What to Feed Your Jack Russell Terrier (JRT)

Dry food, or primarily dry food, is recommended. Some warm water may be added to kibble to release more food odors. Canned foods are not always necessary but, if you feel you must add them, take care that they do not exceed 20 or 25 percent of the dog’s diet. A puppy raised on dry food, with or without the occasional addition of water, will be quite content with that food for her lifetime.

To help keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy, avoid semimoist food (which has a lot of salt, sugar, and preservatives) and too much canned food. These soft preparations encourage tartar buildup, which can lead to periodontal disease. Hard kibble helps keep teeth clean and gums healthy.

There are so many brands and types of dog food, it can be difficult to decide what is best for your Jack Russell. Premium, high-quality food should always be chosen over less expensive food that may contain poor-quality ingredients, fillers, and artificial colors and additives.

The dog’s stool is a primary indicator of the digestibility (usable amount of nutrients) of the food she is eating. Lower-cost foods may be soy- or corn-based, which tends to produce a larger, looser stool. A food that is based on good animal proteins will produce a firm, well-formed stool. Although store and discount brands should probably be avoided, relatively low-cost, high-quality foods are still available in grocery, feed, and specialty stores. Read and compare labels, seek quality and palatability, and you can be sure that you will be providing the best food available for your dog.

One area of debate about canine nutrition involves protein. Some people believe that if some is good, more is better, particularly for puppies and bitches who are pregnant or lactating. But high concentrations of protein in a dog’s diet are believed to be hard on the kidneys, especially for dogs with a history of kidney problems. Working dogs and puppies may be fed food with protein levels of 25 or 26 percent; mature dogs fare well with a level of 20 percent.

Another consideration is the fat content of dog food. Owners of working dogs
and dogs housed in outdoor kennels in cold weather may prefer a higher fat content, maybe 15 percent. Dogs, and even puppies, who are housed indoors, and older and overweight dogs will probably do very well on a food with a fat content of around 10 percent.

One more consideration is supplements. Don’t give them unless your veterinarian prescribes them for some special reason. All good-quality dog foods labeled as “complete” will provide all that your dog needs in the way of nutrition. There may be rare or special circumstances, such as pregnancy and lactation, when your dog requires some supplementation of one or more nutrients, if recommended by your veterinarian. But casual supplementation can cause serious imbalances and unexpected problems. More of a good thing is not necessarily better.

Basically, the food you serve your Jack Russell Terrier should contain protein,
fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, all in proper quantities and in proper proportions. It is highly unlikely that a high-quality food will be lacking in any nutrient your dog needs for healthy growth, development, and maintenance.

It is impossible to give general advice and be right all the time. You know
your Jack Russell Terrier better than anyone else. As a responsible pet owner, you should seek the advice of your veterinarian and the dog’s breeder, read labels, and then decide what food is best. The appearance of your dog is the best indicator of good nutrition; watch her as she develops, grows, and ages, and adjust her diet accordingly.

Just like adding artificial colors to dog food, feeding table scraps does more to please people than to benefit dogs. Your dog doesn’t care about all those flavors and colors. She’s perfectly happy with that plain old high quality kibble she’s always eaten. And if you never feed her table scraps, she’ll never know what she’s missing.

Scraps tend to be full of fat, salt, sugar, and spices—nothing that’s needed by or is good for your dog.

Even if you feed something healthy from the table, the dog will still get into the habit of begging, which will become a mealtime annoyance forever—not to mention the fact that your JRT could end up being a very finicky eater. Good people food snacks for your dog, in moderation, are pieces of carrot or apple. Most JRTs love them. Offer the snacks between meals—yours and the dog’s—or as rewards in training sessions.

Never feed your dog cooked bones as they splinter and can perforate the intestines. And never feed small, sharp bones to your dog. The best bones to
feed are the leg bones of cows. Don’t overdo it, though, because too much bone chewing can cause extreme wear on a mature dog’s teeth.

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