds and larger, a Large Breed Formulation is recommended. These foods actually pay careful attention to keeping growth in check as not to overwhelm the immature skeletal and musculature system of a larger dog.
As always, we look forward to your comments and questions regarding this topic. Please feel free to share your stories for when we do, we may helping someone who is currently struggling with their Snow Dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dog … one owner at a time.