What Is The Best Dog Food for a Shetland Sheepdog?
The Ultimate Shetland Sheepdog Food Buyer’s Guide
The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie, is a small herding dog originating in the Shetland Isles of Scotland. The little dogs were once working dogs on the island. Today the breed is still used as a farm dog but they are primarily known as a family pet.
Shelties are also one of the premier breeds in obedience competitions, agility, and other dog sports. The breed is extremely intelligent and energetic.
Sheltie owners will also confirm that their dogs love to bark. This is not a good dog for apartment life because of their love of barking.
Otherwise, Shelties are loving and devoted to their people. Some owners say the dogs have almost human understanding and intuition. Shelties have a long double coat that requires regular care. Their coat comes in various colors and they shed quite a bit. The Shetland Sheepdog is the 21st most popular breed in the U.S., according to the American Kennel Club.
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Shetland Sheepdog Diet & Nutrition
According to the standard for the breed, the Shetland Sheepdog typically stands between 13 and 16 inches tall at the withers. The dogs generally weigh between 11 and 24 pounds.
Known for being bright, playful, and energetic, the Shetland Sheepdog requires regular daily exercise. These are very intelligent dogs. If they do not receive enough exercise and attention from their owners, they can find some terribly creative ways to unleash their energy – ways that you will not like. Make sure that your Sheltie gets plenty of daily exercise. Shelties love to have a job. They are natural herders and will happily herd your children or your other pets unless you provide something better for them to do. They want to do things with you so consider obedience classes or agility training. They make wonderful therapy dogs, too.
Growing puppies and young adults use a lot of energy. They require a diet that features good quality protein. According to the National Research Council of the National Academies, an active adult Sheltie weighing 20 pounds requires an average daily caloric intake of 660 calories. Dogs that have been spayed/neutered, or that are older, may need slightly fewer calories. Some dogs may need more calories depending on their level of activity and their individual metabolism. Growing puppies, for example, consume more calories than adult dogs and so do young adult dogs. A young adult Shetland Sheepdog puppy weighing 15 pounds needs an estimated 591 calories per day.
Because of the breed’s small to medium size, we recommend feeding a food designed for small to medium dogs. Small breed dogs burn up more energy per pound than larger dogs. Most small breed dog foods are packed with more calories per ounce than ordinary dog foods. Some All Life Stage dog foods are also suitable if they have the nutrients and calories your Sheltie requires. You should always read the label and other nutritional information before buying a dog food.
Feeding Your Shetland Sheepdog
Shelties can usually eat most good quality dog foods. However, they do require good quality nutrition. This is really not a breed that can get by on cheaper dog foods. Your dog’s health depends on the nutrition you provide so cutting corners is not recommended.
We suggest that you measure the amount of food you feed and only leave the food sitting out for about half an hour. Then put it away. This should give your dog time to eat. If you free feed and leave the food sitting out all the time dogs usually nibble which puts on pounds. Most adult dogs do well eating two meals per day. Puppies can usually eat three meals per day until they are old enough to start eating on an adult schedule.
Shetland Sheepdog Health Problems
Shelties are usually considered to be a healthy breed. Dogs in the breed commonly live to be 12-13 years old.
There are some health problems that can crop up in individual dogs. Eye problems are sometimes found in Shelties such as Collie eye anomaly (CEA) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Shelties can also have the MDR1 gene mutation which makes them very sensitive to certain drugs (including ivermectin, found in many heartworm preventives). It’s estimated that about 15 percent of Shelties have this gene mutation. This mutation affects a number of herding breeds and mixes. Sheltie owners are advised to use care in selecting heartworm preventive and discuss drug issues with your veterinarian.
Some individual Shelties can also have issues with epilepsy, hypothyroidism, skin allergies, or hip dysplasia. Cancer of the bladder is also more common in Shelties than in most other dogs. Von Willebrand’s Disease is also found in the breed.
You can find more information about Shetland Sheepdog health issues on the web site for the American Shetland Sheepdog Association. Note that the ASSA has a very extensive health and research program so you should not be put off the breed by the studies underway. This is an active club that researches potential problems in the breed that can affect even small numbers of dogs. It does not mean that problems are widespread. The same is true for many dog clubs that invest in research even when only a few dogs may be affected by an issue. It is done as a preventive measure for the betterment of the breed in the future.
Health testing parents and puppies helps to control and reduce some health problems. Many dog lovers also try to protect their dogs by feeding a dog food with more natural ingredients to try to keep their dog’s immune system as strong as possible. Many people recommend feeding a food that is free of some of the most common food irritants such as corn, soy, and wheat. These are not the most common dog food allergens – beef, dairy products, and chicken, for example, lead to more food allergies for dogs than corn, soy, and wheat. But many people like to avoid soy and grains in dog foods. There are many good grain free dog foods today if you want to feed one to your dog.
Avoiding artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives is also suggested as a way to help keep the immune system stronger.
Ingredients to Look for and Some to Avoid
Protein and fat are the main ingredients in the diet for the Shetland Sheepdog, as they are for most dogs. However, not all proteins and fats are the same. It’s important that the protein and fat in the dog food comes from good sources if you want your dog to be healthy.
Ideally you will select a dog food that features two or three meat proteins in the first several ingredients listed. Both whole meats and meat meals are good sources of protein. Whole meats refer to foods such as whole chicken, beef, fish, and lamb. Some people don’t like meat meals as much as whole meats but they are a concentrated form of the meat in which the moisture has been removed. They contain several times as much protein as a whole meat. Meat meals are usually quite acceptable as one of the first ingredients in a good quality dog food. They are used by many good dog food brands.
Dogs also need good sources of fat. 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. Puppies can benefit from DHA which is Docosahexaenoic acid. This is a specific form of omega-3 fatty acid that helps with brain and eye development. Older dogs seem to benefit from medium chain triglycerides which feature medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These have been found to help older dogs feel and act younger. They are often made from a combination of coconut oil and other oils.
If you want to avoid corn, soy, and wheat in your dog food, your Sheltie may still be able to eat rice, barley, oats, or some other grain or cereal. Oats and barley, for example, can be good sources of dietary fiber. Or you can feed a grain free dog food that uses an alternate source of carbs such as sweet potatoes. You don’t have to feed a dog food with an excessively high percentage of protein but it’s a good idea to keep the carb percentage low to moderate.
Recommended Dog Food For An Adult Shetland Sheepdog
Every dog is an individual. Even dogs in the same breed can have different food needs. Some dogs need more calories than others. Some dogs will do better with more protein or fat than other dogs.
We are recommending a variety of foods for the Sheltie. Some have grains and some don’t. We have selected foods without corn, wheat, and soy unless otherwise noted. Some of the foods are specifically made for small to medium breeds. You may have to try a couple of foods to find which one is best for your dog. You should also keep in mind that your dog’s diet needs can change as he grows and ages so you may have to change foods to accommodate him.
Best Dog Foods for Shetland Sheepdog Adults
Because of their small size, we recommend a good small breed dog food for the Sheltie like Fromm Small Breed Adult Gold. Fromm is a family business that has been making dog food for generations in Wisconsin. The first three ingredients in this food are duck, chicken meal, and chicken. It has some grains such as oatmeal, pearled barley, and rice, but we think these are good fibers and good for digestion. The food is also enhanced with probiotics to aid digestion and salmon oil for the Sheltie’s beautiful coat. This is a food for growth and maintenance with 416 calories per cup. We hear great things about Fromm from everyone who feeds it. We really like the ingredients in this food.
We have heard great things about Victor dog food from lots of people. Victor is made by Mid America Pet Food – a company that co-packs for some other well-known brands. The company is located in Texas and it’s been in business for a long time. They were purchased by an investor last year and Victor dog food is becoming more widely available now. They currently have six highly active and sporting dog formulas; five formulas for normally active dogs; and four grain free formulas. All of their foods are free of corn, wheat, soy, gluten, and grain by-products. They use no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. The Yukon River Salmon formula has 32 percent crude protein, 15 percent crude fat, and 34 percent crude carbs. Seventy-six percent of the protein in the food comes from fish. We think this is a food you might consider for your Shetland Sheepdog, or check out one of Victor’s other formulas.
Merrick has some great foods for dogs. The first three ingredients in this food are deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal. The recipe is 50 percent meat and desirable fats, 25 percent vegetables, vitamins, and minerals, and 25 percent whole grains like brown rice, barley, and oats. This is all-natural pet food made from high quality ingredients. No by-products, no artificial preservatives. They also use local growers from Texas, where the food is made. Yes, we know that Purina recently purchased Merrick which makes some people nervous. But until we see any sign that the food has changed, we still think this is a great food for your dog.
If you are seeking an organic dog food for your Sheltie then you have probably discovered there are not many truly all-organic foods. Some dog foods may have a few organic ingredients, but it’s hard to find one that is entirely organic. Castor & Pollux Organix Small Breed Grain Free Adult Dog Food is made in the U.S. The first ingredient is organic, free-range chicken. Nearly all of the ingredients are organic. It is also grain free with organic peas, organic flaxseed, and other organic ingredients grown without chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, artificial preservatives, added growth hormones, or antibiotics. They use no corn or wheat. This is one of the most natural dog foods you can find. If you are looking for a dog food without added chemicals for your Sheltie, this food may be perfect for you.
Best Dog Foods for Shetland Sheepdog Puppies
Small breed puppies like the Sheltie grow quickly from a young age. They typically reach adult size rather early. This means that they usually do best on a small breed puppy food that contains more calories than ordinary puppy foods. However, it’s still important that the calcium to phosphorus ratio be correct for small breeds. The recommended ratio should be about 1.2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus, though there is some slight room for variation such as 1.5:1. Most puppy foods should have a calcium to phosphorus ratio in this neighborhood. It’s also important that dog and puppy foods do not have an excess (or deficiency) of calcium since this can affect bone growth.
Here are some of the puppy foods we like for Sheltie puppies. Note that an All Life Stage food can also be fed, as long as the nutrients are appropriate for your puppy.
No question about it: this is an expensive food. However, it has a lot desirable points. No corn, no wheat, no soy. It’s grain free, gluten-free, GMO-free, and it’s considered a limited ingredient diet. It contains no by-products, tapioca, or potatoes. It’s specifically designed for small and medium breed dogs so it’s nutrient-dense. It has a single protein and carbohydrate source and the meat is hormone-free, pesticide-free, and antibiotic-free. There’s more, but you get the idea. If you are trying to be very careful with your Shetland Sheepdog puppy, then this LID holistic puppy food from Canine Caviar is definitely a food you may want to consider. Canine Caviar also has several other formulas so you can rotate the proteins.
VeRUS Puppy Advantage is an excellent holistic food for small breed puppies. The first ingredient is chicken meal followed by easy-to-digest ground oats and ground brown rice. The formula contains DHA for proper brain development, omega-3 fatty acid from fish oils, non-Chinese sourced vitamins and chelated minerals. The food also includes a freeze-dried live probiotic that is unique among dog food manufacturers. The chicken used in their food is cage-free, U.S.-grown and guaranteed to be antiobiotic-free. VeRUS has none of the undesirable ingredients that are sometimes found in pet foods. We really like this puppy food for Sheltie puppies. Any dog lover who may be concerned about chemicals or additives in pet foods should check into VeRUS. Note: VeRUS says that their chicken is hormone-free. ALL poultry raised in the United States is hormone-free. It has been illegal to add hormones to poultry in the United States since the 1950s.
Annamaet Ultra is an All Life Stage formula that is suitable for puppies and small breeds as well as performance dogs. It has 32 percent crude protein and 20 percent crude fat. The calcium to phosphorus ratio makes it a good fit for growing puppies. It comes in at 480 kcal/cup. The first ingredient is chicken meal, followed by brown rice, and chicken fat preserved with mixed tocopherols in the form of Vitamin E. Annamaet uses algae as a source of omega-3 fatty acid for good skin and coat, and healthy heart development. The food also contains DHA for good brain development. It also features chelated minerals so they are more easily digested. The chicken is raised free of antibiotics. This food is ultra dense in energy which makes it a good choice for growing small breed puppies like Shetland Sheepdogs. Since this is an All Life Stage food, you can go on feeding it as your puppy gets older and becomes an adult. People who feed this food seem to love it. Whole Dog Journal and other sources give it high marks.
Best Dog Foods for the Senior Shetland Sheepdog
It’s not unusual for Shelties to live into their early teens. As your dog ages it’s a good idea to plan an annual senior check-up with your vet. Many older dogs begin to put on pounds as they become less active. For this reason, most senior dog foods have fewer calories and they can skimp on protein. You should watch your older Sheltie’s weight as he gets older to make sure he doesn’t become overweight. In some cases you can simply cut back on the portions of his regular dog food to help him stay fit or increase his exercise.
On the other hand, elderly dogs often start to have some problems metabolizing nutrients, including protein. It can become hard for them to keep good muscle tone and weight as they age. For this reason, you may wish to avoid many dog foods labeled “senior.” These foods are often formulated for older dogs that have gained weight. Instead, look for a senior dog food that we like which has lots of protein. As long as your older dog doesn’t have any problems with his kidneys, there is no reason to avoid higher protein levels.
Orijen Senior provides plenty of excellent quality protein for your older Sheltie. This food features free-run chicken and turkey, wild-caught fish, and nest-laid eggs. It helps keep older dogs in good muscle even as they become less active. Made of 80 percent meats and fish, the food is low-glycemic and has low carbs to help keep your older dog’s blood sugar steady. The food also contains natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin to keep your Sheltie’s joints healthy. The food is 38 percent crude protein and 15 percent crude fat. It checks in at 445 kcal per 250ml/120g cup. We think this is a very good food for senior dogs who often need extra protein as they get older.
Best Dog Foods for Shetland Sheepdogs with Skin Problems/Allergies
Since some Shelties can have skin allergies, you may need to look for foods that don’t contain common proteins. The most common proteins that trigger allergies in dogs are: beef, dairy products, chicken, lamb, fish, chicken eggs, corn, wheat, and soy. Fortunately, you can find a lot of good dog foods today that don’t contain these ingredients but you have to be sure to read the labels.
If your Sheltie has skin problems it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian check your dog. Shelties can have some skin problems that are not allergy-related.
If your Sheltie has food allergies, here is a food we think might help. It is free of ingredients that commonly result in allergic reactions.
Any dog suffering from skin problems or food allergies may benefit from Wild Calling!’s Xotic Essentials recipes. Formulas like their rabbit meal recipe use exotic meats that are rare in today’s pet food market so your dog hasn’t eaten them before – less chance of having an allergic reaction. The foods are also highly digestible. Wild Calling! also uses what they call LITe (limited ingredient technology). They don’t use any of the ingredients commonly found in most dog foods such as chicken, grain, gluten, egg, yeast, corn, wheat or soy. If your Sheltie has a food allergy, he can really benefit from Wild Calling! The foods are formulated for rotational feeding and they offer several Xotic Essentials recipes, such as kangaroo and bison, so your dog doesn’t get over-exposed to one kind of meat protein. This is an All Life Stage food. We think that dogs with skin problems and food allergies can definitely benefit from these recipes.
Best Dog Foods for Shetland Sheepdogs with Sensitive Stomachs
Some dogs are susceptible to food sensitivities that affect their digestion and excretion. If your dog has a sensitive stomach it can be an indication of a food sensitivity, which is different form a food allergy. A dog with a food sensitivity will have gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting or diarrhea. Or it could be something more serious.
A dog with a sensitive stomach can often be helped by feeding the right dog food. Sticking to a limited ingredient diet food with as few ingredients as possible can reduce the chance of your dog having a bad reaction to something in the food.
If your Sheltie can eat potatoes, we recommend Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Potato & Duck Small Breed Bites Dry Dog Formula. This food is grain free with limited ingredients. It has good quality, alternative ingredients that are easily digestible for a dog with a sensitive stomach. And it contains no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
However, we understand that some dogs have issues with potatoes so we also recommend AvoDerm Grain Free LID Revolving Menu Small Breed Beef Recipe. AvoDerm’s LID formulas are grain free, gluten-free, with one single animal protein source to minimize the chance of a reaction. The carbs in the food are garbanzo beans and peas. You can feed one formula or feed the AvoDerm LID foods in rotation – whichever works best for your dog. Don’t worry about the avocados in these foods. They will not harm your dog. They are a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fatty acids and other nutrients.
Best Dog Foods for Overweight Shetland Sheepdogs
If your Sheltie becomes overweight, it may be due to overfeeding and not enough exercise. You can help your Sheltie lose weight by cutting back on his portions and encouraging him to get more exercise.
If your Shetland Sheepdog needs to lose more than one or two pounds, however, you may need to consider a weight control dog food.
We do not recommend a weight control dog food for a puppy or a very old dog. These foods generally have fewer calories and may have some other differences in nutrients that make them inappropriate for growing puppies or older dogs who need special nutrition.
If you have a Sheltie who needs to lose weight we recommend Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Recipe. We like the fact that this food has 32 percent crude protein. The crude fat percentage is between 8 and 11 percent with 5 percent crude fiber so your dog should not feel like he’s starving. It is AAFCO-approved for a maintenance diet. The food has 3,210 kcal per kilogram or 360 kcal per cup ME (metabolizable energy) on an as fed basis (calculated). It is grain free and made from 55 percent beef and poultry. And it contains no corn, wheat, or soy and no ingredients from China.
If your dog needs to lose weight, you should proceed slowly. No crash dieting. You should aim for your dog to lose no more than 3 to 5 percent of his body weight per month or about one percent each week.
Whether you are getting a new Sheltie puppy or bringing home an older dog, Shetland Sheepdogs are intelligent, playful companions. We hope we have provided you with the information you need to feed your friend the best food possible.
Below is a list of Products reviewed in this article
- Fromm Small Breed Adult Gold
- Victor Yukon River Salmon & Sweet Potato Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- Merrick Classic Small Breed Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food
- Castor & Pollux Organix Small Breed Grain Free Adult Dog Food
- Canine Caviar Limited Ingredient Diet Puppy Holistic Entrée Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- VeRUS Puppy Advantage Chicken Meal, Oats and Brown Rice Holistic Formula
- Annamaet Ultra Formula
- Orijen Senior Dog
- Wild Calling! Xotic Essentials Rabbit Meal Recipe
- Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Potato & Duck Small Breed Bites Dry Dog Formula
- AvoDerm Grain Free LID Revolving Menu Small Breed Beef Recipe
- Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Recipe