What Is The Best Dog Food for an Australian Shepherd?
Although they are known as the Australian Shepherd, this breed likely originated in the Pyrenees region of Spain and France. Herding dogs from this area were taken to Australia by Basque shepherds in the 19th century. Later, when some of these shepherds immigrated to the United States, they took their dogs with them. It was in the U.S. that the breed was developed into the dog we know today but the name “Australian Shepherd” stuck. Australian Shepherds are still used by ranchers in the United States for herding livestock and working as an all-purpose farm and ranch dog.
Agile, animated, and adaptable, Australian Shepherds love to work. Like many herding breeds, they often do best if they have a job to do. Aussies are medium-sized, solidly-built dogs. Male Australian Shepherds are 20-23 inches tall and females are 18-21 inches tall. Males usually weigh 50-65 pounds and females weigh 30-45 pounds. This is a very intelligent breed and they do need regular activity and training in order to be happy. Otherwise, an Australian Shepherd left with nothing to do all day can become destructive in the home and develop behavioral problems.
By weight, the National Research Council of the National Academies recommends an average daily caloric intake of 1353 calories for an active adult Australian Shepherd weighing 50 pounds. Dogs that have been spayed/neutered, or that are older, may need fewer calories. Some dogs may need more calories depending on their level of activity and their individual metabolism. A working dog can burn up a lot of calories. Growing puppies, for example, consume more calories than adult dogs and so do young adult dogs. A young adult Australian Shepherd weighing about 50 pounds, for example, and getting lots of exercise would need about 1451 calories per day. However, if your Aussie tends to lie around the house all day with little opportunity to exercise, he would need fewer calories. These are only estimates. Every dog’s metabolism is different so one dog may need more – or fewer – calories than another.
Like all dogs, Australian Shepherds require good quality protein. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends a minimum of 22 percent protein for growth (puppies) and 18 percent protein for maintenance in adult dogs. These percentages are recommended for dogs in general. Most good quality dog foods will exceed these percentages. Fat is an important source of energy for dogs and should comprise at least 8 percent of the diet for Australian Shepherd puppies and 5 percent of the diet for adults. Most dog foods today have more fat than these percentages. Fat also adds flavor to dog food and makes it very appealing to your dog. Fats are also one of the sources of fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 which are good for your dog’s skin, coat, heart, and brain.
Dogs that are more active will require higher levels of energy from their food. This is usually supplied by the fat in the diet, but good protein is also very important. In addition to herding, Australian Shepherds are very versatile and have been used as guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, therapy dogs, narcotics detection dogs, and search and rescue dogs. They also excel at sports such as agility, flyball, and frisbee, as well as obedience. Dogs that are putting in lots of hours in training and exercise often need more calories in their diet.
Australian Shepherds can have some health issues that are affected by diet. The breed can be prone to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, thyroid disease, cancer, and epilepsy.
As with other medium-large breeds that can experience hip or elbow dysplasia, it’s important to make sure your Australian Shepherd doesn’t put on extra weight. Becoming overweight or obese can aggravate any tendency toward problems with dysplasia and worsen arthritis as your dog gets older. Carrying extra weight puts extra stress on your dog’s bones and joints. Since Australian Shepherds are usually very active, you probably won’t have to worry about your dog becoming overweight while he is young or in the middle of life, but even Australian Shepherds can start to put on some extra pounds as they get older. Make sure your older Aussie continues to get enough exercise as he ages. You may also need to adjust his diet as he gets older and change the number of calories he is getting as his metabolism begins to change.
We also recommend measuring how much you feed your dog, leaving the food down for 15-20 minutes, and then removing the food dish. If you have more than one dog, keep an eye on your dogs while they eat. Often dogs eat at different paces and one dog may be greedy and eat his slow friend’s food, too. Feed your dogs separately if necessary so both dogs can eat at their own pace.
As with many breeds, cancer can also be a concern with Australian Shepherds. It’s very hard to prevent cancer but many people suggest feeding a dog food that is free of preservatives, artificial colors, sweeteners, and other ingredients that have been called into question by various studies. We try to advise about ingredients that are linked to cancer but we may not be aware of all of them.
Hypothyroidism can also occur with Australian Shepherds. If your dog gains weight rapidly – especially if he is losing hair or seems lethargic – he may have a thyroid problem. This is usually not a food issue. Your dog would have to eat an enormous amount of kelp or some other food containing iodine for it to affect his thyroid levels. You should ask your vet to test his thyroid levels. Fortunately a thyroid problem is easily treated once it is diagnosed. Soy and some other ingredients may interfere with thyroid medication (which is a synthetic thyroid hormone), so you will probably want to avoid feeding dog foods that contain soy products. There are lots of good dog foods that are soy-free.
Australian Shepherds can also be prone to epilepsy. The causes aren’t well-understood and there is no DNA test at this time. In some cases food or certain ingredients are suspected of being a trigger, such as rosemary and MSG (monosodium glutamate – sometimes listed in dog food as “natural flavoring”). Individual dogs can have their own personal food triggers so if you suspect a food or ingredient might be causing your dog to have a seizure, try to avoid it.
Australian Shepherds can have some other health issues but the ones discussed here can be affected by diet. The food you feed your Australian Shepherd can make a big difference with some of these health issues.
Ingredients To Look For
Australian Shepherds require good quality protein in their diet, like every dog. Of course, not all protein and fat are the same. It’s important that these nutrients come from good quality ingredients. You can give your dog lots of protein but if it’s not from a good quality source, his body won’t be able to use it efficiently.
Ideally, a good dog food will feature a couple of meat proteins in the first several ingredients. The first ingredient should not be grain or some other carbohydrate. Both whole meats and meat meals are good sources of protein. Whole meats refer to ingredients such as whole chicken, beef, fish, and lamb. However, whole meats also contain lots of water. If the water from these meats were removed, they would be found lower on the ingredient list. This is because dog food companies are required by law to list ingredients by weight before cooking. The water in whole meats makes them weigh more. Some people don’t like meat meals as much as whole meats but they are a concentrated form of the meat in which the water has already been removed. They contain several times as much protein as a whole meat. Meat meals are usually very good as one of the first ingredients in a premium quality dog food. They are found in many good dog foods. Less desirable are meat “digests” or “by-products.”
Dogs also need fat from good sources. Some vitamins are only fat-soluble and your dog needs them in his diet. But fat, like protein, varies in quality depending on the source. You should look for named fat sources such as chicken fat. Other named fats also provide needed nutrients such as fish oil which can provide omega-3 fatty acid to help keep the skin and coat healthy.
You should try to avoid artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, if possible. Avoid artificial flavors, sweeteners, and colorings. Your dog doesn’t need them and in some cases they have been linked to health problems like cancer. It’s not always easy to avoid some of the less desirable ingredients, however, since they can be labeled in ways that are harder to recognize.
Advice for feeding puppies is similar to feeding adult dogs in many ways. You need to look for foods with good quality ingredients, such as meat protein and named fats. Many good quality puppy foods include a compound called DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) which has been shown to help with brain development in puppies (and children). It’s also very important for puppy foods to have the proper ratio of calcium to phosphorus. Nutritionists recommend that dogs have calcium and phosphorus in the ratio of 1.2 parts of calcium for each 1 part of phosphorous (1.2:1). This is particularly important while puppies are growing. You can usually find the calcium to phosphorus ratio for a puppy food on a pet food company’s web site. Note that if you add supplements to your puppy’s diet such as milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. while he is growing, you will disturb this ratio and it can result in health problems for your puppy now or in the future. If you are feeding your puppy a good quality food you should not need to add any supplements to it during the first year. Adding extra meat to your puppy’s diet while feeding a puppy food will add more phosphorus to the diet and also upset the ratio.
Some nutritionists do not recommend feeding grain free foods to large and giant breed puppies. This is because these foods often have very high protein percentages, high fat percentages, high calories, and the calcium to phosphorus ratio can be off. All of these things can cause large and giant breed puppies to grow too rapidly, leading to bone and joint problems. If you would like to feed a grain free food to your Australian Shepherd puppy, make sure you check the calcium to phosphorus ratio and watch the calories.
The general recommendation for all puppies is that you should be able to feel their ribs but not see them. Puppies should not be allowed to become roly-poly. Exercise is good. Encourage your puppy to play. Just use good sense and don’t let him do anything potentially dangerous.
We have chosen some adult dog foods that you may want to consider for your Australian Shepherd. We have paid special attention to the breed’s energy needs since many of these dogs are very active. We also selected foods that are soy-free and that do not have artificial preservatives, coloring, or flavors/sweeteners. These are just suggested foods. There are lots of other good foods and your dog may have different needs. If your dog has problems with hip or elbow dysplasia you might consider foods that have chondroitin and glucosamine. These supplements are often added to foods for large breed dogs. If your dog has problems with epilepsy you should check foods to see if they contain rosemary. Rosemary is often used as a natural preservative in dog foods today. It’s used in many foods so it can be hard to find dog foods that don’t contain it.
|Best Dog Food For Australian Shepherds|
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Instinct Raw Boost
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First five ingredients: Chicken Meal, Chicken, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Chicken Eggs, Chickpeas
Crude Protein (min) 38.00%
Crude Fat (min) 20.50%
Crude Fiber (max) 4.50%
Moisture (max) 8.00%
Dry Matter Basis: Protein 41.3 percent; fat 22.3 percent; fiber 4.9 percent; carbohydrates 22.8 percent.
Metabolizable Energy (calculated) 354 kcal/cup
Metabolizable Energy (calculated) 3954 kcal/kg
AAFCO-approved for all life stages.
What About Australian Shepherd Puppies?
For Australian Shepherd puppies we recommend that you divide the food into meals and feed at regular times instead of free feeding. Feeding regular meals encourages dogs to eat their food when you serve it instead of becoming picky about their food or overeating. If you have more than one dog we recommend that you make sure each dog is eating his or her own food and not stealing food from other dogs. In some cases you may need to feed a dog separately to make sure he or she is getting all of his food since some dogs eat faster/slower than other dogs. You can generally start transitioning a puppy to an adult food when he has reached most of his adult size. Australian Shepherds can reach most of their adult size by the time they are around 8-10 months old, so you can usually start transitioning your dog to eating an adult food around this time.
Some good puppy foods you may consider for your Australian Shepherd puppy include:
|Best Puppy Food For Australian Shepherds 2016|
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Complete Health Puppy
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First five ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Salmon Meal
|Crude Protein||Not Less Than||28.00%|
|Crude Fat||Not Less Than||17.00%|
|Crude Fiber||Not More Than||4.00%|
|Moisture||Not More Than||11.00%|
Dry Matter Basis: Protein 31.5 percent; fat 19.1 percent; fiber 4.5 percent; carbohydrates 36 percent.
Calorie Content: This food contains 3,800 kcal per kilogram or 450 kcal per cup ME (metabolizable energy) on an as fed basis (calculated).
AAFCO-approved for growth and gestation/lactation.
Of course, if your Australian Shepherd puppy has any particular health issues, you would need to take them into account when choosing a food. These foods are selected for medium-large, active puppies and don’t contain soy, corn, and wheat. We think they are good quality foods but there are other good puppy foods and all life stage foods if you don’t like these suggestions.