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There are many dog food formulations out there, ranging from inexpensive grocery brands to expensive premium food.
You should find out what suits your dog best: Although many dogs have done just fine on dog chow, others do much better with higher-quality foods.
The theory behind the more expensive foods is that they are more digestible and contain less “bulk” and “fill.” Hence, your dog will eat less in volume (and thus the extra cost of the food is somewhat offset) and excrete small and firm stools. You may need to experiment to find out how your dog does on different brands. Dogs vary in their individual reactions.
Feed your dog once or twice a day. Put the food down and take it up again after 10–20 minutes regardless of whether your dog has finished eating it. This discourages “picky eating” and lets you be certain of exactly how much food your dog is eating.
Frequently, a problem is first indicated when your dog’s feeding goes off, so scheduled feeding like this (rather than free feeding) will tip you off to potential problems right away.
The larger or younger your dog is, the better multiple daily feedings are. Simply divide up each day’s portion into individual feedings. Fresh water should always be available, and changed at least once a day.
Life Stages — Puppy vs. Adult Dog Food
Read your labels. Some dog foods are formulated precisely for different periods in a dog’s life, and what is appropriate at one stage is not appropriate at another. Others are generically formulated and are supposed to be OK for any dog under any conditions. This means they are formulated up to the growing puppy level.
There is nothing wrong with either approach, unless the generically formulated dog food comes out with a “puppy food” version. These are packed even higher with extra nutrition, etc., than the puppy really needs, since the original formulation was already sufficient for the puppy.
If you are using the latter type of puppy food, many veterinarians and breeders (particularly of larger breeds) recommend that you NOT feed it for the first year as is recommended on the bags of food. They recommend that you feed puppy food ONLY for the first two months that you have the puppy at home and then switch to adult food.
A good “rule of thumb” is to switch to adult food when the puppy has attained 90 percent growth (exactly when this is reached varies by breed and size). The nutritional formulation (especially the extra protein and calcium) can actually cause problems in puppy development.
The problem tends to be with growth of bones versus growth of tendons, ligaments, and muscle. The growth rates are not the same and so the connections are strained, and if the dog jumps wrong or is playing too hard, the connections can be torn. This typically happens in the front shoulder and requires surgery and several months of confinement to repair. The added calcium in puppy food may deposit on puppies’ bones, causing limping.
This is not a problem with the more closely formulated foods that have adult foods that are specifically labeled as unsuitable for puppies or lactating females.
Many dogs appreciate vegetables. In particular, if your dog is fond of munching on the grass, you can often alleviate this by feeding vegetables.
Stick with fresh, raw foods: Carrots, broccoli and cauliflower stems, apple cores, etc are popular. Stay away from potatoes and onions.
Feeding your dog “people food,” i.e., table scraps and such, is a poor idea.
First, you may encourage your dog to make a pest of himself when you are eating. Second, feeding a dog table scraps is likely to result in an overweight dog. Third, if your dog develops the habit of gulping down any food he can get, he may seriously poison or distress himself someday.
Eating Problems: Gulping, Etc.
For a dog who gulps the food down so rapidly that gas is a result, you can slow down the rate of eating with the use of a “slow food” bowl.
Many are available now, but one of the more popular ones is the Fun Feeder (affiliate link) from Outward Hound, pictured above.
Home Cooking Food
Cooking food for your own dog is an increasingly popular trend. It is controversial, with some adherents claiming every kind of benefit possible and detractors pointing out problems.
Whatever position one takes on this concept, it’s clear that for thorough research is a must. Improper attention to the nutritional requirements of your dog will make him quite sick. This is not something to undertake lightly or on a whim.
For anyone considering switching over to a raw diet, do your homework first; don’t just jump in blindly.
All of the books below should be available at Amazon.com. Most folks start with the Pitcairn book. The Billinghurst book spawned the unfortunate acronym BARF (Bones and Raw Foods). Kymythy’s book is also easy to comprehend and use — she even included charts and blank grocery lists. Goldstein’s book is an excellent read.
- Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM
- Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, by Wendy Volhard
- Reigning Cats & Dogs, by Pat McKay
- Give Your Dog a Bone, by Ian Billinghurst (Australian vet)
- The Natural Remedy Book for Dogs & Cats, by Diane Stein
- The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat, by Juliette de Baïracli Levy
- Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats: The Ultimate Diet, by Kymythy Schultze
- The Nature of Animal Healing, by Dr. Martin Goldstein, DVM