Before you grab that bag of kibble and start shaking it into your husky's bowl, be forewarned that feeding these Nordic beauties can be counterintuitive. Controversy and confusion arise because huskies need a low calorie diet made of high calorie, high nutrient food. Confused yet? Fear not, it's actually simple.
Husky feeding confusion basically revolves around what a high versus low calorie diet means, and around the difference between a working breed and a working dog. Huskies were bred over hundreds of years to work hard in very extreme environmental conditions. These guys were developed by native Arctic peoples to run long distances while pulling loads in brutal winters. They had to do this while eating the food that was available in that environment -- small amounts of very densely concentrated animal protein and fat. Your husky needs a very small amount of food per day compared to dogs of similar size, usually only 1 1/2 to 2 cups of kibble or specially formulated raw diet. But this food has to be of superior quality to meet your husky's needs.
Protein and Fat
Ideal husky diets are almost entirely animal protein and fat. Dogs in general need very little carbohydrate and huskies need almost none. Some breeders and husky enthusiasts point out that huskies eat some plant matter (such as berries and roots) in their native environment during the spring and summer, and recommend feeding these occasionally. Other than fruit and veggie treats, your husky's food should contain only meat -- including organ meat -- fat and bone meal. A guide to reading pet food labels, such as the one published by the FDA, can help you decipher the ingredients in your doggy's chow.
Working Dog or Couch Potato?
There is a common belief that working breeds require more food than other breeds. If your dog is running the Iditarod, this may be true, but chances are that Fluffy is spending most of her time digging up your yard or lazing on your couch rather than scaling glaciers. Huskies are very efficient at converting calories to energy, and as their activity level decreases from their working heritage, so does their caloric need. Consult your veterinarian about the ideal weight for your dog and feed accordingly. You will probably find that your pup needs a surprisingly small amount of food and large amount of exercise to keep in shape.
Huskies are prone to a skin condition called zinc responsive dermatosis. The condition is usually inherited in this breed, but it can also be the result of too little or too much zinc while your dog is still growing (it is important to feed high quality food and avoid unnecessary supplements from day one). If your dog is diagnosed with the familial form of this disease, you'll have to feed a high zinc diet. You can do this by adding supplements or by making a high zinc raw diet. Either should be done only under the guidance of a veterinarian. The USDA's Nutrient Database can help you choose high zinc foods and treats for your pup.
- husky dog image by Grzegorz Grzeszkowiak from Fotolia.com