Australian cattle dogs are members of a high-energy breed, born to run long distances and work long hours in all weather conditions. As such, they need food specially formulated to keep them fit, provide stamina and nourish their thick, all-weather coats. Premium commercial dog foods may contain most of the necessary nutrients, but additional supplements in the form of natural, healthy products could be beneficial. Alternatively, a home-cooked diet or raw food diet may be a viable option.
Premium Commercial Foods
All commercial dog foods carrying the label “premium” are required to meet certain nutrition standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. The foods are judged either by the manufacturer providing a nutritional profile, or by passing a feeding trial. The AAFCO has two feeding profiles, one for growth and reproduction, which is aimed at puppies and breeding females, and another for adult maintenance. On its website, the AAFCO publishes a list of a healthy diet’s ideal ingredients and their proportions, and if your Australian cattle dog eats commercial kibble or tinned, “wet” food, you need to check that the food complies with these requirements.
Feeding your Australian cattle dog home-cooked food is great, if you prepare it yourself. Take note, however, that the AAFCO has very strict rules governing the sale of pet foods, so if you feed food cooked by someone else, make sure it contains approved ingredients in appropriate quantities. To cook for your dog, combine 50 percent human-grade animal protein, such as muscle and organ meats, poultry, or oily fish including salmon and tuna, with 25 percent slow-burning, complex carbohydrates. Good sources of carbohydrates include sweet potato, brown rice, barley and quinoa. Add the meat and carbohydrate mixture to 25 percent vegetables and fruit, including apples, bananas, green beans and pumpkin.
Raw Food Diet
Many breeders and trainers of Australian cattle dogs recommend feeding raw food, although veterinarians have divided opinions as to whether it is healthy. A raw food diet might include some cooked carbohydrate such as brown rice or sweet potato with the raw meat protein and raw fruit and vegetables, or it could exclude cooked food altogether. To feed completely raw food that provides enough energy for these working dogs, use raw vegetables including carrots, cauliflower and broccoli, or add ground bone meal for bulk instead of carbohydrates. If you decide to use raw meat, wash kitchen utensils and cutting surfaces to avoid contaminating bacteria.
With the amount of energy expended by Australian cattle dogs, whether they are working with livestock or simply participating in working trials and conformation shows, supplements are appropriate additions to their diet. Discuss your dog’s needs with your veterinarian before implementing nutritional supplements, but you can safely feed natural items such as eggshells. Feed small quantities of eggshells, which are a powerful source of natural calcium, that have been dried in the oven and crushed in a coffee grinder. The calcium is unconcentrated so you incur little risk of giving too much. Australian cattle dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, which can be supported by feeding supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin in quantities advised by the veterinarian.