SOME COMMON SENSE ABOUT FOOD AND FEEDING
What Type of Food?
With all the different types and brands
of dog foods on the market, choosing one for your dog can be rather
confusing, I am asked all the time about what kind of food is the "best,"
and my answer is always the same: whatever your dog does well on. Some
dogs thrive on foods that other dogs can't tolerate, and the needs of
your dog may change with its circumstances.
For instance, nursing moms will need a different food
from growing puppies or sedentary older dogs. Toy breeds may have difficulty
eating foods that large dogs relish, especially geriatric dogs with
dental problems. Large pet stores like Petco and Petsmart as well as
smaller pet-related businesses like grooming shops and boarding kennels
carry many brands of quality dog food as does the grocery store.
Read the Label
Whatever you choose, be sure to
look at the label and read the ingredients. Some kind of meat should
be one of them...not soy, corn, or some other grain. Unlike us, dogs
are carnivores, although their digestive systems have adapted over the
centuries to living with people, so they probably can do well on diets
that wouldn't suit one of their wild cousins.
Good dog foods have different formulas that are nutritionally
balanced for the age and activity level of your pet. Of course, some
dogs will not be typical and may actually fit this niche. You'll just
have to see how your dog does, and if he isn't thriving on one brand
or brand type, you can try another.
Don't Create a Picky Eater
One caution, though! The surest way to make a picky
eater is to keep switching dog foods. Some dogs do well with free-feeding,
that is, having some food always available. In a multi-dog household,
where competitive eating might occur, this may induce hostility between
the dogs or may lead to overeating. If you don't free feed, leave food
out for the dog for 45 minutes or so and if it's not eaten by then,
pick it up. Next time cut back the amount you feed until you have an
amount the dog eats at one sitting. If he skips a meal, don't worry.
A healthy dog will not starve.
Dogs appetites vary, not only from dog to dog but from
one stage of life to another. The puppy who has been practically inhaling
his food may be quite indifferent to it as a teenager. Your gauge should
be your dog's appearance and condition rather than how much you think
the dog food company recommends or you think he should have.
Judge by Appearance
dog in good condition and weight shouldn't look like a stuffed sausage.
Only very young puppies should be roly-poly. His waistline should be
clearly visible but not sunken in. When the dog is running or stretched
out on the floor asleep, you should see a suggestion of ribs. Of course,
in a coated breed, like a Collie, this might not be so obvious, but
you should be able to feel them easily. When the dog is standing around
normally, however, the ribs shouldn't be protruding. In other words,
he should have a small layer of protective fat over his ribs, but not
an excessive amount.
Unless he is undergoing a seasonal shed, your dog's coat
should be glossy and resiliant, his eyes should be clear and bright,
and his demeanor happy and active. If this isn't the case and a veterinary
exam shows that nothing is apparently wrong, you might try something
different with his food.
For a dull, dry coat, you can add a little fat to his
food. Use safflower oil or cold-pressed flax seed oil, a teaspoon or
so depending on his size. If your dog gets hot spots (moist excema)
during the summer, try a lower fat food for a while and shift back in
the winter. These are often a problem for Spitz-type dogs (Siberians,
Malamutes, Akitas, etc) in warm weather. Of course, regular brushing
will also help.
How Much and How Often
Puppies eat a lot more in comparison to their body size
and a lot more often than adults. A 12-week old may eat three or four
times a day. By 6 months, he may eat only twice a day. You may break
up your dog's meal into two servings, morning and night or feed once
a day with snacks in between. Some dogs will eat more at one meal than
the other. Some will eat as much as you put before them, and some will
just nibble. As long as the dog looks okay, he's getting enough food.
When you are watching weight on a dog, you must remember
to factor in the cookies. Calories count in dogs, just like they do
in people. I used to have an Akita female who had a "NO COOKIES"
sign on her kennel when I boarded her. She'd developed this cute little
dance and "woooooooowooooo" that she used to entice treats
from anyone passing her run. In one week, she gained 10 pounds. While
her confinement contributed to this, most of it was extra food.
Kibble is the kind of dog food that comes in bags and
is some type of pellet. These may be of different sizes and shapes.
Kibble used to be baked but now it is dried. It has the highest calorie
count by weight of the various types of commercial food and is actually
the best balanced, most nutritious, and least expensive.
Canned food may be all meat or may be balanced as a complete
food. People with small dogs may find this a more convenient way to
feed but need to be sure the dog is getting something to chew to keep
his teeth clean and his gums exercised. Many people who feed kibble
add a few tablespoons of an all-meat canned food to give it extra flavor.
You may also add table left-overs, although these should be extra rather
than a staple of the dog's diet.
Semi-moist foods are a great favorite with dogs but that
is because of the higher amounts of sugar and salt in the food rather
than it's being better for them. Yes, dog's like junk-food too, and
you should probably look at these as the doggy equivalent of potato
chips. Unfortunately, the same thing is true of many of the of the canned
and dry foods sold in grocery stores. That's why you have to be sure
to read the labels!
Wet or Dry?
eat popcorn at the movie and forget to buy a drink? Then you know how
your dog feels after he eats a bowl of dry dog food. He MUST have access
to fresh water. Of course, almost all dogs prefer the "punch
bowl" to water in a "dog" bowl. Be sure you don't
use any cleaner that stays in the tank if your dog can access the toilet,
and if you're soaking it in cleaner, be SURE to put the top down because
the can cause serious damage or may kill your dog!
Many people, especially those with breeds prone to problems
with gastric torsion or bloat, wet the food thoroughly before feeding.
It can soak up an amazing amount of water.
Chewing hard food, rawhides, dentabones and such will
help remove tartar build-up on your dog's teeth, so feeding wet food
negates the cleaning action of the kibble. Smaller dogs, especially
toys, may have problems with tartar that is exacerbated by soft or wet
food, so be sure to keep your dog's teeth cleaned on a daily or at least
weekly basis and have them cleaned by the veterinarian at least once
What the @#@ is BARF?
BARF is an acronym for Bones and Raw Food, a diet for
dogs that has gained many adherents over the last few years, some of
whom are zealots. Several books are available that discuss how to feed
a balanced diet that you either cook or feed raw. The best known is
Billinghurst's Give the Dog a Bone.
BARF diets are especially good for dogs that have immune
system problems. Among these are lupus, VKH or uveitis dermatosis, allergies,
pemphigus and sebaceous adenitis. The most ardent of the BARF feeders
claim all sorts of benefits for their dogs from it and predict all sorts
of dire things about feeding commercial foods. They also have some very
uncomplementary things to say about the pet-food industry.
I think keeping things in perpective is a good idea.
Certainly unscrupulous companies exist in the pet-food industry, just
like they exist any other type of business, but on the whole, dogs today
are healthier and live longer thanks to better nutrition and that is
the result of advances in the formulation and preparation of commercial
pet food. The businesses that own Iams, Eukanuba, Purina, Flint River,
Innova and other premium food labels do extensive testing on their own
dogs and wouldn't stay in business long if their clients were actually
dying from eating the product.
Can dogs thrive on food that doesn't come from a can
or sack....well, duh! Dogs have been around for 16,000 years that we
can demonsrate by fossil evidence and maybe longer if the mDNA studies
are right. The first prepared dog food dates to the first Byrd Antarctic
Expedition where Milton Seeley formulated a biscuit-type food that could
be used to sustain the dogs on the expedition. He never patented it,
and Kasco dog food company began manufacturing it commercially. Even
I can work out that math! (I'm a number-dyslexic).
Dogs have been eating raw food for thousands of years,
and thriving on it. They are rarely subject to the same problems humans
have with bacteria like salmonella because their digestive system is
different. Dogs have a long history of living off garbage (not that
I'm advocating this as a feeding technique).
In fact, a considerable body of evidence suggests that
the association between man and dog began over the garbage dump. Dogs
are scavengers and would have helped keep communities clean in prehistoric
times. In less industrialized areas, this is a service. At my house,
it's a clean-up disaster, but in either location, the dogs love getting
into the trash!
if raw food doesn't cause problems for dogs, what about bones? We've
all heard about not giving your dog chicken bones. Nowdays, we're often
advised not to give them any bones at all. True, you should never give
dogs any kind of cooked bone. Cooking alters the consistency of the
bone and makes it more likely to splinter.
As for the uncooked ones....Well, I live in a suburban
area that apparently has a lot of wildlife. I didn't realize how many
critters roam around at night until my dogs started presenting their
prizes to me. Some of them operate on the same principle we used as
kids when we went berry picking. One for me, one for the pie! This became
very obvious when I put Amber on a diet. She just didn't loose any weight,
no matter how little I fed her. The reason became obvious when I opened
the door one night just as she was polishing off the last of the squirrel!
None of my dogs have suffered any ill effects from implementing
their own BARF feeding program, and when I've feed this type of diet,
they've done well. They've also done well on commercial dog food, so
I don't advocate one over the other generally.
However, for teeth cleaning, nothing compares with bones.
So even when I feed kibble, I give all my dogs some kind of raw food
at least twice a week, usually a chicken neck or back. Sometimes, I
find soup bones at the meat market that they can work on for several
days. If I find chicken thighs, wings, or legs on sale, I pick up several
packs for snacks. In the summer, I leave them frozen--a sort of doggy
You're probably wondering if there are any recipes in
this section....so here's one that I use, especially when I have puppies
or expectant mothers. Yogurt is a great souce of calcium, and the active
cultures in it help greatly with digestion. Buying it for dogs is expensive,
so unless you've got a yogurt maker stashed in a cupboard somewhere,
here's an easy way to make your own.
Easy Homemade Yogurt
Scald milk - do NOT boil (To Scald, cook in saucepan
on med heat until a film forms on the top) Then remove from the burner
and let cool to approx 110 degrees.
Pour into jars, add approx 2 tblsp per quart of either yogurt with live
acidofilus cultures or yogurt starter. You can then let it rest in either
a warm oven (approx 110 - 120 degrees) or in a warm water bath (water
at approx 110 degrees) for 4 - 8 hours. (We have a friend who set it
on her hot water heater). We set up a warm water bath in a igloo cooler
and let it sit over night. It will start to thicken but will not completely
firm up until it is cooled. Place the jars in the fridge, and it's ready
to go as soon as it cools.
From Michelle Lennon on Showdogs L
SAMPLE RAW DIET
Michelle Lennon, a Rottweiler breeder, was also kind
enough to share a sample of her dog's daily meals. They are formulated
for a 50-lb dog, but since northern dogs like Malamutes and Akitas tend
to be very thrifty, it might actually be enough for most of them even
though they weight more and too much for ones that are closer to the
50 lb. mark.
Soak 1/4th cup rolled oats (or Sojourner Farm grain mix) in 1/2 cp whole
milk or yogurt (let soak overnight)
1/4 cp raw or lightly steamed veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower,
spinach, zucchini, etc)
250mr Vit C
1 tblsp raw honey & organic apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp kelp & alfalfa mix
1 tsp cold pressed flaxseed oil
(1/4 cp kibble if you wish)
1/4 cp kibble
1 egg, raw
2 tblsp whole milk yogurt
1/2 tsp kelp & alfalfa mix powder
>250 mg Vit C
1 tsp raw honey & organic apple cider vinegar mix
approx 1/2 lb meat protein (can be raw beef, chicken, lamb, canned tuna
>mackerel) the chicken bones are great for them - as long as they are
1/2 clove garlic,chopped (Michelle adds this into the veggies when she
1/2 tsp flax seed oil
For more information about feeding
a more natural diet, some excellent books on the subject are available.
Of course information is available on the internet.
bone and bowl rule courtesy of Fuzzy Faces