Preparing your dog's food

The way to your dog's heart



Introduction

Once the dog food is selected, the matter of getting it to the pooch comes to mind. Dogs should be fed on a fairly regular schedule, in a bowl that is easy to keep clean, in a place with no distractions. Once puppies are weaned, they should be fed separately so you know how much each is eating and so the dominant pup doesn't get most of the food. Feed adult dogs separately as well, to avoid squabbles at the trough.

Puppies should be fed more often than adult dogs, perhaps as often as four times each day. Many nutritionists and breeders now say that puppies do not need the high protein content of commercial puppy foods, and they recommend adult foods for the little ones past three or four months of age.

There is also considerable evidence that puppies are often pushed too fast--that owners are so fond of saying "he weighed 40 pounds at five months!" as if it were some kind of personal accomplishment to have a puppy that grew so fast--a situation that can bring on hip dysplasia and a number of other growth problems. With proper nutrition, a puppy will achieve his genetic potential for growth sooner or later. A puppy that reaches his full growth later may be healthier for the delay.

Herewith some other feeding hints to make chow time more pleasant:

Obesity

Obesity, an accumulation of fat in excess of body needs, is the most common clinical sign of poor nutrition in dogs. Simply put, it is caused by an intake of energy (food) that is not utilized and is stored as fat.

Veterinarians see more and more overweight and obese dogs these days. Dog owners either cannot resist Phydeaux's begging for treats, do not make sure their dogs exercise enough, or feed a high-calorie food. Some blame overweight on spaying or neutering, and many use fear of overweight as a reason to avoid sterilizing their dogs. Most likely, overweight in pets is caused by the owner's penchant for equating "love" with food intake. These owners feel guilty if they have a snack they don't share with Ruckus or if Sassy sits and begs for that scrap of gristle or bit of gravy left on the dinner plates. Some owners let Major lick the pan, clean the children's plates, or snarf down the tablespoon of rice or potatoes left in the serving dish.

However, it is achieved, overweight or obese dogs are susceptible to a number of health problems. Extra weight puts a strain on the heart and lungs and, if extreme, can damage other organs. An overweight dog is at serious risk in the event surgery is necessary, and obesity can definitely shorten the dog's life. Since dogs don't live all that long, it makes sense to feed them on a regimen that does not lead to obesity that can shorten their lives.

To avoid overweight, tailor the dog's diet to his activity level, walk the dog at least a mile several times each week, and cut back on treats, especially high fat treats. Do not depend on the dog to exercise himself in the back yard; like most people, dogs will not exercise sufficiently without some incentive to do so. Sterilization may cut back on the dog's desire to wander and thus his exercise; a regular schedule of walks and a lower calorie diet will help avoid obesity in spayed and neutered dogs.

To return a dog to a healthy weight, work with a veterinarian to rule out hormonal problems, determine the dog's optimum weight, and devise a feeding schedule that will achieve that weight with a minimum of stress on the dog. Some feed companies have a special formula for overweight dogs that contain fewer calories. If the dog is very hungry, a diet high in moisture may do the trick because it provides more volume

.

Snacks

Snack time causes great problems for owners of obese dogs. Usually, dogs become obese because Mom can't say no and Sassy has her routine down to a science. The temptation to slip her an extra cookie because you feel sorry for her is great, but don't fall for the cocked-head-and-moist-eye routine. This is a two-pronged trap -- the pooch ends up fat and the owner ends up dominated by a furry, four-footed kid. If the dog is of a dominant breed, he may use victories over food to climb another rung or two on the corporate ladder. In other words, if he can psyche you into feeding him on command, he'll try dominating you in other ways as well.

If you must offer Phydeaux a snack, try raw carrots, popcorn, a couple of pretzels, or a bit of fruit. (Ice cream, pizza, cookies, cake, pastries, french fries, etc. are off limits.) To avoid slipping back into bad habits, either crate the dog or teach him to lie in the corner while you cook, eat, and clean up after the meal. It's easier to keep the pooch away from the food than it is to ignore the pleading eyes, raised paw, or soft "whuffs" that ask for just a tiny lick or nibble.

If Rover is a champion moocher, be sure you leave nothing in his reach. If necessary, use mouse traps, inflated balloons, or Scat Mats to keep him off counter and out of waste baskets. Don't let him steal food from tiny toddler hands, either. Lots of youngsters get a bang out of watching the puppy snarf up bits of food thrown on the floor, so Misha should be locked away while the little ones eat.

Owners who depend on treats as a training tool face an additional problem: Ruckus will obey only when there's a treat in the offing, and the little dickens will soon figure out when you are bluffing and when you really have a bit of hotdog or a biscuit. Treats can be used to teach the dog an exercise or trick but should be accompanied by and eventually replaced by praise.

Norma Bennett Woolf

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