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Diet And Your Pet

by Ms Dany Canino

Too Much Of A Good Thing Can Be Hazardous To Your Pet

Every pet owner has one main objective in mind for their pet; to give the pet the very best and, at the top of this list is, “food”.

Unfortunately, far too often pet owners tend to overdo in this area. They feel that the animal needs a lot of protein for energy, stamina, and general nutrition.

Protein does offer energy and stamina to the pet, but just how much energy does the pet need?

If this is an animal that is working on the farm alongside his owner for 6 hours a day, then that animal can utilize a good amount of protein in his system. If this animal is a working sled dog he will burn up any excess protein. If he is a working Police Dog he will utilize high amounts of protein through his work and the stress he´s under.

Most family pets spend their days lazing in the backyard or on a couch. An excessive amount of protein offered into their system lies dormant, in other words, un-utilized. Therefore, one of two things can occur: 1) the pet gets fat and/or starts scratching a lot therefore, causing the pup to irritate his skin. 2) When the animal eliminates this food, it might tend to smell like undigested food and the animal will start a nasty habit of eating his stool.

Animals eat for caloric intake. If you are feeding a good quality food that has been purchased from a reputable pet supply store, your dog won´t need as much food as he would if he were to be fed a commercial dry food purchased from the supermarket. Most supermarket dog food has a lot of sugar in it, so the dog is enticed to eat. It also tends to have a lot of salt in it, so the dog is thirsty after eating and drinks a lot of water. This gives him a sort of “false full”. However, as most owners have discovered, dogs fed this way tend to go to the bathroom very frequently. This means that they are left with very few nutrients in their system to keep them healthy and hardy. This dog always seems hungry so you feed him more and more. “Good food” satisfies the dog´s needs in smaller amounts.

Puppies need more caloric intake and protein than adult dogs do to help in proper growth. Pregnant females need more calories and protein because the puppies inside her are taking up a lot of her nutrition. However, in either case these animals should not need more than about 26% to 28% protein for short periods of time. Prolonged use of this diet could be detrimental.

At about 6-8 months of age the puppy can be changed over to adult food with a protein level of about 20%-24%. (Myself and other breeders have switched pups over to adult food as young as 5 months without any ill-effects whatsoever.) There´s no proven data to attest that pups need to be on puppy food past 5-6 months, nor is there any data to prove that the dog´s growth is inhibited by taking him off puppy food before 1 year of age. If your pet is on a good puppy or adult food you shouldn´t have to add any vitamins to this diet. The exception to that would be if this were a pup that was teething. The calcium he might need for other parts of his growing body would be used up for his new teeth to come in. Therefore, at this time you might want to add some good “oyster shell” calcium as a supplement. You can purchase this at any drugstore or health food store. (Oyster shell is one of the best sources of calcium available.)

One vitamin you should consider offering to your dog lifetime is Vitamin C. Dog´s do not produce this vitamin in their system so we need to offer it into his system. It´s a vitamin that helps to ward off infections, helps your dog to assimilate his food and, some breeders feel it aids healthy bone and joints. I prefer a natural vitamin C (ascorbic-acid) given in powder form, but you may also give it in pill form. On a large dog you can give as much as 1000 mg as it is a water-soluble vitamin and any excess will be eliminated through the dog´s urine. Ask your local pet supply dealer about this product. If your household is a smoking household this vitamin is absolutely necessary because secondhand smoke affects an animal just as it affects a human.

A dog should be switched over to senior food (or less active) at about 6 ½ years of age. This is usually when their activity level wanes. By doing this, your dog´s pancreas doesn´t have to work as hard to digest the protein intake.

Moist food is a fine additive to your dog´s food but this too, is usually given in excess to a dog. Moist foods should mainly be given for flavor. These foods are usually only 25% nutrition and 75% water. Therefore, moist food should never be used as a staple food. Large dogs should only be given about 2 tablespoons. Medium sized dogs should only be given about 1 tablespoon. Small dogs should only be given 1 teaspoon. “Just Think Of The Savings”! By feeding a good quality dry food that you can feed less of and, by adding only enough moist food to flavor, you´ll easily save as much as $10.00 a month. Remember, you don´t have to add moist food. However, if you prefer to feed just dry food, moisten the dry food with water before feeding so that you reduce the chances of torsion bloat in your dog.

There is a medical condition in dogs that has become all too common. That problem is “hypothyroid”. Having your Veterinarian run a simple blood test on your dog for a “T3 – T4”, easily discovers this malady. This will determine if your dog has this problem and will enable the Vet to prescribe medication to control this problem. Some symptoms of this problem are: Lethargy – Weight Gain – Hair Loss – Drastic Change In Disposition. If you dog has exhibited any of these symptoms you would be wise to have him tested. (Certain breeds are prone to hyperthyroidism. Ask your dog´s breeder or your Veterinarian if your dog´s breed is a candidate for this problem.)

You really need to learn to read the labels on the food your dog is going to ingest. The old adage is true that; “you are what you eat”. If you see words like; “ethoxoquin” (a chemical preservative) – “sodium” (salt) – “sucrose or dextrose” (sugar) or an excessive amount of “BHA” (another chemical), and if these products are shown to contain an excessive amount, you need to look for another food. The best rule of thumb to follow is that the first four ingredients are the most important things in determining what you´re feeding your pet.

So feed your dog a good nutritional diet (2 meals a day for life is best) and take him for walks, or give him some other type of exercise so that he can utilize the food you´re feeding him. He´ll be healthier and live longer.

NOTE: I always add a small can of vegetables to my dog´s food. I use carrots, green peas, green beans, and sometimes a little pumpkin. Dogs love this tasty addition to their food and it´s also quite healthy. For treats and snacks I give my dogs whole carrots instead of cookies and rawhide.