Australian Cattle Dogs, or just Cattle Dogs, is a lively breed that has energy and stubbornness to spare. The dogs are a medium size that works hard, plays hard and are some of the most family-loyal dogs around. Their nature is to work, rounding up cattle and herding them to pasture or to pen.
Also known as the Queensland Heeler, the ACD has a life expectancy of 12 to 16 years and will remain active for all but the last days of it. The nutrition requirements are also high. Finding the right high-quality food is important to their metabolism, health and overall energy levels. Besides a lot of land to run and play in, the Cattle Dog will need proper dog food.
Why Quality Food Matters to Your Australian Cattle Dog
Good food matters to every dog. For the Cattle Dog, though, it is especially important. These dogs need a high protein, high vitamin food that will supply them with energy and keep them going.
The metabolism of the Blue Heeler is high, and their food needs to supply the nutrients for the energy burn they have. Their muscles are dense and work hard as they run, turn and pivot. They require meat protein to sustain their active lifestyle.
Vitamins and minerals will give the dog the bone, liver and digestive support they need. Because the Cattle Dog is more active than most other dogs of their size, their bones will grow quickly while being used for more actions. To prevent injury, they require a high-quality food.
With the right food, you will have real meat such as chicken, turkey, beef or pork, along with other meat protein sources like meat meal. Vegetables and fruit will supply the right vitamins and minerals and grains can be used to supplement the proteins and keep the digestive tract working properly.
Best Foods for Blue Heeler Dogs : Quick Look
Each stage of your ACD’s life, puppy, adult, and senior, will be reviewed in this article. The food for these various stages should be the best you can find, and we have the top picks for you here.
- Best Overall Dog Food – The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Chicken Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food
- Best Premium Dog Food – Ollie Hearty Beef Eats
- Best Value Dog Food – Taste of the Wild High Prairie
- Best Dog Food for Seniors – Blue Buffalo Life Protection Chicken & Brown Rice
- Best Dog Food for Puppies – American Journey Lamb & Sweet Potato
Australian Cattle Dog Common Health Issues
For the most part, Australian Cattle Dogs are healthy and without a lot of concerns. Most of their health issues are genetic, though and should be monitored. Every breed will have some sort of health issue, but the ACD is one of the overall most healthy in the canine world.
Hip dysplasia is a condition where the socket for the leg bone is deformed or misaligned. It is detectable by x-ray and can be spotted from early months to late adulthood. As the dog grows, the condition can worsen, so it is important to find it early if it exists.
Because it is a genetic condition, your puppy will either have it or it won’t. Hip dysplasia isn’t something that commonly develops later in life unless there is a serious injury to the hip bone.
The condition can be mild, or severe and will range in side effects from minor discomfort to the inability to stand from sitting or trouble getting off the ground. Climbing stairs, running and changing direction are also common complaints of the condition.
While it cannot be cured without surgery, it can be controlled and maintained if you know about it early enough. However, if you are getting the dog to show, breed or to run cattle, it is important to diagnose early on.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is common in cattle dogs and is a genetic disorder that slowly deteriorates the retina of the dog’s eyes. You may first notice the onset with night blindness or trouble with their acute vision in dim or no light situations.
In the Cattle Dog, there is a specific gene that can be tested to see if it is present. If it is, the PRA trait is in the dog and PRA is highly likely to develop. Because it is a recessive gene, though, it may not appear until after the first litter has been born, passing the gene on to the next generation.
While there isn’t a cure for the disease, it can be treated and maintained through proper diet, high in vitamins E, B6, and B12. Slowing the onset of the disorder is all you can do, for now.
Except for the rare injury, Cattle Dogs are born deaf, if they are going to be deaf. It generally isn’t a condition that happens over time. However, because they are such alert, attentive and active dogs, you may not know they are deaf until months later.
Most ACDs won’t let on they are deaf until they are old enough to be trained for herding and they completely ignore the commands and whistles when let out into the property. If the dog is deaf, there isn’t anything you can do about it.
If, however, you suspect your puppy is deaf you can have the BAER test done which will find out how their brain reacts to sound input.
Just like any other dog breed, Australian Cattle Dogs can have or develop allergies. This is generally food related and can be because of a sub-standard diet. Certain brands will use chemicals, dyes and artificial coloring that can produce an allergic reaction in the dogs.
The best treatment, of course, is to purchase dog food that is free of BHT, BHA, artificial colors and dyes, especially Blue 2, Red 40, and Yellow 5 and 6.
If you take the time to read the ingredient label, you will know right away if the food you are considering contains any of these harmful additives. You should avoid them regardless of allergy concerns, but it won’t help if your ACD does have allergies, to begin with.
What to Look for in Quality Dog Food for Your Australian Cattle Dog
There are certain things your ingredient list should contain and some things it must contain. Checking the label is important with any new dog food purchase. Even on foods, you have been using for a while, recipes and production procedures change. Constantly checking the label to ensure proper nutrition is essential.
Meat and Meat Meal
Your number one ingredient must be a meat. Chicken is very popular, but so is turkey, beef and pork. Other meats may be used in addition to the first listed, so be sure to check the entire list for all possible meats.
Meal is a procedure where muscle and bone are ground together to make a powder. You will, from time to time, hear how this is a bad thing in dog food and should be avoided. However, this isn’t always the case.
Meal, in and of itself, is highly nutritious and included many vitamins and minerals from the bone marrow. While it isn’t appetizing to think about or even consume for humans, it is a great way to add good meat protein and vitamins to dog food. Almost any meal will tell you what the meat source is (i.e., chicken meal, beef meal, etc.).
However, you should avoid the actual word “meat” when it comes to the ingredient list. Anytime the brand uses the word meat; they do not have to declare where the meat comes from. It can be any animal that was made into meal and some you shouldn’t feed to your dog. Make sure the actual type of animal is listed.
Fruits and Vegetables
Most dog foods will contain some form of vegetable. Generally, this will come in the form of potatoes as they are relatively inexpensive and full of nutrients dogs need. You will also find other things which may or may not be what your Australian Heeler needs.
Because of their high energy levels and metabolism, ACDs can eat almost any type of vegetable you will find in foods. Grain vegetables, like corn, should still be avoided though as they are harder to digest and will take up space in the kibble that should be used for vitamins or proteins.
Peas, carrots, and even legumes are okay for Aussie’s to consume. You will want to limit the amount of them though.
Fruits are not as common in dog food, though they are available and are readily enjoyed. When you do find fruit in dog food, you will want to watch closely for the first few feedings. Fruit isn’t bad, but it does contain natural sugars. The already high energy levels of the Cattle Dog may not do so well with a sugar rush.
Grains are a good source of natural protein. However, you should limit the amount that is in your dog’s food. Active breeds need meat protein. We can’t forget that dogs are carnivores and will require meat, regardless of our personal choices.
Grain proteins will usually show up in various wheat incarnations. Wheat grain is fat soluble, easy to digest and will help add protein and vitamins to the food. However, most of the protein should come from a meat source and not a grain source.
One thing to note is how many grains are listed on the label. Just because chicken, for example, is listed first, doesn’t mean most of the proteins are coming from the meat. If the following four or five ingredients are wheat varieties, it is a safe bet that there is more wheat protein than meat protein, which is not a good thing.
One or two grain varieties is fine if the meat is the primary source of the protein.
Ingredients to Avoid
Just as there are things to make sure the food includes, there are ingredients that you should ensure are not on the label. Not only are they potentially harmful to your pup, they can void any nutrition the food may otherwise supply.
Colors and Dyes
As we touched on earlier, artificial colors and dyes should be avoided at all costs. Any time you see a color listed on the label, it is a bad thing. Not only will artificial colors rub off on their fur, faces, and paws, it can potentially be a foodborne allergen.
While allergies are rare in Blue Heel, they do happen, and you don’t want to be one of the owners that finds out the hard way. Artificial colors are used for the human benefit, to make the food more attractive and aesthetically pleasing for us.
You can rest assured your Blue Heeler won’t mind if the carrot flavored bits aren’t bright orange.
One of the worst ingredients you can see on a label is meat byproduct. The word meat can be anything; chicken, beef, bison, it doesn’t matter. The byproduct is a waste food and is considered by the FDA unfit for human consumption.
Just because a dog can it eat it doesn’t mean it should eat it. The byproduct is exactly what it sounds like. The FDA has classified it as a 4-D food, where the D’s stand for dead, dying, diseased and deformed. It is slough that results from slaughtering an animal for the nutritional meat, and it also the expired meats from grocers, butchers, and shops.
The process for making byproduct is a “toss it all in” method where the sour meat, juices, and even packaging are tossed into the mixer to be ground up and formed into pellets.
If the byproduct is labeled as a specific type, such as a chicken byproduct, then all the meat must be from chickens. However, that doesn’t mean that the only thing in the byproduct is chicken, just that the meat portion must be. This can also include feet, beaks, hooves, plastic and styrofoam packaging and anything else that happens to fall into the mixer during production.
Brands to Avoid
There are several brands that use questionable ingredients. Here are a couple you should avoid entirely.
Beneful from Purina is known to use byproduct in their foods. They also use five different dyes and colors. There shouldn’t need to be anything more said. The protein from the kibble is grain protein with very little meat included in the processing. Water weight from the chicken they do use is burned off resulting in more grain than meat in the final product.
Walmart is famous for low prices and great value. Except when it comes to their dog food. Ol’ Roy is Walmart’s brand and should be avoided like a clown on Halloween. There is no suitable meat in the food at all, with some meal and a lot of meat byproduct in the mix.
Ol’ Roy also uses heat processing which makes the drying of the kibble and it’s final production faster. It also kills any vitamins, minerals and protein nutrition that may be in the kibble to start with. Feeding Ol’ Roy is the equivalent of giving your dog candy bars and soda. It will fill their belly and then pass right through.
Australian Cattle Dog Feeding Chart
The medium sized dog with high energy and metabolism will eat more than other breeds of the same size. You will need to watch for overfeeding, though, and weight gain in the less active members of the breed.
As a guide, ACDs should eat ½ to ¾ cups of food per day, either in one sitting in the evening or split between morning and evening meals.
If you find the dog leaving food behind, start giving them less. If they eat everything you give them and want more within five minutes, add more to the scoop the next feeding time.
Best Dog Food for Your Australian Cattle Dog
Below is the list of the best dog food for your Australian Cattle Dog in all life stages: puppy, adult, and senior.
Adult – Best Overall – The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Chicken Recipe Dehydrated Dog Food
The Honest Kitchen is a dehydrated food that you must re-hydrate before serving. The ingredients are pure, complete with organic veggies and full meat proteins. The production process actually retains more nutrients than most other brands.
The first five ingredients are: Free-Range Chicken, Organic Barley, Potatoes, Organic Flax, and Organic Oats.
What Customers Like
- Easy to mix and serve food.
- Great for storing and stocking up with a longer shelf life than most.
- ACDs enjoy every flavor they produce.
- Re-hydration can be a bit difficult to master for the right consistency.
- Some of the vegetables may be eaten around by some of the picky Cattle Dogs.
Adult – Best Value – Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain Free Dog Food
Taste of the Wild produces a pure meat protein food with flavors from around the country. Each flavor has proteins native to that region. You will find buffalo, for example, in the prairie flavors. They also include plant and vegetables from the areas as well. Chickory root and blueberries can be found in the ingredient list, as an example.
The first five ingredients of the High Prairie flavor are: Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, and Peas.
What Customers Like
- Various flavors introducing new meat proteins.
- A lot of plant and vegetables for natural vitamins and minerals.
- Easily digested providing a lot of energy.
- Some flavors may be completely ignored by some ACDs.
- Doesn’t mix well with water for a gravy.
Adult – Best Super Premium – Ollie Hearty Beef Eats
Ollie makes human-grade dog food by special order. Their recipes are handmade when you place your order and use only fresh, high-quality foods. Their ingredient list is small and only the best free rang or uncaged animals are used for the proteins.
Their Hearty Beef Eats flavor has these first five ingredients: Beef, beef heart, beef kidney, sweet potato, and beef liver.
What Customers Like
- Made to order so the food is always fresh.
- Heelers love all of the recipes provided.
- Can easily be portioned out from the serving box.
- Fresh food doesn’t stay as long, eliminating the possibility of bulk shopping.
- Some of the vegetables may be ignored by the dogs.
Puppy – Best Dry Food – American Journey Lamb & Sweet Potato Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food
American Journey puppy formula has one of the highest crude protein levels available (over 30%). With real lamb, chicken and turkey meal and other protein sources, your Aussie pup will have all the nutrients and vitamins they need to grow healthy and strong.
The first five ingredients are: Deboned Lamb, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Peas, and Chickpeas.
What Customers Like
- High protein levels for active puppies.
- Easily digested without the common upset stomachs.
- Mixes great with water for a gravy meal to help protect small teeth.
- ACD puppies may not eat enough per meal as they get full faster, generating waste.
- Easy to gain weight too quickly for some puppies.
Puppy – Best Wet Food – American Journey Chicken & Turkey Recipe Grain-Free Canned Puppy Food
American Journey also makes one of the best wet food for puppies. With the same level of care in their ingredients list and a wide variety of flavors, your Cattle Dog won’t get bored with the same old flavor time and again.
The first five ingredients are: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Turkey, Chicken Liver, and Potatoes.
What Customers Like
- Easily served and stored.
- Mixes well as a topper for the dry food.
- Puppies can actually eat less and still get all the nutrients they need.
- Can may dry out before it is completely used.
- Some of the vegetables may be ignored.
Senior – Best Dry Food – Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo made a name for themselves by being among the first to include fruits and veggies in their blends. The senior formula has more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals than most puppy foods and will keep your older Aussie vibrant and active.
The first five ingredients are: Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, and Chicken Meal.
What Customers Like
- Older Aussies seem to really enjoy all the flavors.
- Uptick in activity after switching is noticed.
- No waste when feeding the proper amounts.
- Kibble can be a bit tough on elderly teeth.
- More difficult to make gravy with water than other brands.
Senior – Best Wet Food – American Journey Limited Ingredient Chicken & Sweet Potato Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
American Journey isn’t just for adult dogs. Their protein rich formulas allow ACDs in their senior years keep an active lifestyle. Weight control is easily managed because of the pure ingredients and overeating isn’t very common.
The first five ingredients are: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Sweet Potatoes, and Flaxseed.
What Customers Like
- Easily digested with no notable stomach issues.
- High protein content allows older ACDs to maintain their activity level.
- Makes a great topper for dry food.
- Not all senior Aussies enjoy all the flavors.
- Some waste will be expected as the dogs eat less.