What Maddie Learned At Doggie Nutrition School

#AD – This is a paid partnership with Purina

Maddie Purina
Image: Rachel Oates Pet Photographer

“Dogs are man’s best friend”. Isn’t that the truth, although let’s substitute/make assumptions that by “man’s” it’s actually meant to read “humans”. Although I’m quite sure that if Maddie had to choose between us it would be Pete every single day – he’s the fun one and the treat over-indulger. I’m much more likely to discipline her but it’s interesting that when she’s really in trouble it’s me she comes to for help over him. 

It will come as no secret to anyone who knows us (or think they know me via the powers of social media) that Boo & Maddie are our whole world. Even Mr D has become a bit of a cat convert after assuring me that a cat wouldn’t really be welcome in our home. I grew up with a menagerie of different animals, but cats and dogs were always at the core of this and I knew that once I could have pets (i.e. in London, that generally means owning a home rather than renting), I would. 

Maddie is now five and a half and it’s strange to think that next year she’ll kind of be approaching the start of doggy middle age. Touch wood we’ve never had any health issues with her apart from the odd grass seed and earlier this year she was bitten by another dog in a skirmish that she needed stitches for. We try to make sure we give both her and Boo everything they need to maintain optimum fitness. Just like with anything in life however, you can always learn more.

Last week I took Maddie to an event with Purina, a well-established brand within the petcare industry who have over 125 years’ experience in pet nutrition. Talking about pet care, especially food, can often be quite an emotive topic (if you have a dog I’m sure you’ll know what I mean!) because everyone likes to think they know all the answers and will tell you that whatever they feed their dog is what you need to be feeding yours.


The truth is though that in the same way people come in all shapes and sizes, so too do dogs – in fact probably more! The requirements of my Springer Spaniel are completely different to those of someone’s Dachshund and different again to the Old English Sheepdog. It’s not, and never will be, a one size fits all solution. What a good and responsible pet owner should be doing is monitoring their dog’s behaviour, keeping them at a healthy weight, and switching out foods as necessary to ensure their dog has a good digestive system. It took us a while to find a food that worked for Maddie as she had quite an upset tummy for a long time when she was younger, and it is a dry, kibble-based food. She also gets treats including meat and it works for us and her. 

There were a lot of takeaways from the event but one I found particularly useful from the Purina vet was the right way to check that your dog is fit for their breed. Obesity is the number one health complaint concerning dogs in the UK, followed by oral hygiene but similarly to people, weighing dogs doesn’t necessarily reveal the whole picture – Springers for example can weigh anything from around 16kg to 20kg and still be in great shape. There are 3 key factors which can give a much more specific indication of canine condition:

  • Feel – if you run your hands along the sides of your dog, you should be able to feel the ribs. Not in a skeletal, mal-nourished way but they should be evident
  • Look from above – as your dog is standing and you look down at them from above, the body should taper slightly towards the back, i.e. give an indication of a waistline after the rib cage
  • Look from the side – again, as your dog is standing, the rib cage should fall lower and then rise up towards the back legs

It can be harder to detect with fluffier pooches but it’s always at the front of my mind to make sure that if Maddie has come with us on a day out for example, or when we take her away each year, and she gets a few extra cheeky treats, to make sure that we lower her dinner to counterbalance. It’s much easier to keep a dog slim and fit as opposed to losing weight once they’ve gained a few extra kgs. Just like us, I guess! 

I was also interested to hear about the journey of creating Purina pet food and we had a demo of the end-to-end factory process in miniature scale as we were shown how the kibble is made. As experts at creating nutritionally complete and balanced pet food, it was reassuring to hear that the production process undergoes a total of 1,400 quality checks from start to finish before it’s released as available to buy on our shelves. 

Now, I’m not going to shy away from the raw food discussion because I know again there are always dog owners who are adamant that homemade raw food is the only way to feed our four-legged friends. And if that’s what you do, that’s absolutely fine. As we all know, and as the Purina team were also keen to stress, it’s about making sure your dog has a nutritionally balanced diet. Not only will it vary from dog to dog, but even as your dog ages, their food requirements will differ. There is no harm in utilising animal derivatives in food, i.e. the parts of the animals that we as people don’t necessarily consume anymore such as liver and kidneys. It’s what dogs would have had access to going back years ago anyway when food was less sanitised, we made more butchers visits and would have used many parts of a cow/pig/chicken and given scraps to our pets. They’re a good quality ingredient, providing high nutritional value and are tasty for pets.  There are plenty of companies who can provide tailor-made raw food given your dog’s individual specifications, but if we do go down the “popping to the butchers for raw meat” route, bacteria from uncooked meat is easily spread and can be a risk especially to the young and elderly. 

It was a really useful morning and made me feel more assured that as poochie parents we’re currently doing everything we need to for Maddie. Personally, I’d never consider a one-size-fits-all approach because that just doesn’t make any sense, but I’ll never stop wanting to learn as much as I can. Maddie is in tip top condition from the state of her teeth, down to her weight and shape (not just according to Purina’s vets but ours too) and at the end of the day, that’s surely what’s important. 

Image: Rachel Oates Pet Photographer

Disclosure: I was invited to the Purina event as part of a paid partnership with them. I’m sharing what I learned from the event as part of that partnership, however of course you know your dog best and should research their health and nutrition appropriately.

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