It’s no secret that a dog’s good health begins from the inside out; choosing the right type of nutrition for your Yorkshire Terrier gives them an enormous paw up on the path to a healthy lifestyle! Most Yorkie owners are also aware that their furry friends have some pretty specific needs when it comes to nutrition – despite being a toy breed, these pint-sized pups are spunky, energetic, and athletic little dogs that benefit from balanced, high-quality food.
They also have tiny teeth and jaws, tend to be pickier eaters, and many Yorkies also prefer several smaller meals daily, instead of one or two. Since there are so many different types of dog foods on the market, it can be confusing for Yorkie owners to choose the perfect food for their dogs. Before picking a specific type and brand of food, however, it’s essential for owners to understand the basics of canine nutrition.
Here’s a quick primer on some important terms.
- Complete and balanced: It’s extremely important that any food you feed your Yorkshire Terrier is complete and balanced. This means that a specific diet contains all the nutrients that your furry friend needs daily, and most importantly, contains them in the appropriate amounts for their age and size. Too much or too little of the key nutrients in your pet’s diet could lead to serious health issues like malnutrition, poor bone development, or hormone deficiencies. For commercially sold foods, the minimum requirement for a food to be labeled as complete and balanced is that it must meet the standards established by AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials). Ideally, your Yorkie’s food should also undergo real-life feeding trials and be tested for quality, consistency, and digestibility in order to be considered a top-quality food – these are the criteria that are the most important to consider.
- Nutrients: The various elements of your dog’s diet that contribute to proper body function. Nutrients are not the same thing as ingredients! Essential nutrients include protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. Examples of ingredients (which deliver nutrients to your dog’s body) may include chicken, beef, barley, rice, beet pulp, poultry by-products, corn gluten, etc., and will be different from food to food. Excellent nutrition allows your Yorkie to be as healthy as possible and helps to prevent disease over their lifetime.
- Digestibility: The measure of how well your Yorkie’s body can digest and use the nutrients in food. A food with poor quality ingredients won’t be very digestible, meaning that your dog will have to eat more of it to actually get all the nutrients that they need, or may not even absorb those nutrients as well. A low-quality diet may also contribute to poor skin and coat health, digestive problems, or even behavior issues in your Yorkie.
Now that you have a good starting point, you’re ready to pick the food that’s best for your Yorkie. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of different feeding styles and food formulas.
- Convenient for many owners because of its lower cost, wide variety, and long shelf life
- Most kibble diets are complete and balanced, and many have kibble sizes and formulas that are specifically formulated to suit a Yorkie’s small size and health requirements
- Nutrients in kibble may not be as biologically available as diets made from fresh, whole foods
- Not as appealing in taste or smell as other diets
- Preservatives are used in food to prevent the kibble from spoiling
Brands to check out: Royal Canin, Canidae, Merrick
- Almost all commercial canned foods are complete and balanced
- Easy for Yorkies to eat
- Higher moisture content helps reduce the risk for urinary tract disorders and bladder stones
- Higher moisture content means fewer calories than in an equivalent amount of kibble
- Less potential for bacterial contamination
- Long shelf life
- Food still undergoes significant processing, often destroying key nutrients which need to be re-added
- Preservatives and flavoring additives are often present in food
Brands to check out: EVO, Royal Canin, Merrick
Raw Food (commercial)
- No added preservatives, usually made with fresh, whole ingredients (meaning more biologically available nutrients)
- Can tailor your dog’s food to their specific nutritional needs, which could help to reduce the effects of allergies and improve skin and digestive health
- Higher water content is ideal for overweight dogs and those with urinary problems
- Raw and homemade diets are more appealing for dogs to eat
- Many raw diets are still not tested for nutritional balance or completeness
- Raw diets contain a higher amount of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria like Salmonella, Clostridia, and Staphylococcus, creating a potential health risk for immune-compromised, elderly, or very young people and dogs
Brand to check out: Nature’s Variety
Dehydrated Raw (Commercial)
- Food keeps fresh longer than regular raw but still maintains highly available nutrients since it’s not processed at high temperatures
- Easier to store than fresh or frozen raw food
- All water is removed, so not as convenient – need to add water before feeding
Brands to check out: Bravo Pet Foods, Nature’s Variety Instinct, Primal Freeze-Dried
Raw Frozen (Commercial)
- Convenient as it can be bought ahead of time and stored for months
- Retains a high water content
- Thawing improperly could lead to food spoilage
Brands to check out: Bravo Balance Raw, Primal Frozen, Vital Essentials
Homemade (Raw or Cooked)
- Owners have complete control over what goes into their dog’s food
- Can eliminate ingredients that cause digestive upset or sensitivity
- No preservatives, and uses fresh, whole ingredients that have excellent nutrient availability for your dog
- Feeding raw bones can put your Yorkie at risk for bowel obstruction or perforation
- Homemade diet formulas may not take into account the particular energy needs of toy breeds, particularly their tendency for developing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Diets made by owners themselves are almost never balanced nutritionally unless they’ve been formulated with the direct assistance of a veterinary nutritionist
- Imbalances in homemade diets can be particularly dangerous for puppies, affecting bone development as they grow
- Homemade diets are a lot of work! Significant time, cost, and preparation are involved
Although researching diets might seem like hard work, choosing the right food for your furry little friend will provide benefits for both of you far into the future. A high quality diet, though perhaps pricier or needing more time and effort, will be far more beneficial for your Yorkshire Terrier’s health (and your wallet!) throughout their lifetime.
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