Pitbull terriers or simply pitbulls are one of the most intriguing canine breeds. They are largely depicted as very vicious animals, very aggressive against other dogs as well as to other humans. Pit bulls are also depicted in the media as having locking jaws that add to their viciousness. Unfortunately, many of these characterizations are considered myths by animal experts and can be easily disproven by those who have worked closely with these breeds. If any, pit bulls are well-known for their determination. If trained properly and given the correct nutrition and guidance, these ‘super vicious’ dogs can actually be considered as one of the most valuable breeds. Since optimum health starts with good nutrition, it is important to take a closer look at what constitutes the best and most appropriate diet for a Pit Bull terrier.
Pitbull Dog Food Buying Guide
Feeding a Pit Bull terrier, also known as American Staffordshire terrier, pretty much follows the same guideline as in any other breed of dog. The amount of food you give it depends typically on its size, age, metabolism, activity level, and even build. That being said, you really cannot expect your pitbull to have exactly the same amount of food and frequency of feeding as the pitbull of your neighbor or your friend. They are like us, too. Each dog is inherently different from another pooch of the same breed and from other breeds.
The activity level of dogs is, without a doubt, a very important determinant in how much foodstuff you have to give it. Also important is the quality of the feed that you’re providing it. You may be giving a lot of food every time but your pit bull simply isn’t getting the right amounts of nutrients, leading to more frequent feedings or significantly greater amounts of foodstuff per feeding. There are a variety of factors that we simply have to consider in our approach to giving our pit bull terriers the best food for them.
As such, we have prepared this comprehensive pitbull dog food buying guide to help you decide for your mutt the kind of food it needs to receive including how much and how frequent the feeding should be. Hopefully towards the end of this article you would have gained enough knowledge to provide your beloved pit bull the kind of nutrition it truly deserves.
How Much Food Do I Feed My Pitbull?
As we shall be presenting to you in the succeeding sections, the amount of food that you are going to feed your pitbull actually depends on a variety of factors. As much as we would like to be overly simplistic about it, there really is no dog food that is custom-made for a specific breed for the simple reason that members of the same breed can still have substantially different caloric and nutrient requirements.
For example, a pregnant bitch will typically require more nutrients than a healthy adult male pitbull owing to the fact that it has several puppies that are depending on the mom to provide them with the necessary nutrients for fetal development. The same is true with pit bull terrier puppies. Because they are growing at a very rapid pace, their nutrient requirements are substantially greater than those required by adults and senior dogs.
The point we would like to make is that we cannot really tell you a very definitive answer as to how much you should feed your pitbull. This is because, first, we don’t know what kind of pit bull terrier you have. How old is it? Is it already neutered? Is it pregnant? Does it have metabolic problems like obesity and diabetes? Does it have other health problems that may require an adjustment in the amount of food that it needs? Also, where does your pooch live? Does it live in a relatively cold place like somewhere in Minnesota or a warm and humid place in Florida? How about its activity level? Does it go on exercise every day? If so, what are the activities that it usually engages in and how long does it usually perform these?
As you can see, it is quite difficult to come up with a definitive figure. How much food do you need to feed your pitbull? It actually depends on a lot of things. Let us just put an average then which is usually around 1,100 kCal per day. Again, this is just the average. It doesn’t mean that this is also what your pitbull should be getting.
What Kind of Diet is Best for a Pitbull?
As we shall see later on, the best kind of diet for a pitbull or for any dog for that matter is one that has a good mix of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Proteins are especially important for pit bull terriers as these macronutrients are necessary for building and maintaining the integrity of their muscles as well as other organs. We all know that pit bulls are highly regarded for their muscular build. That is why a diet that is high in high-quality proteins is a must.
Not to be outdone is the fat content of their diet. Pit bulls can benefit from healthy fats as these are important constituents of the structures of the nervous system as well as the skin and hair. These are also essential in ensuring the more efficient absorption of certain vitamins that are largely dependent on the presence of fat molecules for transportation. Without fat, your pit bull will not be able to digest and absorb these vitamins and thus, will not be used by the body.
Carbohydrates are needed as the principal source of energy, although it is not uncommon for fat molecules to be used up as well. Since pit bull terriers lead a generally active lifestyle, they need energy to sustain their physical activities. If they cannot get this from carbs and fats, then they will have to derive the energy from proteins. If this happens, they lose their muscles. Have you seen a skinny pit bull terrier? Does it look good?
Most experts recommend the following composition of nutrients for a pit bull terrier.
- 45% protein
- 25% fats
- 30% carbohydrates
Keep in mind that this nutritional composition is just the recommendation for a generally healthy adult pit bull terrier.
Nutritional Requirements for a Pitbull
As we have already hinted in the preceding sections, the nutritional requirements of your pit bull terrier are largely dependent on its activity level as well as general body size. However, their calorie requirements are also affected by the following:
- Their age
- Whether they are neutered or spayed or not
- The environmental temperature where they live
- Their physiologic status such as gestation, growth, lactation, and the like
- Presence of any underlying abnormality or medical condition
Technically, what this means is that no two dogs are exactly alike even in the food that they eat. One may need a higher calorie requirement than another depending on how these different factors affect or impact one another. That being said, it is important to understand how the calorie requirements of any given dog can be determined.
The calorie intake of your pit bull can be determined by computing for its Resting Energy Requirement or RER. This is the total amount of calories needed by your pit bull to stay healthy at rest and within a normal environmental temperature. This is almost similar to the Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR in humans. There are two ways in which the RER can be computed. These are as follows.
- If your pit bull weighs at least 2 kilograms but not more than 45 kilograms, then the RER is equivalent to 30 multiplied by your dog’s weight in kilograms then added with 70. For example, if your pitbull weighs 40 kilograms, then the RER is 30 x 40 = 1,200 + 70 giving an average calorie requirement of 1,270 kCal per day.
- If your pit bull weighs less than 2 kilograms or is heavier than 45 kilograms, then the RER is computed as 70 multiplied by your dog’s body weight in kilograms raised to 3/4 power. For instance your pitbull weighs 50 kilograms, then you have to compute for the exponent of its weight first which is 5075or 50 raised to the ¾ power to give you 18.82. You then multiply this with 70 to get 1,317.40 kCal per day.
Unfortunately, your pitbull will not be resting all day and all night as it will stand up, run, bark, pant, do a lot of exercises, and a whole lot more. So, our RER value has to be adjusted to account for these activities as well as other physiologic parameters. Here are some helpful computations.
- RER value x 1.8 – Healthy unneutered or unspayed pit bull without underlying medical conditions
- RER value x 1.6 – Neutered or spayed pit bull
- RER value x 1.4 – Obese pit bulls
- RER value x 3 – Healthy pitbull puppies less than 4 months old
- RER value x 2 – Healthy pitbull pups older than 4 months old
That being said, in our first example above with RER value of 1,270 kilocalories per day, you will need to adjust this to 2,286 kCal/day if it is healthy and unneutered; 2,032 kilocalories if neutered; and 1,778 kilocalories/day if obese.
Now let us apply what we have learned to the actual nutrient requirements of a pitbull terrier. Generally, all dogs require 6 fundamental nutrients for optimum health. These are the following.
Do take note that only the first three (3) macronutrients provide the energy for your dog. The other 3 – water, vitamins, and minerals – don’t contain calories. Nevertheless, these are very important elements to maintaining a healthier profile for your pit bull terrier.
We shall have different presentations for each of these important macro and micro nutrients in the following sections. It should be sufficient to understand that pit bull terriers or any other dog for that matter require the following nutrient compositions.
- Proteins – Adults need at least 18 percent proteins per day while puppies require about 29 percent with the recommended dietary allowance at 25 grams per 1000 calories of metabolizable energy or ME.
- Fats – Pit bull terriers can benefit from at least 10 percent fat in their diets. The RDA for dogs for fats is at 13.8 grams although it should never exceed 82.5 grams per 1000 calories ME.
- Carbohydrates – Currently, there are no recommendations for carbohydrates. Perhaps this is because more emphasis is placed on the impact of proteins and fats on dog health. Additionally, there are carbohydrate sources that contain proteins and some fats, too.
You may have noticed the term ‘metabolizable energy’ or ME. This is the portion of energy present in a diet that is actually retained in the body. For example, in human nutrition, a gram of protein contains 4 calories or energy molecules. However, the actual amount of calories or energy that is present in the body after all the various physiologic processes have been factored into the equation is actually less than 4 calories. In dogs, it was found out that every gram of protein and carbohydrates typically contain about 3.5 calories of metabolizable energy or ME, a reduction of 0.5 calories. For every gram of fat, this is equivalent to 8.5 calories ME.
Proteins are very important in the formation and maturation of structural as well as protective tissues. The amino acids contained in proteins are major components of hormones, enzymes, as well as different body secretions. As we have already shared above, a gram of protein provides about 3.5 calories.
But here’s the major issue in proteins. Since these are essentially composed of a variety of amino acids, no single food source actually contains all of the essential amino acids that are not produced by the pit bull’s body. They call these essential since they have to be derived from external sources as they cannot be manufactured by the body itself. Having said that, to complete the essential amino acid profile needed by your dog, various sources of proteins must be included in your pitbull’s diet. As such, an ideal pitbull dog food is one that contains as many different sources of proteins possible so that the deficiencies in one food item can be filled by another.
For instance, while you may think that soy protein is largely allergenic, this actually contains certain amino acids that are not found in other protein sources. The same is true with corn protein. It contains amino acids not found in soy proteins. So, if you combine them together, you get a better amino acid profile.
The trick is for the amino acids to be well-balanced in the diet so that excesses will be avoided and deficiencies are met. The specific requirements for a pitbull protein diet therefore should be:
- The right amounts of amino acids
- Highly digestible
For pit bulls the best source of protein will still be those coming from meats such as beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, and fish. However, there is a growing market for using meat meals which are a combination of whole meats providing a higher concentration of proteins. For puppies of pit bull terriers, it is imperative that they receive substantially higher amounts of proteins. More importantly, however, is the fact that they require highly digestible proteins which can be supplied by eggs and muscle meats.
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the following are the minimum protein requirements of a pit bull terrier
- Adults – At least 18 percent per day
- Puppies – At least 22 percent per day
As for the recommendations of the National Research Council,
- Adults – At least 20 grams of protein per 1,000 kCal ME
- Puppies 4-14 weeks old – At least 45 grams of protein per 1,000 kCal ME
- Puppies older than 14 weeks – At least 35 grams of protein per 1,000 kcal ME
The ideal pitbull protein intake is between 25 and 30 percent, although highly active pooches can really benefit from about 40 to 50 percent proteins.
However, it is important not to give too much protein to your pooch, too, as anything in excess can have serious consequences. For instance, while the liver of your pit bull can handle any increase in protein intake, its kidneys may not be able to handle this elevated protein very well, leading to a variety of kidney problems. That’s why dogs with kidney problems are always given low protein diets.
If you are going to closely examine many of today’s dog foods, you will notice that they have unusually high carbohydrate content. Unfortunately, most manufacturers will not even identify the correct proportion of carbs in their preparations. What you will see is only the maximum amount of fiber contained in the product. Keep in mind that fiber is only one type of carbohydrate that has a slightly different function from carbohydrates. Technically, it is an insoluble form of carbohydrate that doesn’t provide any significant amount of calories.
Here’s the tip: high fiber diets are great for pooches that overeat and lead a rather sedentary lifestyle. But, if you’re looking at the perfect food for your energetic pit bull, you will need a low fiber diet and more of the soluble type of carbs.
The carbohydrates found in many pit bull dog foods come from fruits and vegetables, although wholesome grains are also often included. The beauty of wholesome grains is that they are naturally rich in certain amino acids in addition to complex carbohydrates that are more beneficial, health-wise, than simple sugars like glucose and fructose.
The current recommendation is to provide between 25 and 30 percent carbs in your pitbull’s diet. Again, depending on the activity level of your pooch, you can somehow tweak this recommendation to be slightly higher. Remember, the main function of carbs is to supply the energy needed by your pit bull. If it is highly active, then it needs more energy. If you give it fewer carbs, then it may not have enough energy to last its activities. Now guess where it will get the energy – from the proteins in the muscles, of course.
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Dietary fats needed by your pit bull primarily consist of triglycerides that come with different levels of glycerol and free fatty acids. There are a lot of misconceptions about fats in the diet, often perceived to be an unnecessary ‘evil’. As we have already mentioned above, fats are important when it comes to ensuring the integrity of cells as they form part of the cell wall or cell membrane. We all know that water and oil don’t mix. This principle works exceptionally well in the cell.
Since fats make up a part of the cell wall, they create a protective barrier wherein water molecules are not able to go in or out of the cell, except through specific channels. Just imagine if there is no lipid barrier and the cell can literally be filled with water and burst if the pressure outside it is higher than the one inside the cell. On the other hand, if the pressure outside it is lower, then water will move out of the cell causing the cell to shrink.
And since all organs of the body are made up of cells, their integrity is kept by lipids.
Fats are also important in the development of the nervous system. This is especially true for the essential fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. These are also important in the production of leukotrienes and prostaglandins that are mediators of inflammation. Fats are also needed to help in the digestion and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Otherwise, your pet pit bull terrier will not be able to utilize these vitamins to the fullest. And because such vitamins are not absorbed by the body, they stay in the blood and lead to the development of vitamin toxicity.
According to the AAFCO guidelines, the following recommendations can be observed in deciding on the proportion of fats to include in the diet of pit bull terriers.
- Adults – At least 5 percent per day
- Puppies – At least 8 percent per day
As for the NRC Guidelines, the following can be observed.
- Adults – At least 1.3 grams per kilogram of metabolic body weight per day or about 10 grams per 1,000 kCal ME
- Puppies – At least 5.9 grams per kilogram of metabolic body weight per day or roughly 21.3 grams per 1,000 kCal ME
Ideally, however, pit bull terriers require about 15 to 25 percent fat in their diets.
We also mentioned about the role of DHA in brain development especially among puppies. This makes them a lot easier to train. Also important is EPA or eicosahexaenoic acid which is believed to play a role in the treatment of canine health problems associated with the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys as well as in the management of certain cancer, issues with lipid metabolism, and arthritis. The current NRC recommendation is 0.13 grams per 1,000 kCal ME and 0.11 grams per 1,000 kCal ME for puppies and adults, respectively.
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Minerals and Vitamin Requirements
Contrary to popular belief, vitamins and minerals are not exclusively found in fruits and vegetables. There is this notion that meats only contain fats and proteins when in fact, these are packed with minerals and vitamins, too. However, there are certain micronutrients that are naturally richer or more abundant in fruits and veggies.
Some of the minerals that are crucial for your developing pitbull include calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Iron is especially important as it provides the backbone for the synthesis of hemoglobin, the transport molecule of oxygen in red blood cells. Calcium and phosphorus are critical in the continuing development of the skeletal system.
Pit bull terriers also require plenty of vitamins for optimum metabolism and general health. Vitamins A, C, and E are powerful antioxidants while the B-vitamins are crucial for optimum metabolism.
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Pitbulls and Food Allergies
Regardless of how tough pit bull terriers are the risk of developing food allergies is ever-present. This is especially true for these breeds of dogs as they require high protein diets. Most allergens are proteins in nature. That is why it is often critical to identify the triggering allergen in their food. This is usually accomplished by introducing single-ingredient recipes into their diet over a course of several weeks to help determine if an allergic reaction takes place or not. If nothing happens, then the food item is considered safe. If there’s an allergic reaction, then this food item can be ticked off in the list of safe pitbull dog food items to eat.
Many folks are worried about allergenic grains like wheat, soy, and corn. Yet they seem to forget that chicken and beef are equally allergenic. The reason is quite simple. Both types of food – grains and meats – are excellent sources of protein. We already know that protein-rich foods have almost the same allergenic potential. As a matter of fact, wheat is right in the top 5 food allergens alongside beef and chicken. That said, you may have a grain-free dog food but if it still contains chicken or any other allergenic food item, then the risk for developing allergies is still present.
Our Top Pick
In our review of the 5 best dog foods for pitbulls, three products really stood out: the TOTW, the Wellness CORE, and the BLUE Wilderness. Unfortunately, only the Taste of the Wild Canine Formula really won our hearts for its clear understanding of the real nutrient requirements of pit bull terriers. It has an excellent balance of proteins and fats that are considerably high for the very active lifestyle of pitbulls as well as their inherent need for stronger muscles and well-developed nervous system.
But what really sold us in is their understanding of allergies in dogs. They managed to get rid of allergenic grains as well as well-known allergenic meats like chicken and beef. Unfortunately, the other 2 products, while they did label themselves as grain-free, somehow still managed to include an allergenic meat protein in their respective formulations. Natural Balance had the same idea in mind as TOTW. Unfortunately, it was limited in its options.
For that, we give the plum of the best dog food for pitbulls to the Taste of the Wild Canine Formula. Be sure to find out more by reading our guide to the best dog food.