Dog Grooming Serving Tarzana, Encino, Woodland Hills and San Fernando Valley
Dog Grooming Serving Tarzana, Encino, Woodland Hills and San Fernando Valley
  Dog Grooming Serving Tarzana, Encino, Woodland Hills and San Fernando Valley Dog Grooming Serving Tarzana, Encino, Woodland Hills and San Fernando Valley




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General NutritionalGuidelines

by Dr. Pinkston and

Most veterinary schools teach a simple, straightforward approach to feeding companion dogs:

feed a name-brand commercial diet, formulated specifically for dogs, that states clearly on the label that the food meets or exceeds all the requirements for growth and maintenance as published by the NRC, the Nutritional Research Council, or similar independent nutritional organization. "Name-brand" means non-generic, because some generic dog foods have been shown to use inferior ingredients and have been implicated in certain nutritional deficiency syndromes, particularly zinc deficiency.

They also teach that a commercial diet that is complete and balanced for your dog's age and health status should not require the addition of any vitamin or mineral supplements; in fact, that the addition of these supplements may actually be harmful in some cases. Not all veterinarians, nutritionists, or dog breeders agree with this simplistic approach, but this is what veterinary institutions have long presented as their official recommendation. They appear to lean toward making dry type dog foods the bulk of the diet, because chewing and crunching is thought to beneficial in helping the teeth and gums stay healthy. As both a veterinarian and long-time dog owner, I myself have developed, over the years, some varying opinions of my own Although not statistically validated, my personal clinical impression is that dogs who are fed brands of food that use higher quality, more digestible ingredients, with the primary source of protein being meat instead of grains or soybeans, do better overall than dogs who are fed brands containing larger amounts of grains, soybeans, and meat by-products.

Read the label

Reading a dog food label and understanding what it means can be challenging. The fact that something called "crude protein" is listed as 20% in a particular food may not mean that the entire 20% can be used or even absorbed by the average dog. Hair, beaks, hooves, tendons, and feathers are all considered crude protein but the nutritional value or availability is nowhere near that of the protein found in muscle, organ meat, eggs, or milk, yet the company is still permitted to call it protein.

A good tip-off that inferior protein sources is being used is to look for the term "meat by-products." These are what is left after the good-quality meat has been removed. Any food label in the U.S., whether it is for human or animal food, must list ingredients in the order of their quantity, with the largest quantities being listed first. Therefore, be suspicious of inferior protein sources when "meat by-products" are listed ahead of real meat.

Another interesting ingredient is "brewer's rice." Brewer's rice is the part of the rice that is left over after it has been used in a distillery for brewing alcoholic beverages. It is hard to believe that this by-product could have much nutritional value at this stage. Soybeans, especially in combination with grains, form a technically "complete" protein, but are sometimes digested poorly by dogs and can be a cause of some unpleasant flatulence. In some cases, soybean-containing foods have been implicated as a cause of "Bloat," a life-threatening condition where the stomach rapidly fills with gas from fermenting food.

Meat protein does not ferment, but grains and beans do. I do not mean to imply that a dog food should not contain these products, but, in my opinion, they should not be close to the top of the list of ingredients.

All natural?

The controversy between all-natural diet and diets containing preservatives has been around a long time, both on the human and animal front. Are foods without preservatives healthier or not?

Well, there are a few advantages to preserved food that should not be overlooked. Non-preserved food, if stored at too high a temperature or for too long a period of time, can lose a lot of its nutritional value. Unpreserved fat, if it becomes rancid, can actually be harmful. On the other hand, even human beings do not eat preservatives in every bite of food they consume, which is what dogs do if fed nothing but a commercial dry food diet. This fact is troubling, given the controversy about the safety of a number of these chemicals. If you do choose an all-natural food, make sure that is fresh and has been stored properly. Do not buy a nonpreserved food that does not have a last-sale date. Make sure that you purchase it from a source that has a high turnover rate of the product, so that you know it has not been sitting on the shelf for weeks. Buy only what you can use up within a few weeks; store any excess in the freezer; and keep open containers of food in a cool, dry place. I feed my own dogs and cats an all-natural diet. I give them a "naturally preserved" dry food as the bulk of their diet and add a small amount of naturally processed canned meat, without fillers.

There is anecdotal information suggesting that it might be beneficial to add a small quantity of fresh vegetables or sprouts to the diet, to simulate the partially-digested vegetation in the stomach contents of grazing animals, which would be the natural prey of dogs if they were still in the wild. I cannot speculate on the importance of this, but I will admit that I am tempted to try it on my own animals.


The question of supplementation is also up for debate. Classically veterinarians are taught that good quality commercial food should not be supplemented. On the other hand, because there is a lot of individual variation among dogs and some may have requirements that differ from what is provided in the average commercial diet, there may be a place for supplementation.

Certain skin conditions are documented to have improved with the addition of fatty acid supplements, although only in some individuals.

Some Siberian huskies and other "northern" breeds have a hereditary tendency towards zinc deficiency. For these reasons, there is probably some real value in adding supplements to the diet of a dog whose general health and coat quality appears poor without any other medical explanation. Supplementation should be done carefully and consultation with your veterinarian is always advisable.

Unless specifically directed by your veterinarian, NEVER add minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, or zinc to the diet except in the form of a general-purpose vitamin-mineral supplement formulated specifically for dogs. This is particularly important in growing, large breed dogs, where the proper ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the diet is essential to the development of healthy bones and joints.

Although some nursing mothers with large litters at peak nursing age do need extra calcium, excessive calcium given during pregnancy can actually make it harder for the mother to have enough calcium available for the pups after they are born.

A good rule of thumb for supplements is this: they are sometimes useful in specific circumstances but use caution and discuss them first with your vet. One conservative approach is to choose a balanced multivitamin-mineral product, preferably from natural sources, and add it to the diet only once every two to three days. This way, you don't suppress or overwhelm any of the body's own internal regulating mechanisms, yet you have additional nutrients available in case the body needs them.

How much to feed?

The question of how much to feed can be complex. As a veterinarian in general practice, I was horrified at the number of obese dogs that I saw. Most of the owners of these dogs did not even realize that they were overweight. The ones that did realize it did not know what to do about it because dogs have a way of being so "persuasive" when they are hungry! Dog food companies are often no help in this matter because there are few dogs who would not become overweight when fed the "recommended amount" listed on the bag. Do not forget that these dog food companies want to sell dog food!!! My recommendation is to use those quantities only as a VERY general guideline. Then LOOK at your own dog's body and adjust the quantity of food according to what you see, even if it varies from week to week. If you cannot feel ribs without "digging," then your dog is overweight. If there is not a visible tuck at the waistline, he is overweight.

If the backbone sticks out, however, or you can see ribs from a distance, he is underweight. It is far healthier for your dog to be a little too thin than a little too fat. If you feed your dog on a regular schedule--twice a day is recommended--and never give treats in between meals except as specific rewards for a task well done, then your dog should never become a begger. Remember, though, to give these rewards only for tasks that YOU have asked your dog to perform, NOT for cute tricks that your dog has performed because he is trying to train YOU to give him a treat!!!