A Healthy Diet for Dogs

Pet nutrition is a vital and important topic for all responsible pet owners because ultimately, optimal nutrition means optimal health. We talk to the expert nutritionists from Skinner’s Pet Food about what a healthy diet for dogs consists of, taking into account age and breed.

As a species, dogs are unique and depending on the breed they can vary dramatically in size and appearance, from the 1kg Chihuahua to the 115kg St Bernard. This means that that their nutritional needs are also very specific and change throughout their lives.


The time taken for a growing puppy to achieve adult body weight also varies considerably, with larger breeds having a longer growth period than smaller breeds. Whatever the type/size of puppy, good nutrition from day one is a cornerstone to a healthy diet for dogs, and it’s important to understand how a growing puppy’s needs differ from that of an adult dog. During the first weeks of life, body weight may double or triple and this rapid growth will continue (although at a gradually decreasing rate) until maturity. Large amounts of energy and nutrients are required in balanced quantities to support this spectacular growth. Puppies require up to twice the energy intake of adults per kilogram of body weight and need to have 25 to 30 percent of total energy provided by protein depending upon their breed.

A healthy diet for dogs of small or large breeds can differ along with their nutritional needs; this is also true for puppies. Adult dogs who weigh less than 14 kg are considered small breed dogs. These puppies grow quickly and may reach adulthood by 10 months. Medium breed dogs up to 35kg will reach maturity between twelve to sixteen months and large breed dogs weighing more than 35kg can take up to two years to reach full size and maturity.

See also: Resist Food Temptation and Follow a Healthy Diet

Skinner’s Feeding Guide

6–12 weeks: Puppies start out needing many small meals a day. Growing pups should be fed puppy food—a diet specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs for their development – they should never be fed food meant for adults. At this stage four feedings a day are usually adequate to meet nutritional demands. These smaller meals are easier to digest for the puppy and regulate energy levels better.

3–6 months: Sometime during this period (depending on breed/size), you should decrease feedings from four to three a day. Puppies normally loose their puppy teeth during this stage so watch for signs of discomfort and soak the food if necessary as their gums will be sore.

6–12 months: Begin feeding twice daily. Breeds depending on their size, can make the switch from puppy to junior and adult ranges of food sometime between 6 to 12 months.

1 year plus: Most owners feed adult dogs two half-portions a day of adult food. Ensure to keep a careful check on the dog’s body condition to prevent obesity.


Pets age more quickly than humans but not at quite the same relative rate. A three year-old dog is roughly equivalent to a 27-year-old person, a six year-old dog, a 42-year-old person and a 20-year-old dog to a 100-year-old person. Generally, an animal is considered ‘senior’ after the age of seven or eight—though this can vary considerably. Certain breeds seem to age faster than others and larger dog breeds often age faster than smaller breeds. A healthy diet for dogs that are more senior would involve food that is catered to their change in body and nutritional requirements. Many senior diets are also classed as ‘light, this will help avoid the added risk of obesity and can be used for obese adult dogs too.

Dogs have key nutritional needs that must be met with a healthy diet. The main areas include—


These are essential in upholding a healthy diet for dogs, they ensure growth, maintenance, reproduction and repair. They are the basic building blocks for all cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Proteins can be obtained from a number of sources. Animal-based proteins such as beef, lamb, chicken, turkey and egg have complete amino acid profiles. Amino acids are, in effect, the building blocks of proteins, and are divided into two groups—essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids MUST be supplied in the diet and include arginine, methionine, histidine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, threonine, leucine, tryptophan, lysine, and valine.


Some fats are essential in maintaining a healthy diet for dogs; they uphold the structure of cells and are needed for the production of some hormones. They are the most concentrated form of energy—providing more than twice the energy levels of proteins or even carbohydrates. They are also required for the absorption and utilisation of fat-soluble vitamins and provide the body insulation and protection for internal organs. Essential fatty acids must be provided in a healthy diet because they cannot be synthesised by any pet in sufficient amounts. A deficiency of essential fatty acids may result in reduced growth or increased skin problems.


See also: Keeping your Dog Healthy & Happy


These provide energy for the body’s tissues and play a vital role in the health of the intestine. There is no minimum carbohydrate requirement but there is a minimum glucose requirement—necessary to supply energy to critical organs (i.e. the brain).


Vitamins are catalysts for enzyme reactions but most cannot be synthesised by the body so are therefore essential as part of a healthy diet for dogs. If a pet is receiving a proper balanced diet it is highly unlikely that they need additional vitamin supplementation unless directed by a vet because of specific deficiencies.

See also: Owning a Pet “may help you live longer”


Minerals are inorganic compounds that are not metabolised and yield no energy but they must be provided in a healthy diet for dogs. For the most part, minerals are important as structural components of bones and teeth, and for their involvement in metabolic reactions and maintaining fluid balance.

For nearly 50 years Skinner’s have been producing their acclaimed ranges of premium dog food at their 17th century mill in Suffolk using the very best ingredients. From February, Skinners are adding a new range to their repertoire.’ Life’ has been carefully formulated with the help of vets and other experts in canine nutrition, to offer everything a dog needs throughout all stages of its life. The range is available in Puppy, Junior, Adult and Senior, with Sensitive available for those dogs needing a fully hypo allergenic option. To find out more about Skinner’s products visit skinnerspetfoods.co.uk.

If you have enjoyed reading this article on a healthy diet for dogs, click here to read more on Celebrity Angels about the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.

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