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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

There is considerable interest in the possibility of there being different nutritional requirements for different breeds of dog. Little work has been done on this so far, but we already know quite a lot about some factors which need to be considered when selecting a ration.

Although different breeds of dog have evolved from similar ancestors, it is likely that they may have slightly different nutritional requirements, and certainly we know that some breeds deal with  nutrients in different ways. For example, some small breeds of dog (eg Yorkshire Terriers and other Toy breeds) often have difficult maintaining blood calcium concentrations when they are lactating and they are prone to develop low calcium concentrations in their bloodstream (hypocalcaemia) a clinical condition commonly called "milk fever or tetany" or "eclampsia". Even if additional calcium is fed to these "at risk" bitches they are unable to maintain blood levels within normal limits. The reasons for this are complex - but essentially there is a breakdown in "normal" physiological control of calcium in these animals.

It is clear that there is potential for the development of special rations tailored to meet the needs of breeds which have specific nutritional problems or requirements, but unfortunately detailed feeding trials and long term studies have not yet been performed in most breeds of dog. So, what do we know so far ?


All animals need energy, but too much energy intake can lead to obesity, so energy intake needs to be controlled particularly under the following circumstances :

  • Avoid excess energy intake in :
    • Sedentary (lazy) breeds of animal (usually large or giant breeds) that do not get much exercise - predisposes to obesity
    • Animals that are prone to overeat - eg Labradors
    • Neutered animals that do not exercise much - predisposed to develop obesity because of hormonal changes.
    • Large and giant breeds of dog during their puppy growing stage.  High energy intake increases growth rate which is known to increase the likelihood of skeletal abnormalities developing.

On the other hand, insufficient energy intake results in malnutrition and a poor ability to carry out normal bodily functions including  growth, reproduction and mounting an immune response to fight  micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses.

  • Avoid too little energy intake in :
    • Puppies during their growing stage as adequate energy intake is important for normal growth rate
    • Breeds of dog that work hard - eg racing greyhounds, endurance working dogs - military, hunting, sled dogs
    • Breeds of dog that live in extreme environments with high temperatures and/or high humidity , or low temperatures and wind chill.

Reputable pet food companies provide feeding guides on pet food labels designed around the different energy requirements for different dog breed sizes.


Water is the most important nutrient of all and a fresh, clean supply should be available at all times. Water intake increases in breeds that work hard (see above) and in breeds that are kept in extreme environmental conditions (see above).


In general the daily intake of protein that dogs require will be similar for all breeds.

Some breeds of dog eg Wheaten Terriers have a predisposition to develop kidney disease early in life. In such animals protein intake may need to be carefully controlled. 

Aggression has also been linked by some authors to high dietary protein intake and so dietary protein may need to be restricted in such individuals, and possibly some breeds with aggressive tendencies.

Large and giant breeds of dog age quicker than smaller breeds, and protein intake may need to be controlled at an early age if they develop protein-losing problems or problems linked to high blood concentrations of protein-related waste products.


Fat is an excellent source of calories and it also encourages food intake because it increases palatability.- so high fat diets should be avoided in individual animals and breeds prone to overeat and develop obesity eg Labradors.

High fat rations are useful when feeding hard working breeds with exceptionally high energy requirements eg sled dogs working in extreme weather conditions.

Essential fatty acids are necessary for good healthy hair coat and skin and it is feasible that modifying nutritional profile might alter the appearance, texture and quality of certain types of hair coat and skin in different breeds. Certainly, some breeds with dry, dull, scurfy coats may develop better skin condition and a glossier coat sheen if fed essential fatty acid supplements.


In general the recommended daily allowance for minerals,  and the ratio of one mineral to another is likely to be the similar for different breeds, however :

  • Calcium We have already mentioned the inability of some small breeds to maintain blood calcium concentrations from dietary calcium alone when they are lactating. On the other hand, even though calcium intake requirement is higher in growing dogs than at other stages of their life, too much calcium should be avoided in growing dogs, especially large and giant breeds, because this can increase the risk of skeletal abnormalities developing.
  • Copper Some dog breeds eg Bedlington Terriers can have trouble with copper accumulation in their livers leading to toxic effects and liver disease, so copper intake should be controlled to avoid unnecessarily excessive intake.
  • Zinc. Some breeds of dog have problems dealing with zinc in the food, for example Alaskan Malamutes may have difficulty absorbing and using dietary zinc, and so they develop skin disease that responds to additional zinc supplementation. 


Vitamin requirements are thought to be similar for different breeds, but some active working breeds may have an increased requirement during exercise because vitamins are needed for the metabolic processes that generate energy for use by tissues eg muscles. 

Animals kept indoors or breeds that live within the Arctic circle, where it can be dark for 6 months of the year, may need a higher intake of  vitamin D if they are not exposed to long sunlight hours, because ultraviolet light is needed for synthesis of vitamin D in the skin.


Whilst a lot of work still needs to be done on breed differences, owners and breeders currently spend millions of pounds every year on vitamin, mineral and fat/oil supplements for their pets. Presumably they must perceive an improvement to continue to purchase these products. If this is true, could it be that the basic rations they are feeding are inadequate and they are effectively just correcting a dietary deficiency -  or could it be that the current recommended nutritional daily allowances are not accurate for all individuals in all breeds ?  Certainly the amount of a nutrient required to meet "minimum" requirements may be different to that needed for "optimum" health, and the latter may vary from breed to breed.