Dog Nutrition

As for nutrition, humans study it, practice it, complain about it, but usually give into the science and common sense of it. Like humans, dogs have their own nutrition needs and charts to follow, and are subject to different theories and scientific studies, as well.

Like humans, dogs have their own nutrition needs and charts to follow and are subject to different theories and scientific studies as well.

In the beginning, there were wild packs of canines everywhere and they ate anything that they could get their paws on. Similar to human survival, dogs depended upon meat from kills, grasses, berries, and other edibles that nature provided. What is the great news? Many millennia later nature is still providing all that we need.

In history, the Romans wrote about feeding their dogs barley bread soaked in milk along with the bones of sheep. The wealthy Europeans of the 1800’s would feed their dogs better food than most humans had to eat. Meat from horses and other dead animals was often rounded up from the streets to recycle as dog food for the rich estates on the outskirts of cities.

Royalty is legendary for pampering their dogs with all sorts of delicacies from around the world. Meanwhile, the poor and their dogs had to fend for themselves or starve. Being fed table scraps from a pauper’s diet was not sufficient to keep a dog healthy, and the humans themselves often had their own nutrition problems. To keep from starving dogs would hunt rats, rabbits, mice and any other rodent or insect type creature that they could sink their teeth into. This practice continues today around the globe.

In the mid to late 1800’s a middle class blossomed out of the industrial revolution. This new class with its burgeoning wealth had extra money to spend and started taking on dogs as house pets. Unwittingly they created an enterprise out of feeding the suddenly abundant household pets.

Noting that the sailor’s biscuits kept well for long periods, James Spratt began selling his own recipe of hard biscuits for dogs in London, and shortly thereafter, he took his new product to New York City. It is believed that he single-handedly started the American dog food business. This places the dog food and kibble industry at just over 150 years old, and now is an annual multi-billion dollar business.

All the while, we know that any farm, feral or other dog that can kill something and eat it will do just that. Nothing has changed throughout the centuries. Raw meat does not kill dogs, so it is safe to say that raw food diets will not either. If you are a bit tentative about the idea of raw foods, cooking the meats you serve your dog is a viable option.

Feeding Your Puppy and Adult Dog

To check if your puppy is having its proper dietary needs met, check to make sure that your puppy is active, alert, and is showing good bone and muscle development. To understand the correct portion to feed your dog, ask the breeder to show you the portion that they feed their puppies.

Then observe whether your puppy is quickly devouring their food and then acting as though he wants and needs more. If so, then increase the portion a little until you find the correct serving. If your puppy is eating quickly, then begins to nibble, and finally leaves foods in the bowl, then you are over-feeding him.

As you adjust the food portion to less or more; observe whether your puppy is gaining or losing weight so that you can find the proper portion of food to serve during feeding times. Very active puppies tend to burn lots of energy and this is one reason that a puppy might need a little extra food in their bowl. The suggested portions are on the food containers, but this world is not a one-size-fits-all place. Observation and note keeping is needed to determine the correct portions for you individual dog.

Many breeders and trainers state that puppies should not leave their mothers until they are at least eight weeks old. This allows their mother’s milk to boost their immunity by supporting antibodies and nutrition that are needed to become a healthy dog. Around three to four weeks old puppies should begin eating some solid food in conjunction with their mother’s milk. This helps their digestion process begin to adjust to solid foods making the transition from mother’s milk to their new home and foods easier.

Puppies are going to eat four times a day up until about eight weeks. At eight weeks, they can still be fed four times a day, or you can reduce to three times. Split the recommend daily feeding portion into thirds. Puppies’ nutritional requirements differ from adult dogs so select a puppy food that has the appropriate balance of nutrients that puppies require. Puppy food should continue to support healthy growth, digestion, and the immune system. Supplying your growing puppy with the correct amount of calories, protein, and calcium is part of a well-balanced diet.

When choosing your puppy’s feeding times, choose the times that you know will be the best for you to feed your puppy. Feeding on a regular schedule is one part of over-all consistency that you are establishing for your puppy to know that as the alpha you are reliably satisfying their needs. After setting the feeding schedule, remain as close to those times as possible. For example, 7 am, around noon, and again at 5pm. An earlier dinnertime helps your puppy to digest then eliminate before their bedtime.

During the three to six month puppy stage, teething can alter your puppies eating habits. Some pups may not feel like eating due to pain, so it is your responsibility to remain diligent in your job to provide them all of their nutritional requirements and confirm that they are eating.

Hint: Soaking their dry food in water for 10-15 minutes before feeding will soften it and make it easier for your puppy to eat. This avoids suddenly introducing new different softer foods to your puppy and avoids the unknown consequences.

At six months to a year old, your puppy still requires high quality nutritionally charged foods. Consult your breeder or veterinarian about the right time to switch to an adult food. Variance exists because some breeds have a longer puppyhood than others do.

When you switch to an adult food, continue to choose the highest quality food that has a specified meat, and not only by-products. Avoid unnecessary artificial additives. In many cases, higher quality foods that you feed your dog allow you to serve smaller portions because more of the food is being used by your dog and not just flowing through. Fillers are often not digested and this requires feeding your dog larger portions.

Additionally, follow the alpha guideline that states that humans always eat first. This means that the humans finish their meal entirely and clear the table before feeding their dogs, or feed your dog a couple of hours before you and your family eat. This establishes and continues the precedence that all humans are above the dog in the pecking order.

Help Identifying Dog Food Quality

The first ingredient, or at a minimum, the second should specify meat or meat meal, NOT by-product.

“What is a by-product?” Unless specified on the label, a by-product can be left over parts from animals and contain parts of hooves, feet, skin, eyes, or other animal body parts.

Beware of ingredients that use wording such as animal and meat instead of a specific word such as beef or chicken.

“Meal” when listed in ingredients is something that has been weighed after the water was taken out, an example would be chicken meal. This means it has been cooked with a great amount of water reduction occurring in the process, and thus it is providing more actual meat and protein per weight volume.

As an example, if the dog food package only states “beef” in the ingredients, it refers to the pre-cooking weight. This means that after cooking, less meat will be present in the food.

A label that states “beef” first then “corn meal” secondly, is stating that the food probably contains a lot more corn than beef. Corn is not easily digested nor does it offer much in the way of nutrients that are vital to a dog’s health. Furthermore, it has been linked to other health issues, and dogs are not designed to eat corn and grains in high doses. Try your best to avoid corn, wheat, and soy in your dog’s food. The higher quality more expensive foods are often worth the cost to advance your dog’s health.

If you decide to change dog food formulas or brands, a gradual change over is recommended, especially if your dog has a sensitive stomach. This is done by mixing some of the old with the new, and then throughout the week gradually increasing the amount of new.

An example schedule of changing dog foods

Day 1-2 Mix ¼ new with ¾ old foods

Day 2-4 Mix ½ new with ½ old

Day 5-6 Mix ¾ new with ¼ old

Day 7 100% of the new dog food

The Switch – Moving From Puppy to Adult Food

When your puppy is ready to make the switch from puppy to adult dog food, you can follow the same procedure above, or shorten it to a four to five day switch over. During the switch, be observant of your dog’s stools and health.

If your dog appears not to handle the new food formula then your options are to change the current meat to a different meat, or try a different formula or brand. Avoid returning to the original puppy food. If you have any concerns or questions, consult your veterinarian or breeder.

Raw Foods

Let us first remember that our dogs, pals, best friends, comedy actors, were meant to eat real foods such as meat. Their DNA does not only dictate them to eat dry cereals that were concocted by humans in white lab coats. These cereals based and meat-by products ingredients may have been keeping our pets alive, but in many cases not thriving at optimum levels.

There are many arguments for the benefits of real and raw foods. Sure it is more work, but isn’t their health worth it? It is normal, not abnormal to be feeding your dog, a living food diet; it is believed that it will greatly boost their immune system and over-all health. A raw food diet is based off pre-dog food diets and is a return to their wild hunting and foraging days and pre-manmade biscuit foods.

There are different types of raw food diets. There are raw meats that you can prepare at home by freeze-drying or freezing that can then be easily thawed to feed your dog, commercially pre-packaged frozen raw foods, or offering up an entire whole animal. All of these diets take research and careful attention so that you are offering your dog all that they need, and something that their bodies can easily tolerate. Correct preparation of raw foods diets needs to be understood, for example, it is suggested that vegetables are cut into very small pieces or even pureed.

Raw food diets amount to foods that are not cooked or sent through a processing plant. With some research, you can make a decision on what you think is the best type of diet for your dog. For your dog’s health and for their optimal benefits it is worth the efforts of your research time to read up on a raw foods diet, a mix of kibble and raw foods, or raw and cooked foods. All foods, dry, wet, or raw contain a risk, as they can all contain contaminants and parasites.

Known benefits are fewer preservatives, chemicals, hormones, steroids, and the addition of fruits and vegetables into their diet. Physically your dog can have firmer stools, reduced allergies, improved digestion, healthier coat and skin, and over-all improved health.

Some of the negative attributes are the lack of convenience versus kibble and potential bacterial contamination. However, dogs are at a lowered risk for salmonella and E. coli than humans are. A dog’s digestive system is more acidic and less prone to such diseases; the greater risk is to the preparer. Many experts state that the overall risk of a properly prepared raw food diet is minimal.

There is a process named HPP (High Pressure Pasteurization) which most pre-prepared raw food brands utilize in their processing that does not use heat but eliminates harmful bacteria without killing off good bacteria.

Rules of thumb to follow for a raw food diet

1. Before switching, make sure that your dog has a healthy gastro-intestinal track.

2. Be smart, and do not leave un-refrigerated meats for prolonged periods.

3. To be safe, simply follow human protocol for food safety. Toss out the smelly, slimy, or the meat and other food items that just do not seem fit for consumption.

4. Keep it balanced. Correct amount of vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and fatty acids. Note any medical issues your dog has, and possible diet correlations.

5. If switching from bag or can, a gradual switch over between foods is recommended to allow their GI track to adjust. Use new foods as a treat, and then watch stools to see how your dog is adjusting.

6. Take note of the size and type of bones you throw to your dog. Not all dogs do well with real raw bones because slivers, splinters, and small parts can become lodged in their digestive tracks. Always provide the freshest bones possible to dogs. Never give dogs cooked bones.

7. Freezing meats for three days, similar to sushi protocol, can help kill unwanted pathogens or parasites.

8. Remember to be vigilant, and take note of your observations about what is working and not working with your dog’s food changes. If your dog has a health issue, your veterinarian will thank you for your detailed note taking.

9. Like us humans, most dogs do well with a variety of foods. There is no one-size-fits-all diet.

10. Before switching over, please read about raw foods diets and their preparation and follow all veterinary guidelines.

“BARF®” is an acronym that means Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. It is a complete and carefully balanced blend of raw meat, fruits, vegetables and bone. The formula mimics what nature designed for our pet’s to thrive on in the wild. The result is a pet free of allergies, digestive problems, and full of life!

In summary, the first line of defense against disease is feeding your dog a proper diet which includes feeding them premium dry food, canned food, Raw food or (BARF diet), home cooked food or any combination of these.