Choosing which food to feed your retired racer isn't as simple as walking into the grocery store and buying the biggest, least expensive bag of food on the shelf. All dog foods are not created equal. Greyhounds need a high-quality diet suited to their specific needs.
Although Greyhound lovers agree on how much they love their dogs, they don't always agree on which food is best. So keep in mind that virtually any opinion may be challenged by someone with equally good sources to support his or her opinion.
The ideal balanced dry food diet for the average healthy retired racer is composed of 22 to 27 percent protein, 10 to 15 percent fat, and 5 percent fiber. If your hound is a real couch potato, use foods that are at the lower end of these ranges.
As long as your Greyhound's weight is good, his coat is shiny and healthy, and his energy levels are strong, you're doing it right.
Greyhounds that are actively and regularly competing in agility, lure coursing, or other high-energy activities need higher amounts of protein and fat in their diets. The right blend for them would be more like 28 to 30 percent protein, 15 percent fat, and 5 percent fiber. But remember that opinions vary considerably, even among the experts, so try different foods with your Greyhound and see how he responds. Modify his diet according to his specific needs.
If your Greyhound is doing a lot of outdoor activities during cold weather, he may need extra energy to maintain his body temperature. If he spends a lot of time outdoors during hot weather, he will need extra energy to make up for what he uses to pant and stay cool. Just add a bit of extra oil to his diet or use a food with a slightly higher fat content. Remember: Keep an eye on the scale and his ribs, so he doesn't gain too much weight.
Basics of good greyhound nutrition
Many years ago, a dog's diet would have been primarily meat. But with the increased use of commercial pet foods, more and more of our dogs' diets are made up of carbohydrates from grains. The purpose of eating, of course, is to provide energy. This energy comes from three sources: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
The amount of energy your Greyhound gets from the protein sources in his diet depends on the quality of the protein and its digestibility. Some proteins are used by dogs more efficiently than others. The highest quality protein sources are eggs, fish, meat, and poultry. Milk can also be a good source of protein, but most adult dogs don't tolerate milk well. Grains can also provide protein, but these are lower quality proteins.
If you start to read up on diet and nutrition, you'll find all kinds of arguments about how much protein your dog should get and from what sources. Some people argue that we are feeding way too little protein to our dogs, that dogs do better on amounts in the 28 to 30 percent range, and that protein should come primarily from meat. Others argue that we are feeding too much protein and that amounts shouldn't exceed 20 to 22 percent. Still others argue that dogs can do very well on a vegetarian diet, with no protein from meat.
Take a more moderate stance and feed your dog a diet that is composed of 22 to 27 percent protein.
Fat is a highly concentrated source of energy, supplying more than twice as much energy as proteins and carbohydrates. Fat provides essential fatty acids and transports fat-soluble vitamins. Fat may also make food taste better and may help your dog feel fuller with less food.
Greyhounds who don't get enough of the right kinds of fat generally have coarse, dry coats and dandruff. Feed your dog a diet that consists of 10 to 15 percent fat.
Many dog food producers use discarded old fat from the restaurant industry. If the brand of food you buy smells rancid, switch brands, or at least return that bag and ask for a replacement.
Carbohydrates come in the form of grains, sugars, fruits, and vegetables. Dogs don't need high amounts of carbohydrate in their diet. But commercial dog foods often contain lots of carbohydrates, because they're a less expensive source of energy than protein or fat.
Other elements of greyhound health
In addition to feeding your Greyhound a diet with the correct balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, you also need to make sure he's getting enough water, vitamins, and minerals. Check out the following sections for more information on these vital parts of a dog's diet.
Your retired racer should always have a supply of fresh water available. Dogs vary widely in their consumption of water. So the amount of water your hound needs depends on a variety of things, like the temperature, his activity level, and the moisture content of his food. The average 60-pound dog consumes a total of seven cups of water from all sources, including food, every day. But many Greyhounds drink less water than the average dog.
Don't spend a lot of time worrying about the amount of water your dog should drink every day. Instead, just make sure he has a constant supply of fresh water, and he'll drink as much as he needs. Never withhold water without consulting a veterinarian.
Vitamins and minerals
We know almost nothing about the vitamin and mineral needs of dogs. And we know even less about using vitamins and minerals as supplements to a balanced diet. But that doesn't stop a variety of opinions from being bandied about.
Vitamins are classified as either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Dogs need some vitamins, because they can't manufacture all they need to meet their daily requirements. However, unlike humans, dogs do manufacture vitamin C. Because vitamin C is also used as a preservative in commercial dog foods, many knowledgeable people argue that young, healthy dogs rarely need additional amounts of this important vitamin.
Commercial diets include vitamins and minerals. Some people argue that poor storage, use of rancid fats, and the processing of commercial foods breaks down or renders vitamins and minerals unavailable. Others argue that commercial dog foods provide all the vitamins and minerals a healthy dog needs if the food is stored and handled properly.