Choosing what to feed your fur baby is an important matter. While we do our best to choose from only the healthiest breeding stock, French Bulldogs as a breed are prone to allergies and food sensitivities in general. The right diet will go a long way in keeping any such issues at bay.
You should expect to feed your pup 3 times a day, although some may do better with 4 feedings. Your Frenchie may be comfortable moving to 2 meals a day closer to 1 year of age.
Dog food consists of 6 major classes of nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and water.
Only 12 of 22 amino acids a dog needs to survive are made in its body. The rest they must get from their food. The remaining 10 essential amino acids are: Arginine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine.
Protein is a macronutrient (supplies energy) and it cannot be stored; it must be supplied daily. Dogs need protein to build strong muscles, bones, joints, tissue repair, healthy skin, and a healthy coat. It's also essential to the immune and musculoskeletal systems. Different proteins are more digestible than others; the lower the quality the more of it your Frenchie will need to consume. Protein can come from plant sources, but it's less bioavailable; only animal meat contains all 10 essential amino acids. The order of biological value (how efficiently they can be utilized) of animal proteins is: egg whites, muscle meats, organ meats, and fish.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends that an adult dog's diet contain at least 18% calories from protein and at least 22% calories from protein for puppies. Dr. Karen Becker on the other hand, a world-renowned wellness veterinarian, recommends that 30-52% of your dog’s calories come from protein sources. You can watch an excerpt of her seminar on biologically appropriate diets for dogs here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuZucq4kyVc
Keep in mind that excess protein that isn't used for the maintenance and repair of muscles and tissues or burned as energy gets stored as fat.
Fats are the most concentrated form of energy; they provide over 2 times the amount of energy per gram as protein and carbohydrates. Fats are important for healthy skin, healthy coat, normal immune function, protecting internal organs, body temperature regulation, and to promote a healthy nervous system. The sources of fat in a dog's diet provide important fatty acids like Omega-6, and Omega-3 which dogs cannot make on their own. The ideal omega 3:6 fatty acid ratio is 1:5-1:10. Fats also aid in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K. Dr. Becker's recommendation for a species appropriate diet is that 47-63% of your dog’s calories be from fat sources (animal & plant). Too much fat can cause obesity, pancreatitis and gastrointestinal issues.
Carbohydrates are the only non essential nutrient class. Carbs are a macronutrient that provide energy more rapidly than fat and are made up of sugars, starches and fiber - these will be the fruits and plant ingredients in your dog's food. While these ingredients supply healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, dogs are able to synthesize the glucose they need for energy from protein and fat alone. They have no actual need for carbs. A biologically appropriate diet shouldn't exceed 7% carbs.
What's the trouble with Carbs?
Unfortunately, most kibble contains high-glycemic, processed carbs in such high numbers that 30-60% of the food is carbs. These ingredients will provide little or no nutrition but will rapidly raise blood sugar levels, cause insulin spikes, diabetes, and obesity, The most common high-glycemic carbs found in dog foods are corn, wheat, rice, and potatoes. Even in grain free foods the legumes, peas & lentils used in place of grains are still high in starch. Examples of dog friendly low glycemic/low sugar sources of carbs are broccoli, cabbage, yellow squash and zucchini.
For more specifics on how carbohydrates effect dogs and how to calculate the amount of carbs in your dog's food visit Dogs Naturally's website by clicking the button below.
Minerals are the inorganic compounds dogs can't produce on their own and vitamins are the organic compounds (containing carbon) that a dog's body cannot produce enough of on its own; both must be fed. Although these simple compounds make up less than 1% of a dog's weight they are necessary for a wide variety of essential functions including supplementing strong bones and teeth, blood clotting, transporting oxygen in the blood, regulating fluid balance, muscle and nerve function, and producing hormones. The two categories of minerals are: macrominerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chloride) and microminerals, A.K.A. trace minerals (iron, copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, iodine).
The calcium:phosphorus ratio is particularly important; ideally it's between 1:1 and 2:1.
Vitamins are either fat soluble or water soluble. Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K are stored in fatty tissues. Water soluble vitamins like B and C are not stored and must be consumed daily; excess is excreted through urine.
All of these have to be in careful balance; unnecessary supplementation can be dangerous.
Water makes up about 70% of an adult dog's body weight. It is essential to practically every function of the body. Dogs get water not only from drinking, but also from their food. The fact that dry food has only a 10-12% moisture content compared to the 70-78% moisture content of canned food or raw has a tremendous impact. Moisture is needed to soften the food for digestion and when it's not available in the food, the body must rob moisture from its tissues to complete this task. This can result in constipation, urinary problems, stress to the liver and kidneys, and other health problems. Despite however much your dog may try to compensate by drinking large volumes of water they may still suffer from life-long mild dehydration.
In general they need about 1ml of water per kcal of energy or .5-1oz per pound of body weight each day. Puppies may need 1/2 cup every 2 hours. A dog's water intake needs will vary depending upon their activity level, health, and the temperature of their environment. Too little water can also lead to organ failure, kidney stones, and death. Losing even 10% would be fatal.
A dog fed higher moisture foods will usually drink less than a kibble fed dog, but it's still not enough. Ensure your Frenchie always has access to fresh, clean water.
Tips: Soaking kibble in water or better yet, bone broth is a tasty and easy way to boost your Frenchie’s hydration. Plus, giving your pup filtered or bottled water can help cut down on tear stains. Choosing a glass, ceramic, or stoneware water bowl over a stainless steel or plastic one will also further aid in reducing tear stains, as there will be no leaching of heavy metals or BPA into your pup's water.
Clicking on the below button will take you to Home Alive Pets for a more in-depth look at canine nutritional requirements.
Grain or grain-grain free? Animal proteins are responsible for more sensitivities than are grains. True grain allergies are rare. The greater concern with grains is that some have been treated with toxic chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides that make their way into your dog's food. The most common dog food allergens are: beef, dairy, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, soy and wheat gluten. If you would like to read more about grains in dog food, Dogster has a helpful article: https://www.dogster.com/dog-food/grains-in-dog-food-should-you-avoid-them
It is worth noting that grain fed commercial livestock and factory farmed meats lack the proper omega 3:6 ratios. The improper balance of these fatty acids can lead to inflammation and allergy like symptoms. For this reason, choose animal protein sources that are described as free-range, grass-fed, cage-free, etc. Giving more Omega 3's than Omega 6's can further help offset inflammation in dogs with allergies and sensitivities.
If your little one shows symptoms of allergies or food sensitivity start with the protein first in your process of elimination.
Always consult with your vet to decide what will work best for your Frenchie. There is no one size fits all for dog diets.
Animal protein should always come first - preferably the first 2-3 ingredients. Be aware that any ingredients listed after salt constitute less than 1% of the kibble. Avoid foods that contain low quality fillers, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives (HA, BHT, ethoxyquin, propylene glycol), soy, carrageenan, corn, corn gluten and wheat gluten.
Excess starch can lead to and increase yeast and ear infections as well as contribute to tear stains. Starchy ingredients are potatoes, sweet potatoes, brewer's rice, rice and rice bran - all of which are ingredients connected to DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) when in high amounts. These same ingredients are high in fiber; high fiber diets have been shown to cause taurine deficiency. Taurine is necessary for vision, good digestion, normal heart muscle function, and support of a healthy immune system. This essential amino acid is only found in meat protein and not in plant protein. High fiber, high starch ingredients in combination with legumes, which are also linked to taurine deficiency and DCM are not ideal. Legumes are peas (chickpeas, field peas, split peas, etc.), tapioca, lentils, and beans (fava beans, pinto beans, etc. ). Potatoes, wheat and grains, and legumes also contain proteins that bind to carbohydrates called lectins. Lectins can negatively impact the absorption of nutrients during digestion.
If you see too many of these plant ingredients (especially if they're high on the list) they may be accounting for more of the protein content of the kibble than the actual animal protein.
What are by-products and meals?
They might not sound appetizing to us, but don't fear these highly digestible and high in taurine ingredients. Meat by-products are defined by AAFCO as the 'non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat' to include organs like lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, tripe, blood, bone, as well as emptied stomachs and intestines. If you turn to raw as an alternative you will find that these very same ingredients are absolutely essential to your dog's diet.
Meat meal is 'rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices'. Rendered means that it has been cooked in high heat and pressure to eliminate harmful bacteria. Try to steer clear from non-descript meat meals like 'poultry meal', 'meat and bone meal', blood meal, animal digest, and 'beef and bone meal'. These are trademark ingredients of low quality foods that try to avoid revealing the actual animal source for their cheap and manufactured ingredients.
In kibble, the ingredients are listed from largest amounts to lowest *pre-cooking* weight. Fresh proteins listed first lose their water weight during the extrusion process (rendering) and end up constituting less of the food than before. Fresh proteins can be up to 75% water. This means in a food that lists a fresh protein first, like deboned salmon for example, and a dry ingredient second like rice - the salmon moves down the list and you're left with more rice than salmon after cooking. This is another reason to look for kibbles that have as many animal proteins (be they fresh or meals) listed first as possible. Since meat meals are already dry they're a good way to ensure that the animal proteins remain at the top of the list.
Always monitor your puppy's weight and make adjustments according to the feeding instructions. In general, a puppy is fed close to double the serving size of an adult dog of the same weight. Not all foods are suitable for puppies; the ones that are will be labeled as 'puppy' or 'all life stages'.
Tip: Topping your pup’s food with raw goat's milk will add moisture, aid in digestion and give it a flavor boost they'll love. There are also baked foods available that preserve more nutrients than extruded kibble as well as kibbles that incorporate freeze dried raw/raw coated if you want your pup to get the most out of their food without breaking the bank.
For a wealth of information on dog diets and great articles on nutrition click on the button below to visit Dogster's website.
Raw food is widely considered to be the healthiest option. But why is it better than kibble? Dogs' bodies can produce 25% of the enzymes they need to digest their food - the other 75% they need from the food itself. The extrusion process that dry food goes through destroys some of those enzymes and can reduce the nutritional value of the protein. This impacts your dog's ability to digest and properly utilize those nutrients.
The benefits of raw include more energy, healthy skin and a shiny coat, smaller and less smelly stools, less inflammation and chronic diseases and health conditions like arthritis, cleaner teeth, fresher breath, a leaner muscular build, and a stronger immune system.
A raw diet eliminates grains, excess carbs and starch, ensures high levels of protein, healthy sources of fat, and high moisture content for optimal digestion. In order to feed a homemade raw diet, one must research it thoroughly. Incorrect levels of nutrients can be harmful. There is also the risk of food born illness and contamination. If you are concerned you can always disinfect your raw meant using grapefruit seed extract or food-grade hydrogen peroxide which have powerful antimicrobial properties.
Conveniently, there are ready-made raw food options available in frozen, freeze dried, air dried, and dehydrated form. Your local mom and pop pet food store will be the best place to shop for these higher end products. Big-box stores like Petco or PetSmart have limited options at the moment. Sites like Amazon or Chewy will primarily carry the freeze dried or dehydrated raw food products.
It is important for puppies to have all their nutritional needs met on a daily basis. For this reason, check the packaging to ensure that the pre-made raw food you're buying is complete and balanced and meets AAFCO standards for all stages of life. Dogs will need to eat 2-4% of their body weight per day; puppies eat 2-3x that amount.
Biologically appropriate raw food or BARF diet is 80% meat, 10% organ meat and 10% bones. This is a good place to start. Varying the types of proteins you give your Frenchie is an excellent way to prevent him from developing intolerances.
The ancestral diet is a raw diet modeled after what dogs' ancestors hunted and foraged. The breakdown is 75% meat, 25% fresh vegetables, and nutrient mix containing trace minerals. Fruits and vegetables have been shown to be beneficial additives to your dog's diet whether raw or kibble.
Low sugar and fermented veggies are excellent for your dog's intestinal tract (microbiome), and both fruits and veggies add antioxidants to keep your Frenchie young.
Some popular supplements to raw are: blue berries, turmeric, ginger, salmon oil, raw goat's milk, raw kefir, plain greek yogurt, raw pumpkin seeds, farm fresh raw eggs including shells (not store bought), carrots, broccoli, and dark leafy greens. There are many more - research will help you find what works best for you and your French Bulldog.
The prey-model is another raw diet that consists of bones, muscle meat, skin, organs, fat, connective tissues, hide, hair, and feathers. In this diet dogs are fed as close to whole animals as possible to best mimic what dogs would eat in the wild. For PMR (prey-model raw) no plant matter, dairy, or supplements are fed, however, many still add omega-3 fatty acids. The ratios are: 80% muscle meat, 10% raw meaty bones, 5% liver, and 5% other organs.
Keep in mind that diets based on what wild animals eat are based on animals that are surviving not thriving. Please research raw very carefully before making a complete transition and understand that ratio diets are only a starting place for raw and are not appropriate for growing puppies.
Furthermore, feeding raw is not always compatible with everyone's budget, but remember: some raw is better than none. Many Frenchie owners supplement their kibble with raw with excellent results.
For more on where you can get raw food click on the link below to visit Primal Pooch's site: https://primalpooch.com/finding-raw-dog-food/
For a more in depth look into raw feeding and an excellent place to begin delving into the world of raw visit Raw Fed and Nerdy's website by clicking below.