5 Best Dog Foods For Australian Shepherds
You would be forgiven for thinking that Australian Shepherds are an Australian breed but these intelligent, energetic dogs were actually developed in the United States.
The breed has a rather convoluted history. Sheep herding dogs were brought to Australia by shepherds from the Basque areas of Europe in the early 19th century.
However, the shepherds soon moved on to the American west, taking their herding dogs with them. There the dogs proved to be excellent stock dogs.
The breed became even more popular when Western riding and sports were popularized in films in the 20th century. Easy to train and great at obedience, agility, flyball, and other dog sports, Aussies make great family dogs – as long as they have a job to do. Australian Shepherds are an active breed.
We can help you choose the best dog foods for Australian Shepherds.
- Our criteria
- What kind of diet should you feed your Australian Shepherd?
- What to look for when choosing the best dog foods for Australian Shepherds
- Special considerations for feeding an Australian Shepherd
- How much should you feed your Australian Shepherd?
- Best dog foods for Australian Shepherds
Many people today think that dogs need to eat a diet that is similar to an ancestral diet that wolves might eat. Or that dogs need ingredients that are similar to the things humans eat.
Neither of these approaches to feeding dogs is true. Dogs have evolved in the last 15,000 plus years of living with humans to eat a diet that is different from what wolves eat.
They are still dogs, however, with a dog’s gastrointestinal system. Your dog won’t thrive or get the nutrients he needs by eating foods that sound appealing to you.
He can’t digest many of the foods that you enjoy, for one thing.
You and your dog don’t have the same digestive system to absorb nutrition. Many of the things people believe today about dog food are based on pet food marketing instead of nutritional facts.
The criteria we use in selecting the best dog foods for Australian Shepherds and other breeds comes from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.
Using the WSAVA guidelines, we look for dog foods that meet the following standards:
- The food should meet AAFCO approval, preferably by means of a food trial instead of a nutrient profile.
- We like dog food companies that have nutritional research to back up their formulations.
- Pet food companies should have canine/veterinary nutritionists on staff to formulate their foods.
- A pet food company needs to have strong quality control measures and be willing to discuss them.
- Good nutrition for your dog is more important than clever marketing. Choose the dog food that is most nutritious for your dog even if the ingredients don’t sound appealing to you. You’re not going to be eating the food, your dog will. There’s a world of difference between what’s good for you and what’s good for your dog to eat.
We also consider the recent warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about a possible link between grain free dog foods and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. DCM is fatal if left untreated. The FDA’s investigation has expanded to include exotic proteins in dog foods. You can read the latest research in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The FDA also recently released this update. According to the update, 276 cases of DCM have been reported since July 2018. A wide range of breeds has been affected by DCM, including breeds with no known genetic predisposition for the condition. Breeds of all sizes have been affected – this is not a problem that is only affecting large/giant breeds.
In cases in which dogs ate a single primary diet (i.e., didn’t eat multiple food products, excluding treats), 90 percent reported feeding a grain-free food. Approximately 10 percent reported feeding a food containing grains and some of these diets were vegan or vegetarian. A large proportion of the reported diets in DCM cases – both grain-free and grain-containing – contained peas and/or lentils in various forms (whole, flour, protein, etc.) as a main ingredient (listed within the first 10 ingredients, before vitamins and minerals). The products included commercially available kibble, canned and raw foods, as well as home-cooked diets.
Because of this investigation, we don’t generally recommend grain free dog foods at this time, especially foods that contain peas and/or lentils in various forms.
If your veterinarian recommends a grain free dog food for health reasons, such as an allergy, you should discuss the situation with him or her and express any concerns you may have.
This is why we aren’t recommending some of the most popular grain free dog foods at the moment.
We follow current veterinary health research and try to provide you with the best advice possible for your dog. We are recommending the best dog foods for Australian Shepherds that meet our criteria.
What kind of diet should you feed your Australian Shepherd?
Australian Shepherds are generally a healthy breed. If you have an Aussie, he should be able to eat a normal diet for a medium-sized dog. Here are some of the things we look for in choosing the best dog foods for Australian Shepherds.
Most adult dogs need a minimum of 18 percent protein in their diet every day. Pregnant and nursing female dogs and puppies require a minimum of 22 percent protein in their diet per day. Nearly all dog foods today have more than 18 percent protein so it shouldn’t be difficult to meet this requirement for your Australian Shepherd.
The body uses protein to build and repair tissues, make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. It’s also an important building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood, as well as your dog’s coat. If you feed your moderately active Aussie a food with a protein percentage between 22 and 26 percent crude protein, he should do well.
If your dog is more active, you might need to feed a slightly higher protein percentage.
Fat is an important part of a dog’s diet. It makes their food taste better. It’s a source of energy. And fatty acids such as omega-3 are good for your dog’s skin, coat and brain. Some vitamins such as A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble so your dog can only use them when they are dissolved in fats or oils.
An adult dog needs a minimum of 5 percent fat per day. A pregnant/nursing female dog or a growing puppy must have at least 8 percent fat per day in their diet. Nearly all dog foods have more than 8 percent fat so this isn’t usually something you have to worry about.
A moderate fat percentage is usually considered to be between 12 and 16 percent. This percentage range is suitable for an Australian Shepherd that isn’t doing a lot of work or training. If your Aussie is in hard training or doing herding or ranch work, you will probably want to feed a food with a slightly higher fat percentage.
Many people online make pronouncements that carbohydrates are “bad” or “filler” ingredients. This is not true. Carbs are important for your dog in several ways.
They are another source of energy for your dog, along with fat. Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate and your dog’s body certainly needs fiber.
Carbs can be a source of nutrients. Carbs can also provide simple sugars and starches to your dog’s brain. Complex carbohydrates are able to prevent your dog’s glucose levels from spiking after meals. They also keep your dog from feeling hungry between meals.
While some people extol the virtues of protein, dogs can’t live on meat alone, or even just meat and fat. Carbohydrates are an important part of your Australian Shepherd’s diet.
Dogs need fiber for good digestion. Fiber exists in both a soluble and insoluble form. Soluble fibers include ingredients such as chicory, inulin, and beet pulp. Soluble fiber pulls water into your dog’s gastrointestinal system so the digestive matter turns to gel. This slows the digestive process.
Insoluble fiber does the opposite. It adds bulk to the matter in your dog’s digestive tract and speeds up its passage through your dog’s system.
Most kibbles today have between 3 and 6 percent crude fiber. If your dog seems to have loose stools, you can try switching to a food that has a little less fiber.
Likewise, if your dog seems a little constipated, you can try changing to a food that has a little more fiber. If your Aussie has frequent digestive problems, please consult your veterinarian.
Probiotics and prebiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics have become standard in many dog foods today, especially in kibbles. They help your dog’s gastrointestinal system function well and strengthen the immune system.
Prebiotics are one kind of dietary fiber that encourages the growth of so-called “friendly” bacteria in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. You have probably seen common prebiotics such as chicory and inulin listed on ingredient labels.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that “colonize” your dog’s gastrointestinal system. Just a teaspoon of probiotic powder can contain billions of “good bacteria.” These flora, as they are sometimes called, are also added to dog foods today or you can buy them as stand alone products and add them to your dog’s food. Probiotics may look like a dry powder but the microorganisms are hibernating until they arrive in your dog’s system and go to work.
Researchers estimate that about 70 percent of your dog’s immune system is based in his G.I. tract. This means that prebiotics and probiotics can do a great deal to help your dog stay healthy.
Vitamins and minerals
You might have wondered why dog food companies add vitamins and minerals to their foods when the ingredients should already contain vitamins and minerals.
Companies add vitamins and minerals to dog food – especially kibble – after cooking because the food is cooked at such high temperatures that the vitamins and minerals in the ingredients are often destroyed.
Adding vitamins and minerals back into the food after cooking ensures that your dog gets the nutrients he needs.
What to look for when choosing the best dog foods for Australian Shepherds
When choosing the best dog foods for Australian Shepherds, we recommend the following:
- Look for a dog food that contains grains unless your veterinarian gives you other advice;
- Choose a food that has a protein percentage between 22 and 26 percent for adult dogs;
- Healthy dogs usually need a moderate fat percentage between 12 and 16 percent;
- A fiber percentage between 3 and 6 percent is suitable for most dogs.
These recommendations are for kibbles.
If your Australian Shepherd has any health problems, please talk to your veterinarian about choosing a food. Veterinary sources state that food allergies in dogs are not as common as most dog lovers believe but they do occur.
If your Australian Shepherd has a food allergy or food sensitivity, work with your veterinarian and have your dog diagnosed.
Your vet might recommend a food elimination diet and food trial. Other kinds of allergies such as seasonal allergies to grass and pollen, contact allergies, and flea bite allergies are actually more common in dogs than food allergies. Getting a real diagnosis for your dog is important.
Special considerations for feeding an Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds are generally a very healthy, long-lived breed. It’s not unusual for Australian Shepherds to live between 12 and 16 years. This means that you might need to consider diet changes for your dog at some point as he gets old. Your Aussie may continue to be active and act fit and prime well past 10 years of age. Even so, like other dogs, they can have some health issues.
Hip and elbow dysplasia
As with many dogs, Australian Shepherds can have some problems with hip and elbow dysplasia. Ideally, the hip joint is a ball and socket that fits together smoothly. If the bones/joints are not formed correctly, your dog can develop problems.
Hip dysplasia can vary from a very minor issue to a problem that is severe. In addition, some dogs that are diagnosed with hip dysplasia by x-ray never seem to show any symptoms; while other dogs that may appear to have perfectly formed hip joints can develop arthritis and other mobility problems.
If your dog has hip dysplasia, it can worsen as he ages. Keeping your dog slim and fit is recommended for dogs with any tendency toward hip dysplasia since carrying extra weight will put extra stress and strain on the hip joints.Elbow dysplasia is the name for several growth problems in the dog’s elbow joint. Elbow pain, occasional lameness in a front leg, bone spurs and/or abnormal cartilage, and other bone and joint problems can all indicate that your Aussie might have elbow dysplasia. As with hip dysplasia, the only way to really know for sure is to have x-rays taken.
Puppies and young dogs that have too much calcium while they are growing can be at greater risk for some problems that can lead to elbow dysplasia such as osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).
As with hip dysplasia, it helps to keep your dog slim and fit as he grows. Carrying extra weight can put unnecessary stress on your dog’s shoulders and elbow joints.
You should also be careful not to allow puppies and young dogs to play too roughly or engage in repetitive exercise (such as jogging on pavement) while growing since it’s believed that this kind of activity can be bad for the bones and joints.
How much should you feed your Australian Shepherd?
You can expect an adult male Australian Shepherd to stand between 20-23 inches tall at the shoulder.
An adult female will stand between 18-21 inches tall at the shoulder. Adult males typically weigh 50-65 pounds while adult females usually weigh 40-55 pounds.
We recommend using calories to determine how much food to feed your Aussie instead of cups. This is because different dog foods have different calorie densities. One food might have 400 calories per cup while another food might have 300 calories per cup.
- A three-month-old Australian Shepherd male can weigh about 25 pounds and would need about 1300 calories per day.
- A six-month-old Australian Shepherd male can weigh about 40 pounds and would need about 1233 calories per day.
- At one year your Australian Shepherd might weigh 55 pounds and he would need about 1409 calories per day.
Your Aussie boy will probably keep growing for a little longer than a year – perhaps until he’s about 16 months old. At this time he may weight about 60-65 pounds. At this weight he might need about 1600 calories per day.
If you’re wondering why a six-month-old puppy, weighing a few pounds more than a three-month-old puppy, would need fewer calories, it’s because puppies grow extremely fast during the first few weeks.
They need a lot of calories at this time for the development of their bodies, brains, and other organs. After about four months of age, puppy growth starts to slow until by the time your puppy is about a year old, he’s eating an adult dog’s portion.
These weights are only estimates, of course. Your puppy could weigh more or less. Females puppies usually weigh a little less. It’s important for you to look at your puppy and consider whether he’s skinny or fat, too. You can adjust the amount you are feeding based on his body condition.
Remember that puppies also go through growth spurts so one week your puppy might look gorgeous and the next week he could look very gawky.
This is normal for puppies. If you have questions about your puppy’s appearance or how much to feed, we suggest that you talk to your puppy’s breeder or your veterinarian.
Best dog foods for Australian Shepherds
Known for being smart, enthusiastic, and happiest when they have a job to do, Australian Shepherds are terrific dogs. They are iconic ranch dogs: hard-working and ready to move on to the next thing that needs to be done. They also make good family dogs for an active family.
If you have an Australian Shepherd we hope we have provided some helpful advice for choosing the best dog foods for Austalian Shepherds. Let us know which food you choose!