Feeding the Border Collie's Fire

Your expert guide to feeding both hard-working and less-active Border Collies.

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Dr. Thomason notes that appetites vary, too. Some dogs just don't eat as well as they should, she says. If your Border Collie is a picky eater, or is too thin, consider feeding either a puppy food or a performance diet, both of which contain more fat (and possibly more protein) than adult maintenance chows. Fat or oils in the diet provide dogs with twice the energy (calories) compared to proteins or carbohydrates.

A word of caution: Paradoxically, some Border Collies, even very active ones, may gain weight easily. They are what I call easy keepers, says Joyce Norris, who has raised Border Collies at her Norwood kennel in Waltonville, Illinois, for the past 23 years. They don't require a lot of food to maintain their stamina and exercise level. The problem magnifies in a relatively sedentary pet (versus an active, working Border Collie), says Norris.

If your Border Collie isn't spending enough hours herding tennis balls, Frisbees and the like, you'll want to watch that waistline! I weigh my dogs often, and go over them to feel their muscle mass, says Norris. Have your veterinarian teach you how to body condition score (BCS) your dog, a more accurate assessment than poundage alone, because it takes into account the individual dogs height and bone structure. Fat-to-muscle ratio is judged on a scale of either 1-to-5 or 1-to-10, with the low end being emaciated; the median value, ideal; and the upper value, dangerously obese.

Easy keepers require portion control: feeding a measured (not guesstimated!) amount of food once or twice daily. Don't feed what's indicated on the bag, its way too much, says Norris. If you feed that much, the dog will become a blimp.

In fact, during the Purina Nutrition Forum in St. Louis, Mo, during 2000, a leading pet-food manufacturer revealed the results of a research study performed by feeding its product to dogs in the amounts recommended on the label. All the dogs in the study gained weight, demonstrating that recommended amounts are not always optimal, and may be too much.

Other research shows that dogs resting calorie requirements (exercise not factored in) can vary by as much as 30 percent. Bottom line: You'll need to adjust how much you feed, or change to a lower or higher calorie food, as needed. Pet-food manufacturers aren't required to print calorie counts on their dog food labels, but you can contact them for this important information.

Commercial options of light or reduced fat or calorie food formulas can rescue the easy-keeping dog from obesity. The increased fiber in such formulas provides satisfying bulk to the ration. These diets contain lower fat levels, combined with appropriate protein, vitamin and mineral levels.

Your Border Collie can still gain weight if fed too much food, even if you are feeding a light diet. Portion control remains a key element in preventing weight gain. Another advantage of strict portion feeding is that you'll be able to detect any loss of appetite, which is often the first sign of health problems, with the first meal left unfinished.

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