How Much Do You Feed a St Bernard?
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St Bernards are one of the most recognizable dog breeds, both due to the legends which surround them and their distinctive large size. Despite their heft, this is a lovable dog which can bond very well to their human companions. Their fame and character mean many people consider adopting them as a pet, but their size means there are some practical considerations any potential St Bernard caregiver needs to make. One of the most important is to know how much do you feed a St Bernard?
AnimalWised answers this question by looking at the amount of food St Bernards require during different growth stages. This means not only looking at St Bernard adults and puppies, but other factors which might affect their development.
How much do St Bernards eat
Just as you may not eat the same amount as your partner or friend, the amount of food a St Bernard eats is not uniform. There are many factors to consider when choosing a St Bernard's diet. These include:
- Type of food
- Age of dog
- Health status of dog
- Amount of exercise they receive
However, there are nutritional requirements which all St. Bernard dogs share. The canine diet must contain animal protein as its main ingredient. While dogs have the ability to digest starch, they are not truly omnivorous animals. They are carnivores due to the fact they need certain nutrients such as taurine, vitamin D and arginine which they cannot naturally derive from non-animal sources. Their ability to digest starch does mean they can have an animal based diet supplemented with plant-based foods.
How much food a St Bernard will need to eat depends on the individual animal. The quantity required correlates to their specific circumstance. For example, we cannot give the same amount of food to a St Bernard puppy as we would an adult dog. Similarly, if the dog carries too much weight or is obese, then the dog will need reduced portions and less fat in their diet. Other diseases, medical conditions or requirements dictate the nutritional needs of the dog.
St Bernard diet
To know the specific guidelines for the individual dog, we should speak to our veterinarian. They will be able to perform a physical examination and run any necessary tests to best determine the diet of a given dog. After doing so, we can choose both the amount of food to feed a St Bernard as well as the type of diet.
In dogs of such as large size, it is most likely you will purchase commercial food for them. While commercial dog food does vary in quality, a responsible producer will have a product which meets all of the dog's nutritional needs. The product itself should advise how much to feed a St Bernard depending on their age and weight, but this may differ if there is an underlying health issue in the dog.
Feeding a St Bernard more natural dog food can be more expensive. Since this breed is so large to begin with, feeding them more costly products can mean already expensive food bills will increase. You do not need to buy the most expensive brand, but you do need to feed them a product which is of good quality. Nutritionally incomplete dog food will lead to general health problems down the line.
Homemade food for St Bernard dogs
Another option when feeding your St Bernard is providing a homemade diet. This doesn't mean we can only provide them with leftovers. It means finding out the specific nutritional needs of your dog and creating food which will meet them. Supplements will often need to be used since specific nutrients may be lacking in food we can buy from a supermarket.
Feeding your dog homemade food is expensive and can be risky if you do not know exactly what to provide. Before considering a homemade diet for your St Bernard, perhaps the recently popular BARF diet, you should consult a veterinarian specialized in canine nutrition.
How much to feed a St Bernard puppy
As with any dog, the St Bernard growth stages start when they are a puppy. Ideally, their first food should be derived from their mother. As the puppy stage is characterized by rapid growth, there will need to be a considerable amount of food. This can even exceed that required by an adult St Bernard. However, quantity is not the only considerations. Good quality is vital since puppies are in one of the most vulnerable stages of their lives.
Puppies will need to be weaned onto solid food around 4 weeks of life. They will still drink breast milk from their mothers, but she will encourage eating solids until the latter is all they will eat. This is one of the reasons it is vital for a puppy to remain with their mother for a minimum of 8 weeks, preferably at least 12.
When you adopt a St Bernard puppy, they should be at least 2 months of age. If they are not, you will need to know the diet of a prematurely weaned puppy. Between 2 and 4 months of age, the puppy's daily ration should be divided into 4 portions. Between the ages of 4 to 6 months, they should be divided into 3. Between 6 months and 2 years, the daily ration should be portioned into 2 servings.
Food for Saint Bernard puppy
Commercial dog food for a St Bernard puppy should be puppy specific. This will be formulated specifically for a puppy's nutritional needs. As previously stated, this needs to be high in animal protein. It should be accompanied by a moderate amount of fat, glucosamine and chondroitin to helps take care of their development. A correct proportion of calcium and phosphorus are also necessary.
It is also recommended a St Bernard puppy's diet is contain linoleic acid. This is an essential fatty acid which reduce the percentage of body fat and increase protein levels.
When does a Saint Bernard stop growing?
In general, puppy food is supplied during the first twelve months of life. In the case of a giant breed such as the St Bernard, the growth stage can last between 18 and 24 months. Although there is a widespread belief that puppies need calcium supplements to grow properly, the truth is this mineral should be present in sufficient amounts in the food we provide for them.
It is not necessary to routinely supplement the St Bernard puppy's diet, unless the veterinarian has specifically chosen to do so. We should also not overfeed them, even when young. These puppies will not accumulate excess calories into fat, but may grow faster than their skeleton can handle. The result is bone problems.
How much to feed a St Bernard adult
Depending on the growth rate of our St Bernard, the veterinarian can tell us when to stop feeding puppy food and start on the adult product. Whether or not your St Bernard should eat two portions per day or only one will depend on your dog. Some animals will eat too quickly, resulting in indigestion or other problems such as gastric torsion. Others may beg for food too frequently. In these cases, smaller portions are better. This is the same with any dog breed, but St Bernard dogs are known to be particularly gluttonous.
Looking at the nutritional content of the food is important, especially the protein content. The demand for energy in the animal's body decreases by almost when they only perform medium levels of physical activity. Calcium and phosphorous requirements are also decreased as they age, but the percentage of fat still needs to be regulated at whatever growth stage they are.
Ingredients such as glucosamine and chonfroitin are just as necessary to protect their joints. While St Bernard puppies are enthusiastic, a healthy adult dog will still want to exercise. Sterilization can affect their ability to metabolize fat, so this must be reduced once the dog is older to reduce obesity. Pregnant and lactating St Bernard bitches will need about the same amount of food as a puppy.
How much to feed a senior St Bernard
During the St Bernard's later years, it is common for mobility issues to develop. This is partly due to their large frame which takes its toll on joints and bones. Joint diseases are not uncommon in this breed. A St Bernard's life expectancy is generally between 8 to 10 years of age. This means they will be considered a senior dog around the age of 6 or 7 years.
Food can be used to maintain the senior St Bernard's health. This is why glucosamine and chonroitin are so vital. Antioxidants are also important to help slow down the negative affects of aging. These are not limited to physical problems since cognitive dysfunction syndrome may also occur in older dogs.
As with puppies and adult dogs, there are age specific commercial food brand you can choose. These do not only relate to the ingredients, but also due to the size of the food. Smaller pieces are usually provided to make chewing and digestion easier. The amount of food a senior dog eats per day should decrease as their physical activity lessens. We will also need to take the dog regularly to veterinary checkups to determine whether they have kidney disease or other organ failure issues.
If you want to read similar articles to How Much Do You Feed a St Bernard?, we recommend you visit our Healthy diets category.
- Sagarra, Natalia. The feeding of the great . Ateuves Magazine nº 77. pp. 16-17.