Diet & More

A sound mind and a sound body begin in Fido's food bowl


You are what you eat -- and so is your dog. A dog's outward appearance may indicate overall wellness, while in fact the dog may be in seriously poor condition. Over time, Fido may experience changes in demeanor and behavior that leaves his human to wonder what is going on. The answer can often be found in the food dish. Sloppy habits and cheap foods can only hurt your pet, so a healthy routine revolving around his food dish is necessary to keep him in peak condition, both inside and out.


Feed your dog dry kibble as his basic food. Most dry dog foods are soybean, corn or rice based. Some of the better brands have meat or fish meal as the first listed ingredient. Although higher priced, they are worth looking into. Dogs eat less of the higher quality products, thus reducing the cost.

Premium dog food and name-brand grocery store foods contain protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, and minerals, five of the six basic nutrients necessary for your pet's good health. You provide the water. With few exceptions, these foods do not need supplementation.

Dietary requirements for dogs can vary according to activity and stress levels and medical history. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are necessary for energy. Dogs expend energy in many different ways. For example, lactating bitches, heavy exercise, and regulating body temperature during cold weather can cause dogs to expend a lot of energy. Outdoor dogs are likely to experience increased levels of exercise and thus require a higher percentage of protein and fat for energy production than a dog who stays indoors most of the time.

Select a premium meat or fish based dog food with 22-26 percent protein and 12-15 percent fat for both pups and adults for growth and optimal nutrition. Extremely active dogs may even need a percentage or two higher. Select the lower percentage for an older dog who is healthy, but not very active. Do not add supplements, especially calcium, unless recommended for a particular purpose.


All dog foods available today have more than enough calcium for a large or giant breed, so supplementation with this mineral is not indicated. A study involving Great Danes showed that administering excess calcium to puppies caused osteochondrosis dessicans (OCD), a disease affecting formation of bone and cartilage, and stunted growth, and other studies at two universities produced similar results.

Vitamin C

The jury is still out on vitamin C. Some individuals believe that Vitamin C helps prevent injuries and fight the stresses of obedience and conformation shows. Others say it assists in the fight to prevent hip dysplasia and arthritis. Still others believe that dogs produce their own vitamin C in sufficient quantities to meet individual requirements. Everyone does agree, however, that vitamin C is needed for good bone development and the strengthening of surrounding ligaments. If you decide that vitamin C is warranted, begin by adding the supplement slowly. Gradually increase the dosage. Sudden increases in Vitamin C may result in diarrhea. The recommended daily dosage for adult dogs is 1,000 mg per day. This means 500 mg fed with each of two meals per day.

Table manners

The dominance hierarchy that is so important to dogs may also exist around the food dish, so provide each dog with its own food dish. Communal feeding or feeding several dogs from a single bowl is likely to result in at least one of those dogs not getting enough to eat. The more dominant animals will make an effort to control who eats more and who eats less.

Feed each dog in a separate place, perhaps a couple of feet apart from one another. Establish a feeding schedule of at least two meals per day. Allow 15 to 20 minutes for mealtime and then, remove all of the bowls. The reason for this is that you are the Alpha leader, and leaders control the food. Don't forget to wash the dog's dishes, and check food and bowls for mold before serving it.

Elevate food and water bowls for less strain on Fido's front end, thus preventing the pasterns from breaking down. Elevating the bowls also allows the dog to consume his meal in a comfortable eating position.

Divide puppy diets into two or more meals. Puppies can eat a huge amount of dry kibble per day, so need at least three meals a day up to four months of age. Continue with two meals per day for adult dogs to help avoid bloat. If he has a crate, have your dog eat meals in it. Crating your pup during mealtime acclimates the pup to confined spaces and limits exercise after eating.

Provide plenty of cool, fresh water throughout the day, but restrict water intake just before and after meals to assist in reducing the expansion of dry dog food in the stomach. If your dog prefers a softer meal, presoak kibble for 10 or 15 minutes before serving. Otherwise, the dry crunchy kibble is better for healthy teeth and gums.


Fido needs plenty of exercise to keep him trim and fit. He will appreciate a long daily walk with you by his side whether or not he has a big yard to run in and explore. However, be very careful not to over-exercise puppies and young dogs, especially dogs of large breeds. Their bones are soft and spongy and do not completely ossify until around 18 months of age. Youngsters should not be allowed to do the long jumps, high jumps, and broad jumps of formal agility training. Youngsters also should not be allowed to jump in and out of pickup trucks, thereby stressing soft bones, muscles and ligaments. Carting, weight pulling, and road running should not begin until a dog is mature and bones are fully hardened. Depending upon the lineage of your dog, this may take as long as two years or more.

If you are so inclined, Fido can walk or slowly jog by your side with no trouble at all. Over a period of time, gradually increase the length of your walks or jogs. Start out with a trip around the block. Every week thereafter, you may increase the level and length of exercise as you and your dog increase in stamina. If you are doing carting or weight pulling with your dog, be sure to give him a warm-up period of exercise and a cool-down period to prevent muscle strains and sprains.

Puppies allowed to play with other puppies and young dogs will know when they are tired. They will lay down, rest or sleep whenever it is appropriate to do so. But puppies playing with adult dogs will tend to overdo their work and play, and will be more prone to injuries.

If your dog has been diagnosed with a disease such as hip dysplasia or arthritis, it is equally important to keep him fit and trim. Daily exercise helps him to cope more easily with his problems and keeps him healthy and lean. Don't deprive him of much needed and desired exercise merely because he has been diagnosed with a problem. Let him do as much as he can.

Keep young puppies and dogs fit with controlled exercise, avoiding rough play that can lead to bone trauma. Provide long walks or slow jogs for dogs over two years of age. Gentle play for pups will strengthen muscles, ligaments and tendons. Check your animals weekly for health and fitness by running your hands over their body surfaces, checking for leanness as well as for bumps and bruises. In addition, perform a brief inspection for tumors of the mammary tissue and testicles. Pay attention to overall body condition. Pushing puppies for fast growth makes little sense when it can lead to subsequent lameness that can destroy a healthy and long life. Strive for slower, sustained growth with daily periods of controlled exercise for optimal health for your family pet.

Barbara Jansen

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