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How are you feeding your Dog?

When dogs eat, it's serious business -- just look at them concentrate as they
tear into their food! But for you, it's an equally serious subject . Because
you're an owner who cares about their health.

What should you feed them? That can be hard to figure, when faced with the
confusing selection at your grocery store. So here's a breakdown of the kinds
of food available, and the way nutritionists recommend they be used.

Two Kinds of Food

All food for dogs can be divided into one of two categories: Dry and Canned.
Each has a specific function.

1. Dry food is the type most frequently used among breeders and kennels
due to economy. It's especially favored in its expanded (large chunk or 
small nugget) form, and is usually made of a homogenized blend of nutrients 
that provide dogs with a complete diet . You'll want to check the nutritional
information to be sure it's complete.

It may seem obvious that dog foods in the Dry category are often served dry.
But for variety, they can also be served moistened with water or broth. If
choosing to serve it moist, keep the texture to a light, crumbly consistency
rather than soupy (dogs usually prefer their food on the crispy side). If dry,
make sure to provide plenty of water on the side.

2. Canned food includes two subcategories: Complete and All-Meat.
Complete canned foods are meat products to which grains, vitamins, and
 minerals have been added to meet all of a dog's dietary requirements. This is
not to be confused with All-Meat canned foods, which contain no added
vitamins and minerals.

All-Meat canned foods should be used only as additives to a complete diet,
and should never make up more than 10% of the total food served. Doing so
can destroy the nutritional balance of commercially prepared complete dog
 foods.

Water Is Extremely Important

No matter what kind of food you give your dog, don't forget the water. It's 
so essential that it makes up 70% of your dog's total weight. Therefore, even
when he's outside -- and especially in hot weather -- make a clean, fresh
supply available to him at all times.

Two Things To Avoid

Bones may occupy a place in our imagination as the ultimate canine chew 
toy; but in real life, they're simply not healthy for dogs. Some bones splinter
alarmingly, and those that don't can still be broken into particles which may
damage your dog's mouth or cause bowel impaction. Instead, give your dog
baked biscuits: they help puppies get rid of their baby teeth, relieve their urge
to chew, and help reduce the formation of tartar.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements are unnecessary if you're already
feeding your dog foods that are nutritionally balanced. However, owners 
who insist on adding a small amount to their dog's food probably aren't 
doing much harm . . . yet. When the amounts are increased, the trouble 
really begins: an excess or imbalance of vitamins and minerals is a 
dangerous thing. Too much Vitamin D, to cite one example, can be toxic 
without the proper ratio of Vitamin A. For reasons such as this, it's best to 
use supplements only on the recommendation of a veterinarian.

 Additional Resources -

Feeding Techniques

Now you know what to feed your dog. So let's discuss how.

The subject of dog dishes might seem like a simple one. But there's actually 
a specific type that's best for your dog. Puppies and short-nosed dogs do 
well with shallow dishes. Long-nosed dogs eat most comfortably from deep
bowls. And for long-eared dogs, steep-sided dishes are essential -- they 
keep his ears from falling into the food or water. Whichever style your dog
needs, make sure it's made of a "chew-proof" material. You don't want him
breaking it and swallowing the pieces.

After choosing a proper bowl, you'll need to select one of the two time
honored methods for feeding your dog.

The first way is to feed him on a regular schedule, at the same times each day.
This has the built-in advantage of being a useful way to handle the fussy eater: 
if he walks away from the food you've given him, just take it away, and serve him
a fresh bowl of the same at his next feeding time. He'll come around before he
suffers any real damage from his hunger strike. As for the proper serving size,
read the product label for recommended amounts. Then, increase or reduce it
depending on whether your dog seems to need more or less.

The second way is the self-feeding method. Kennels use this method
extensively, because it's so easy. All it requires is that you keep dry food out 
all the time, in a pan or hopper that the dog can get to. From there, the dog 
feeds himself. True, a dog left to his own devices will eat inordinate amounts 
of food initially. But after the initial binge, he'll typically trim his intake to
accommodate his requirements. If he doesn't, then stick with method one.

Age And Lifestyle Demands

Dogs at different stages of life have different dietary needs. Pay special attention
to the instruction that pertains to your dog:

Puppy: At first, a new puppy might be too frightened to eat, but that will soon
pass. And when it does, he'll probably need more food than the product label
recommends. In fact, a growing puppy requires about twice as much food per
pound of body weight as an adult -- but his little stomach can't take it all at once,
so he must be fed several times a day.

When feeding your puppy, keep the feeding times regular; it will help his
digestion. We recommend four meals for puppies aged six weeks to three
months; three meals for puppies aged three months to six months; and two
meals -- "breakfast" and "supper" -- for puppies six months on up. When he's
comfortably plump (but not pot-bellied), you'll know he's getting enough food. 
Of course, be sure he's eating a complete and balanced food intended for puppies.

For very young puppies or weanlings, mix a gruel of dry or canned puppy food
and lukewarm water. Stir or use a blender until it is a smooth consistency, and
watery enough for the puppy to lap up. As the puppy gets older, gradually 
reduce the liquid until he's eating the product un-grueled, with a bowl of water on
the side.

Overweight: The weight of your dog is based on a simple calculation: calories
minus exercise. Dogs that work -- herding or hunting, for instance -- receive a
large amount of exercise, and subsequently need to eat a lot of calories to
balance it out. Sedentary dogs, on the other hand, aren't burning as many
calories, so they require less. In short, if your dog is overweight, adjust the
balance: give him more exercise and less calories.

To reduce calories, give him a nutritionally complete dog food in smaller 
amounts and/or in a diet formula. Also, several small meals per day may be 
more satisfying that one large one. At the same time, gradually increase his
exercise, perhaps just by taking him on longer walks.

Over 6 Years Old: Because the dog's metabolism is slowing, this may be the
time to switch to a dog food specially formulated to give your older dog some
good quality protein and extra vitamins. Your veterinarian might also prescribe 
a suitable vitamin supplement.

When changing your dog's diet, always make substitutions gradually; this is
easier on his sensitive digestive tract. Also, if there is any tooth or gum trouble
(not uncommon in older dogs), soften dry foods with a little liquid.

Pregnant or Lactating: The need for protein and all other nutrients increases
gradually to three times the normal amount. To accommodate these
requirements, you'll want to feed your dog larger amounts of a high quality,
nutritionally complete, and easily digested commercial dog food (food made for
puppies can satisfy these demands). During the last weeks of pregnancy
especially, serve your dog several meals a day, since her stomach may not be
able to hold at one time all the food she needs to nourish herself and her
 puppies.

A day or two after the puppies are born, your dog may refuse to eat dry food. If
so, feed her some canned puppy food instead. She'll need it -- because now
she'll have to produce milk for her puppies while trying to nourish herself. Feed
her three times a day, or more if she wants it.

One Last Thing: Troubleshooting

We've covered the basics of feeding your dog. And ideally, this would be the end.
But for better or worse, dogs are not machines: they're individuals susceptible to
periodic digestive problems. So in closing, here's a quick list of four common
symptoms and what you can do to help your dog feel better fast.

1. Vomiting: Unlike in humans, vomiting in dogs often doesn't mean anything -
dogs vomit all the time, especially after eating grass (which they love to do). But
it can also be caused by a sudden change in diet. So if you're changing your
dog's food, do so by gradually substituting the old with the new over a two week
period. If vomiting is persistent (and especially if it contains blood), see a
 veterinarian.

2. Constipation: This can be caused by poor diet, lack of water with diet,
chewing on bones, reduced activity, or general slowing down in older dogs.
Feeding him liver may help, or a small dose of milk of magnesia -- but don't
overdo it, or you may cause diarrhea. If constipation continues, or if your dog
appears to be in pain or shows other symptoms, consult your veterinarian at
once.

3. Diarrhea: This often occurs as a result of adding rich gravies, fats, milk, or
eggs to the dog's food; if you have been adding any of the above, discontinue. 
Or it may just be intestinal upset caused by a change in diet (see above entry 
on Vomiting), a change in drinking water (such as when traveling), nervousness
or fright. To treat a slight case of diarrhea, withhold food for a day and give an
antidiarrheal compound (such as Kaopectate), in a dose and frequency
suggested by your veterinarian. If the symptom persists, and especially if it
contains blood, bring it to your veterinarian's attention immediately. It could
indicate a serious health condition.

4. Flatulence: Contrary to expectations, this is not always caused by
indigestion. It could be the result of feeding your dog an excess of meat or eggs.
If so, cut down on these foods, and keep your dog on a complete and balanced
diet. Your veterinarian may be able to provide additional suggestions.

5. Tail Wagging: Of course, this isn't a problem at all. It's the happy look of 
a dog who's well-fed and cared for. So, if this is the only symptom your dog is
showing, consider yourself extremely lucky. And continue to follow our feeding
guidelines to help keep your dog healthy throughout his lifetime. 

Bone Appetite!

 

 
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