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Dog Welfare

Hypothermia in dogs

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St Bernard working dogAfter a shoot day, it is imperative to ensure your dog goes to bed well-fed, warm and thoroughly dried. Although it is unusual to witness dogs with hypothermia in the mild winters of late, a dog left wet, and already tired after a hard day’s work, is especially vulnerable to it.

Using a heat lamp to dry off after a day’s shooting ensures your dog goes to bed properly dried off and warm. If your dogs live outside during the winter, raise their house off the floor at least four inches, make sure it has a sloped roof and is well insulated. If they live in an outhouse or barn, provide closed-in beds with warm and dry bedding.

Recognising the signs

Identified as intense shivering; the onset of hypothermia will slow your dog right down. With this reluctance to keep moving comes more significant danger of deterioration. Muscular stiffness and a visibly escalating lack of co-ordination will follow. Left untreated, the dog’s heart and breathing rates will decrease, the pupils will dilate, and it will collapse into a coma.

As hypothermia is an emergency, you should call your vet immediately.

What to do if you think your dog has hypothermia

A rapid response could save your pet’s life. It’s essential to call your vet immediately and follow their instruction.

In the meantime, you can do the following;

  • Do not place your pet anywhere hot. Warming them up too suddenly can send them into shock. Get them out of the cold, to somewhere warm and sheltered. Warm them up gradually with thick blankets, under and around them.  
  • If your dog is wet, dry them gently with a towel. If the dog is conscious, try and encourage a drink of lukewarm water. 
  • Regardless of your opinion regarding the severity of the situation, get your dog to the vet for assessment.

Dogs more susceptible to hypothermia

It’s essential to recognise that some dogs are much more vulnerable to the cold than others. These include dogs that live outside for long periods with inadequate shelter and space to run around, wet dogs, puppies, dogs with diabetes, smaller breeds, and shorthaired dogs.

How to keep dogs warm in an outside kennel

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Working dogs, when cared for properly, can thrive in outdoor kennels. Providing you have a dry outhouse, barn or well-built kennel, your dog should stay cosy, happy and well through even the harshest of winters.

If you have a doghouse, the floor should be raised at least four inches off the ground. Ensure it is well insulated too. Shredded paper or cardboard boxes under the bedding will block the ground-cold from reaching your dog. Secured to the floor; the house should also have a sloped roof.

Here are four more tips to keep your working dogs warm in an outdoor setting;

Provide ample bedding

If you have more than one dog, they will often nestle together for warmth, while some dogs prefer the space to spread out. Provide enough bedding space for everyone.

Use a closed-in bed

Closed-in dog boxes or beds are much warmer than an open bed. Teamed up with some warm blankets, or even shredded paper, which doesn’t hide pests and rodents as straw does, they’ll keep your dog happy and well through blizzards and gales.

Keep your dog dry

After a day of shooting, your dog will no doubt be muddy and wet. Toweling them off is an essential measure; however, a heat lamp ensures your dogs go to bed warm and perfectly dry.

After a day out in the elements it’s also good practice to check your dog’s paws; In icy or snowy conditions, painful ice balls can build up in between their toes.

Keep dogs hydrated and suitably fed

Make sure your dogs have access to unfrozen and clean water. There are heated bowls designed especially for outdoor living, or a cheaper version is to check and refresh containers, daily and diligently.

Dogs that live outdoors in a warm, dry and safe space are less likely to burn off valuable calories in efforts to stay warm. However, if your dog is expected to get cold, it may need more feed to help keep their metabolism up.

Recognising and preventing heat exhaustion in your working dog

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retriever, dog, drinkingWorking dogs often spend more time outside than regular family dogs. This means that it becomes particularly important to keep them well hydrated and safe in the summer heat.

Dogs of course have the ability to pant and sweat through their paw pads to help them cool down, but this is only minimally effective when temperatures continue to rise and their environment doesn’t change.

How to recognise heat exhaustion

Working dogs should be closely monitored in hot weather.

If you notice any excessive panting, excessive drooling, incoordination, sickness or reddened gums, then it’s important to act quickly and provide your dog with immediate care.

If your dog is physically struggling or falls unconscious, follow these steps to help cool them down:

  1. Using cool water (not ice cold), cool down your dog focusing on the back of their head and neck, under their forelimbs (armpits) and between their hind legs (groin area). Using a wet towel is a good method to lower their temperature, or a cool shower.
  2. Call your vet or the nearest emergency clinic and tell them your dog’s symptoms, they will advise you on what to do next.
  3. When they wake up, let your dog drink water, but don’t force them to drink if they’re uncomfortable. If they can’t keep it down, simply wet their tongue instead.
  4. Check for signs of shock and keep bringing the temperature down as long as possible.
  5. Seek immediate veterinary attention because heatstroke can cause unseen problems.
  6. If travelling in a car make sure to keep windows open or turn the air conditioning on.

The best ways to prevent heat exhaustion

The best thing to do is to avoid being in direct sun during the hottest parts of the day. Seek shade where possible, as often as possible and apply dog-friendly suncream to light coloured dogs. Make sure plenty of water is always available to help your dog stay hydrated too.

Remember that your dog’s paw pads can also suffer on hot surfaces. If you can’t keep the back of your hand flat on the floor for more than 5 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.

Higher risk breeds

Dogs with short hair or white coats or coats with large areas of white such as White German Shepherds, Whippets, Greyhounds, Weimaraner,  Pointers and Jack Russells are more prone to sunburn as their skin tends to be paler than dogs with dark coats.

Stay safe this summer and help your dog avoid heat exhaustion.


How to cope with puppy’s first night at home

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In the stressful experience of suddenly being surrounded by a new environment and by new people, it’s important to make your puppy feel safe, welcome and comfortable in their new home.

Reduce changes where possible

Even if you plan on changing your puppy’s diet further down the line, it is important not to make too many changes at once. Familiar food will be a comfort to your puppy in this new strange place.

Give them room to breathe

Your puppy will love to know that you are close by and there to protect them, but it’s also important to let them explore their new environment and let them know they have a quiet space to go to if they need it.

Create a puppy-proof area

Although the house should be well prepared for your new companion, providing your puppy with a secure room or creating a pen that isn’t around any furniture and safety away from mischief will buy you some much-needed peace of mind.

Keep them entertained

Provide your puppy with new toys to explore, giving them a nice range to play with will make them feel less lonely and will divert their attention away from missing their litter mates.

Be prepared for accidents

Puppies don’t develop real bladder control until they are a few months old. Regardless of previous habits, your house will be a brand new environment and they will need to learn where the boundaries are. Placing puppy pads close to doorways can help to train them to get closer to their outside toilet area.

Introduce other pets slowly

Puppies often have a lot more energy than other household pets. If you have older dogs or cats, it’s a good idea to introduce them slowly and let your puppy get used to the environment before also learning how to behave around less enthusiastic animals.

Following these steps will help to create a smooth first night for you and your puppy.


Bringing your puppy home for the first time

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So, you’re about ready to bring home your new puppy? This is an exciting time for everyone but remember, it can be extremely overwhelming for your new furry friend, and so it is vital you welcome him to the family very carefully.

Every puppy is different and so may respond differently, but we have put together a small guide on how to manage the first day at home with your new companion, so as to try and make this transition as smooth and positive as possible:

  • It is important to first remember your puppy has just left behind both his mother and his littermates. He is now faced with having to adjust to a new home full of different smells and different faces. He will get used to this, but on his first day, he definitely needs a little time to adjust.
  • Before you bring him into the house, take him outside to his allocated toilet spot and allow him to relieve himself. It is important to immediately begin the toilet training routine as this will help him learn quicker.
  • When you get inside, show him his new home, as after all – this is his new home! Limit this to one or two rooms initially so as not to overwhelm him and remember, you must supervise him. You’ll be amazed at the amount of mischief a puppy can get themselves into. Also, don’t forget to introduce them to their own space, and if possible use a blanket from their old bed to put in their new one so it feels familiar.  Remember, puppies don’t need to be taught when bedtime is, so let them sleep as and when they need to.
  • Remember to check with the breeder/rescue centre what food they have been giving the pup – a change in environment and food could potentially be extremely stressful for your puppy and so it may be best to maintain the diet they are used to, at least for the first week or so.
  • Taking a puppy home for the first time will present all kinds of learning curves, and it will be a journey for you both to learn how to adapt to one another. It may feel impossible on day one, but your puppy will soon become the most loved member of your family! And obviously the most adorable one.

One last thing – don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Getting a new puppy is meant to be fun, and it is absolutely ok to be excited!

If you do need any more information or advice regarding bringing your puppy home for the first time, please get in touch today on +44 (0)844 800 2234.


How to crate train your puppy

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Beginning to crate train your puppy can feel like an impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be. It can take weeks or even months to conquer the crate, but if you stay patient and persevere with it, you will reap the rewards…

The entire premise of buying your puppy a crate is to provide him or her with a safe, secure and positive space that is solely for your pet. This means you should never use the crate as a form of punishment.

Introducing your puppy to the crate

Much in the same way you wouldn’t appreciate being put in a crate without prior warning, your puppy will not like it either. It is important you gradually introduce your puppy to its crate, so as to allow him or her to build up a positive association with it.

Fill the crate with your puppy’s possessions such as its toys and any blankets and start by leaving treats in and around the crate so that your puppy will approach it voluntarily. Make their first impression of the crate a great one! During this initial training stage, never shut the crate door – keep it open at all times so your puppy does not feel restricted or trapped.

Another good way to make your puppy see the crate as a positive experience, is to feed them in the crate. Again, remember not to shut the door at this stage! You do not want to get ahead of yourself and rush the process. Patience is key in crate training.

Shutting the crate door

Once your puppy has built up a positive association with the crate and will go in voluntarily, now is the time to test the waters and try shutting the crate door. Close the door gently and feed your puppy a treat whilst they are inside. Don’t leave them shut inside for any longer than a minute or two at first, slowly increasing this time as you continue to train them.

Make sure you praise your puppy for using their crate, and ensure you leave the door to it open when you are not ‘actively training’ so that your puppy can choose to use it when he or she pleases. This element of freedom with the crate will show your puppy the crate is not to be feared and it will begin to symbolise safety and an area of respite and calm for them.

Don’t forget, crate training can take many months to master. However, eventually you will be able to leave your puppy in its crate for up to four hours at a time during the day and you can even make it his or her sleeping spot too!


  • It is a good idea to crate train whilst your pet is still only a puppy as it can be very hard to train an older dog who is not used to confinement in your home.
  • The crate needs to be a sufficient size. It should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and stretch out when lying down.

If you have any more questions about crate training your new puppy, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Alpha on 0844 800 2234, and one of the team will be more than happy to help you.


What qualities should gundog puppies have?

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When deciding on a gundog for hunting purposes there are many attributes you may want consider.  Here is a run-down of the some of the qualities that you should be looking out for when choosing your dog.

Sensitivity to sound

Some dogs are a lot less shy than others when it comes to noise, which is a huge factor when dealing with firearms in a hunting environment.  This is something to consider when choosing your dog, although bear in mind that sound sensitivity can be improved through training.

Sense of smell

Whatever the purpose of your gundog, whether it be a pointing breed, a flushing dog or a retriever, their sense of smell needs to be exceptional in order to carry out their duties successfully and efficiently.

Jaw Strength

For big game hunting a larger prey, a good strong jaw is a positive attribute.  However, for those who are wishing to hunt birds and smaller prey, a gundog with a soft jaw may do the job just fine. 


This is particularly important if your gundog will also be your family dog and general companion.  Although different breeds can vary in temperament, many dogs are naturally relaxed, calm and obedient, which will benefit you in almost all scenarios.


A hunting environment can be a tense place for a regular dog.  The last thing you want when hunting is for your companion to be fearful at a time when you need them to be fearless.  Of course, through spending time with your dog you can influence their behaviour to encourage a cool, calm and low-key approach.  However, those dogs who are naturally courageous are more likely to be able to deal with a wider range of prey.


Depending on the type of prey, you may require your hunting dog to pick up the pace at any given moment, and keep up the pace until the job is done.  This quality is particularly important for the longer hunts that require more duration.


Intelligence is a very important factor when training your dog.  Although gundogs are known to have natural abilities that are valuable for hunting, they still need to have a high level of obedience so you can get the most out of your hunting partner.

For any advice on feeding your gundog puppy, email info@alphafeeds.com or phone us on +44 (0)844 800 2234.

working dog

Should I feed my working dog before exercise?

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It’s important to recognise that your dog needs to retain a large amount of energy before any intense activity, but you should also be aware that they need sufficient time to digest this meal beforehand.

There is no definitive amount of time to leave your dog to digest their food before beginning an activity, but between one and a half to two hours is recommended.

Dogs can easily ‘bloat’ if they partake in any strenuous exercise too quickly after eating their meal. This may cause the stomach to swell and twist upon itself, causing blockages which can be life threatening to a dog if not treated quickly.

When thinking of your dog’s feeding schedule, it’s always best to keep it consistent, working this effectively around your exercise schedule.

If you’re thinking of feeding your pet after exercise, then this may affect your dog’s performance beforehand. It’s also not a good idea to feed your dog straight after exercise, when they’re excessively warm or when they’re still panting from their workout.

You should wait for at least an hour after exercise before feeding your dog, as this gives them sufficient time to calm down and relax their stomachs before eating a large portion.

Whether you feed your dog before or after exercise, always ensure that fresh, clean water is always available.

For any advice on feeding your working dog, email info@alphafeeds.com or phone us on +44 (0)844 800 2234


Does a Labrador’s coat colour matter?

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Labradors are the most popular breed in the world, but in the shooting community, a Labrador’s coat colour can be a controversial subject. It’s been a highly discussed topic for many years.

The general rule amongst the shooting community is that black is respectable, yellow satisfactory, chocolate is strictly a show bench colour and fox-red Lab is purely an accessory. During the period of 1909 to 2011, 1,790 black Labradors qualified to run in the IGL retriever championship, whereas only 367 yellows were authorised.

Although, it seems that each colour is suitable for a different job. Whereas a fox-red Labrador is suitable for wildfowling and game-shooting due to their natural camouflage, a yellow Lab would seem totally out of place in a shooting field.

As for chocolate Labradors, their name meant that they became increasingly popular as pets, but unfortunately it has been said that they can be difficult to train, due to having their working instincts being bred out of them.

Similarly, there is a controversy between black and yellow Labradors that suggests yellows are less trainable but have more brains than blacks. Though the black gene is more dominant, genetically, there are no obvious differences between all of the colours to suggest that this is true.

The UK breeding standards are quite flexible, allowing colours to range from light to dark, whereas the US are able to breed an almost unheard of silver Labrador.

In the end, coat colour comes down to a matter of preference, your need for a camouflaged dog and perseverance with training your dog. Each is different and some can require more time and patience than others. If you are looking to invest in a gundog, we recommend getting a dog with proven working bloodlines on both sides of the pedigree. This would be much better factor at determining their working characteristics than the colour of their coat.

Owning a Husky – The Highs and Lows

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Ever wondered about the husky dog? Want to know the ins and outs of what it is like to own this athletic breed? Here Mel Hannam, owner, trainer and dog sled competitor sponsored by performance dog food experts Alpha Feeds tells us all about this magnificent dog.

What is it about these dogs that make them supreme athletes?

A husky has been constructed to work i.e. to pull and run. This makes them perfect sled dogs as their build is a set of angles, bone lengths, musculature designed to cover as much ground, expend the least energy and suffer the least physical shock and stress as possible.

The dogs are also very good at resting between periods of work, especially where there is a sofa or bed involved.

What temperament does a husky have?

Their temperament all depends on what mood they are in. They are genuinely stubborn, independent and delightfully mercurial. One minute they can be a snuggly dog then the next day change to an aloof semi feral dog. They might not come in from the yard when called but they will give you hell for daring to go in the shower leaving them downstairs alone. Selectively deaf and selectively food oriented, they tend to do very much as they please whether it pleases you or not.

Huskies can be predatory and may not be best suited with smaller animals like cats. When bored they can entertain themselves, but this could mean that your personal possessions will be in the firing line of being chewed or hidden under ground.

Are they good with other dogs?

Canine company is important because the breed is a sociable animal, however the friend will need to be able to cope with the size, strength and very physical play of a husky. This can be because huskies have a dense coat and in play tend to grab each other quite firmly by the scruff of the neck. To other smaller dogs this can be too much and can risk possible injury.

Generally the huskies body language is forthright and ears pricked up right can be perceived as full-on or aggressive behaviour to other dogs. This is important to consider when you are introducing new dogs.

How much exercise does the dog need?

Because they are sled dogs they need the opportunity to run and pull. This does not mean you need to buy a sled, an easier way is to get them to pull you on a bike or scooter.

Some huskies enjoy regular walks; however they will pull on the lead. Please do not get frustrated with them because sled dogs have pulled for centuries and it is just what they do.

If you want to let the dog run free it will need to be within a secure location, including a high fence which they can also not dig under. You will need to be patient with them when you want them to come back. If they were pulling a sled the musher shouts commands and the dog runs away, not towards you, this is how they have been trained.

Can they be hard to train?

Yes and no. It is easy to train them to be sled dogs because that is what they are hard wired to do, but you will never be able to train one to be like a Border Collie.

Recall and being reliable enough to run freely will probably never be one of the dogs’ strongest points.

Similarly like other dogs, it is very easy to train them to be naughty – bad behaviour is always more easily reinforced than good unfortunately!

Are there any special requirements this breed needs?

Huskies hate to be on their own so company is extremely important. If they cannot have constant attention from their owners a canine companion that can cope with the breed is important to supply their need for attention.

For any dog exercise is important, but for the husky it needs to be more around allowing the dog to run and pull.

What will owners find difficult with this breed and how can they overcome this?

Owners must realise that northern breeds are traditionally stubborn, but the difference between huskies and many other more domesticated breeds is you almost have to earn their love and respect. They are intelligent and not a breed you can exercise just by throwing a ball. The dog requires a lot of attention and needs to be exercised properly.

What feeding regime does the dog require?

Feeding depends very much on the level of exercise but a husky that is working in harness does well on a diet such as Alpha High Performance where meat is the first ingredient and there is the right protein/fat ratio. My dogs also appreciate added meat or fish.

I feed my dogs twice a day, but if they had the chance they would choose to be fed at least five times a day by helping themselves if the chance arises. Food needs to be stored safely to avoid dangerous bingeing.

For more information visit: www.alphafeeds.com or call: +44 (0)844 800 2234


For further information please contact Tim Smith at TSM on (01724) 784600.

Training the Gun Dog with Phil Wagland

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Phil Wagland is well known throughout the gun dog world as a trainer and competitor, also organising and running events for the North Midland Area of the United Retriever Club. Here courtesy of sponsor performance dog food experts Alpha Feeds, Phil provides valuable tips on training the gun dog.

What breeds do you recommend for a gun dog?

It is very much down to personal preference and the objective and end result of having a dog. Owners should ask themselves; is it a shooting dog, a picking up dog or a beater that I need? Also consider whether test or trial competitions would be involved.

There are four sub-groups which are most admired: Pointers and Setters, Spaniels, HPRs and Retrievers. Within these groups there are one or two key breeds which have proven ability. The other minority breeds can be quite variable in their success rates.

Recently people like to be different and go for the minority breeds to stand out, but the safest option is to go for the key breeds of proven ability. The main breed I work with is the Labrador, followed by the Golden Retriever. The minority breeds in this group include: the Flat-coated Retriever, the Chesapeake and one of the rarest in the group is the Curly-coated Retriever.

What do you look for in terms of character, temperament?

Character will vary with the different breeds. Depending on whether you want a quiet or lively dog will help you make your decision while you also need to consider the living arrangements (home or kennel). Will the dog be on its own or with several other dogs and will there be children around – these are all questions you need to ask.

Good temperament is always a prime concern which means a dog being able to live with people and other dogs in a friendly way.

Trainability is another aspect of the dogs’ character which should be valued; therefore emphasis must be on the working lines of the breed. For Labrador, Golden Retriever, Springer or Cocker Spaniel it is essential to go to the blood lines of the working dogs, not a pedigree which has a history of competing in the world of showing.

Where would you normally source a gun dog puppy?

The best advice I can give is to know the owner of the bitch and see the dog in both play and working scenarios. Knowledge of the dog used at the stud would also be advantageous.

It can also be useful to watch a dog at a shoot or trial as this will allow you to see how the owner/handler works and if they treat and train the dog in a way that you approve of.

If you are unable to do the above the next best tip is to contact someone associated with the breed, possibly through a gun dog training club. A personal approach will usually be better than just using the internet or a Kennel Club list. Newspaper and websites are ill-advised because they may lead to puppy farms.

What age would you recommend starting training?

The training starts with the mother of the puppies at the early stages. From eight weeks on, owners should teach the basics like: simple obedience when giving food, being put in a cage, visiting a vet etc. These are all valuable experiences for the dog and helps aid your bond with the puppy.

At three months of age the puppy should be getting over its injections and lead training can be integrated. Your lead training can include pavement walks to get the puppy used to meeting people and cars. Countryside walks will also help achieve appropriate behaviour.

Obedience or good citizen training at four-months-old will help acclimatise your dog to meeting other dogs and people as well and this is another part of the training I would encourage.

Some simple gun dog training should to be introduced at six-months-old (not rushing too much into retrieving) and then end by attending a gun dog training class or club. The first couple of weeks will be more for socialisation and emphasis on basic obedience.

What are the First 5 Steps to Starting Training?

  1. Seek help or advice if an owner is unsure on where to start. Equipment to start with would be a lead and a whistle.
  2. Keeping the dog’s relationship strong to you. Avoid circumstances that could hinder your bond with your dog.
  3. Spend time on the basics. There is no need to rush because if you do, it could undo your hard work on the basics.
  4. Learn to read your dog. Understand what its strengths and weaknesses are to be able to draw out the natural working dog which is the secret to success.
  5. Make the training fun! Your dog should enjoy the training and working together.

Where should they be in their progress by six months?

At six months a young gun dog should just about have the basics mastered but they may still be liable to make a few mistakes. They should still be able to play like a puppy on occasions and it is important that owners realise dogs vary in their learning pattern with some slow and some quick learners.


Where should they be after their first year?

The basics of obedience, heeling smartly and being steady should be mastered by this age.

Retrievers in particular will be competent at marking seen dummies, simple blind retrieves and pick up and deliver game or dummies. In competitions they will be able to compete in Puppy Gundog Working Tests, which are designed for dogs up to 18-months-old.

Novice Tests will come after the year due to them not being ready for the field trials at that age. If owners do take a young dog picking-up or shooting, make sure it is under controlled conditions.

Do you know in the early days if you have a potential Field Trial Champion?

Experienced trainers can see potential, but it has happened in cases where it doesn’t come through. Slow developers sometimes have proved to be better than the early starter given time.

How do you keep the young dog keen and willing to learn?

Changing locations, different ground, water, obstacles, different cover all help in keeping the training fun and different. This not only heightens their senses but keeps the dogs interest up.

Training with a group of friends can also help you as an owner by taking on ideas and advice.

If things do go wrong in a training hour, simplify the task, reattempt and go back to basics or call it a day with playtime, love and affection. Go back to it another day avoiding the same mistake.

When it comes to health and vitality what food do you recommend?

We are very fortunate to have sponsorship from Alpha Feeds and the dogs always look fantastic.

Alpha Sensitive Extra with duck and rice is nutritionally formulated to meet the needs of adult dogs with a sensitive digestive system.

Hypo-allergenic and wheat gluten free, the feed also contains Fish Meal and Linseed to provide essential Omega 3 Oils which aid a healthy skin and coat.

With no artificial colours or flavours added and prebiotics to help promote digestive health, dogs really thrive on the food.

The protein level is 25%, making it highly suitable for hard working dogs with delicate digestive systems.

For further information visit www.alphafeeds.com


For further information please contact Tim Smith at TSM on (01724) 784600.