Eating Well

In This Chapter
  • Discovering what nutrients your Boston needs
  • Deciphering pet food labels
  • Deciding what kind of diet to feed your Boston
  • Knowing how much and how often to feed your Boston
  • Rewarding — and spoiling — with treats

Your Boston’s diet gives him the gusto he needs to get through the day. These bully dogs with their hearty appetites require a healthy diet that gives them the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals per serving. With so many dining choices available from your local pet store, how do you choose?

This chapter explores generic and premium brands that vary in price and size, as well as dry kibble formulas and canned concoctions in hearty rich gravy. You can even make your Boston’s diet from scratch, if you really want to. Besides helping you figure out what diet is right for your Boston, this chapter can help you establish an eating schedule based on his age. A proper diet will help your Boston grow to his full potential.

Feeding a Carnivore: Cost versus Quality

Before they became the domesticated pets that we know today, dogs scavenged and preyed on small animals. They also foraged for food, eating berries, grains, and other plant matter when necessary. This diet gave them the protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals they needed for a complete, healthy diet.

As a house pet, your Boston still requires these basic nutrients. Depending on his age, each dog has different requirements. Young pups need a diet formulated for growth; adults need a diet formulated for maintenance.
Price varies dramatically between brands of dog food. Though all dog food manufacturers must follow basic guidelines, the more expensive, or premium, varieties often exceed those specifications and, therefore, cost more. The ingredients are higher grade, come from whole-food sources, and contain fewer fillers.
The premium brands frequently contain added nutrients, too, such as antioxidants and vitamin supplements, which benefit senior dogs, overweight dogs, or specific breeds like your Boston.
Generally speaking, you get what you pay for when it comes to dog food — but don’t presume expensive is better. Your veterinarian can help you choose a diet that’s right for your Boston.

Knowing Your Ingredients

Dogs require certain amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals to support their normal bodily functions. This section takes a closer look at each type of required food source and how it keeps your Boston healthy and happy.

Pump up the protein

Your Boston uses protein for growing and developing hair and skin, producing hormones, building muscle mass, regulating metabolism, and healing damaged tissue.
In many premium brands of dog food, protein is the first ingredient listed. Beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, or duck are the proteins most often used. Other sources include fish, fish meal, liver, eggs, milk, and milk products.
Some grains and beans, such as rice, wheat, corn, barley, and soy, also contain protein. They’re not complete sources of protein like animal protein, but when combined with other types of food, they can provide many of the amino acids dogs require.
Boston puppies thrive on foods that contain about 28 percent protein; adult Bostons typically maintain on foods that contain 22 percent protein.


When you choose a diet for your Boston, don’t pick one based on the formula’s protein percentage alone; the protein source matters, too. In general, the lower-priced foods use a lesser-grade protein that’s harder for your dog to digest.

Energize with carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, which are sugars and starches found in plant foods, provide the quick energy Bostons need to exercise and play. Making up about 50 percent of your dog’s diet, carbohydrates also provide fiber, which is essential for proper bowel function. Common sources of fiber are rice, grains, peas, pasta, and even potatoes.
Carbohydrates, however, are also used as fillers. They’re cheaper than protein, so manufacturers use corn and rice to bulk up the foods sold at a lower price. Premium foods often contain high-quality complex carbohydrates to give the dog fiber and sustained energy.


Too many cereal grains can result in a hyped-up Boston. If your dog is bouncing off the walls, take a look at how many and what types of carbohydrates are in his diet, and limit them, if possible. The fillers also cause your dog to eliminate more often, which means more trips to the bathroom.

Fats for energy and a shiny coat

Fats and oils do more than make foods taste good. They provide energy and help your Boston feel satisfied. Fats are needed to break down certain vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, K, and E. Unsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic and linoleic acids, also support skin and coat health. They make your Boston’s short coat shimmer and shine.
Boston diets may contain anywhere from 8 percent to 18 percent fat, depending on the manufacturer. If your Boston’s coat is looking dull, consider a food that has a higher percentage of unsaturated fats. If he’s looking a little overweight, switch to a low-fat diet after talking with your veterinarian.

Take your vitamins, mind your minerals

In addition to proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, Bostons require vitamins, which help the body fight disease, absorb minerals, regulate metabolism, and grow and function normally. Plant and animal foods naturally contain vitamins.
The body maintains and stores fat-soluble vitamins in the body’s liver and fatty tissues, and water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins B and C, are flushed out daily and must be replaced. The right balance of vitamins is crucial to your Boston’s health.
Minerals, such as calcium, iron, phosphorous, and nitrate, are elements and inorganic compounds the body needs for proper growth and function. Dogs require seven major minerals and 15 trace minerals, including copper and potassium. Minerals help maintain the salt levels in the bloodstream, and build bones and teeth. Like vitamins, minerals must be balanced for good health.
Most commercial and premium diets already contain all the vitamins and minerals that your dog needs. Your veterinarian may recommend some supplements for specific needs, such as glucosamine for a senior dog suffering from arthritis, or vitamins for a dog who’s eating a homemade diet. (Check the “Supplementing Your Dog’s Diet” section below for more reasons to add extras to your pup’s meals.) Always follow your veterinarian’s advice and consult her before adding supplements.

How to Read Pet Food Labels

No doubt you read the labels on foods you eat. The labels contain basic information about the item, including its calories, nutrient content, and ingredients. Dog food labels are no different.


Pet foods are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and must contain certain information on their labels. Following is a breakdown of that info:

Feeding instructions: The feeding instructions give guidelines for how much to feed your Boston based on his weight. If the diet is formulated for puppies, it will give feeding instructions based on age, too. Sometimes it will include information about when and how often you should feed your dog.

Guaranteed analysis: The guaranteed analysis breaks down by percentage what nutrients are in the food. It lists minimum levels of crude protein and crude fat, and maximum levels of crude fiber and moisture. It also includes percentages or measurements of additives, vitamins, and minerals.

Ingredients: The ingredients are listed in descending order by amount. Often, a form of protein appears first in line, followed by grains, fats, additives, and preservatives.

Nutritional adequacy statement: The nutritional adequacy statement says whether the food provides complete balanced nutrition for a dog based on nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The statement also provides a life-stage claim, which states the life stage (growth/lactation, maintenance, or all life stages) for which the food is intended.

AAFCO has developed two nutrient profiles for dogs: growth/lactation and maintenance. All foods must meet at least one of these profiles. Some labels claim the food is intended for all life stages. Those foods provide enough nutrients for an animal’s growth and reproduction, as well as for maintaining a healthy adult.

Manufacturer’s contact information: A name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor are required; sometimes manufacturers include a toll-free phone number or Web site address, but these aren’t mandatory.

Armed with this information and the nutrient recommendations from the previous section, you can now examine your Boston’s food label with confidence. Call the manufacturer or talk to your vet if you have questions.

Checking Out Your Commercial Diet Options

After you understand the importance of the ingredients in your Boston’s food (see the “Knowing Your Ingredients” section), you can evaluate the different meal options available at the market. Three commercial types are sold at most grocery and pet stores:
  • Dry food
  • Semi-moist food
  • Canned food


No matter the form, each morsel of food for Bostons should be packed with nutrients. Because they have smaller mouths and stomachs, Bostons require smaller pieces of food than larger dogs. Those smaller pieces must contain all the nutrients and calories they need to keep them going. Dog food companies know this, so when they develop diets for smaller dogs, they put as much nutrition as possible in each bite.

Crunchy kibble

It may not look too appetizing to humans, but kibble (or dry food) is delicious to dogs. The kibble’s shape, size, texture, smell, and taste have been researched and tested by scientists and veterinary nutritionists. These folks develop recipes, conduct feeding trials, and check for complete nutrition to ensure each kibble meets the FDA’s standards.
Bostons digest dry food easily. Made by cooking the ingredients together in big batches, forming it into kibble-size bites, and baking it, dry food is often the least expensive food on the shelf. Because it is baked, dry food can be left out in your Boston’s bowl all day without spoiling. And the kibble’s crunch helps keep your dog’s teeth tartar-free.
You can add variety to your Boston’s dry food diet by feeding semimoist or canned food periodically, or offering a mix of wet and dry food at mealtime.

Going natural: Is it really better?

In addition to the common commercial brands of foods, most pet specialty stores also carry dry and canned or jarred foods in “organic” or “natural” varieties, or those that may be “fit for human consumption.” What does this mean?
The organic and natural trend has moved into the pet market. Popular with human foods, organically grown meats, produce, and grains are grown without the use of pesticides, chemicals, or other such means. Many dog owners believe that feeding their pets a diet free from those additives will benefit and extend their pet’s lives. As in the human market, organic pet foods need to meet certain criteria to prove that the ingredients are grown organically before they can bear the label.
Food intended for human consumption meets different standards than food intended for animal consumption. More and more, pet owners want to know that the quality of their pet’s food is just as good as their own. They like the fact that they could sit down and eat the same food their pet eats. Some pet owners go the extra step and make their own food for their dogs. But these human-quality foods are an easy alternative to homemade.
Organic or human-grade foods are generally more expensive. They cost more to make, and they’re often made by smaller companies that don’t produce the same quantities as larger manufacturers.
Whether they’re formulating an organic diet or a grocery store brand, manufacturers are required to follow strict guidelines for making quality pet food. Rest assured that the majority of over-the-counter diets will meet your pet’s basic dietary requirements.


For Bostons who have dental problems, are recovering from surgery, or are just finicky, however, dry food poses a challenge. They can’t bite into or digest the hard pieces of food, or the dried morsels aren’t appealing enough for a picky dog’s discriminating taste. These dogs may require semi-moist or canned food instead.

Semi-moist morsels

Semi-moist foods are soft to the bite with a texture resembling Play-Doh. They come in all shapes and sizes, from kibble-size morsels and patties to whimsical shapes that look more like treats than food. They often come in resealable bags to keep the moisture locked in.
Like the dry foods, semi-moist foods are formulated to serve the nutritional needs of the dog. The benefit of semi-moist compared to kibble is the water content, which makes it easier for elderly dogs or those with dental problems to chew. The food also smells more appetizing to finicky dogs.


To give the semi-moist food its look and texture, however, manufacturers often add chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and colors. Be sure to read the label and check the food’s nutritional content before feeding. A high amount of corn syrup or artificial sweetener can be harmful to your Boston’s metabolism, causing him to gain weight. Semi-moist food can also lead to tartar buildup on teeth.

Stew in a can

Big chunks of meat in hearty rich gravy look good not only to dogs, but to their owners, too, who may want to give their pets something that resembles “real” food. Available in myriad flavors, combinations, and recipes, canned foods combine the protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water in a way that caters to many dogs’ taste buds. It may not smell good to humans, but many dogs like it.
Canned food is up to 70 percent water by weight, which supplies the Boston with much-needed water. Its taste attracts finicky eaters, it’s easier to bite and chew than kibble, and it comes in small quantities for small diets. Canned food has a long shelf life and works well for dogs traveling to shows or obedience trials.


Despite its benefits, canned food generally costs more. You can’t leave it out like dry food because it can spoil, and you have to refrigerate leftovers. Some Boston owners worry about what animal parts are used in the canned food, not to mention the additives and preservatives. Also, it can cause diarrhea in some dogs and cause tartar to build up on their teeth.

Choosing To Feed a Noncommercial Diet

Although commercial diets contain everything the dog needs to thrive, some people prefer to prepare their dogs’ meals themselves. Raw diets and homemade diets allow Boston owners to have more control over what they feed their pets.

Raw diets: You can think of these meals as dog-style sushi. Raw diets consist of raw meat and bones that you feed to your dog. Proponents and opponents each have their varying opinions on this type of diet. Some believe the diet improves their pets’ skin, coat, and teeth, and increases their stamina and vitality. Others caution against E. coli, parasites, and other risks associated with raw meats. These diets are often supplemented by some source of fiber and vitamins.


Some manufacturers have begun selling raw diets at pet stores. Often found in a freezer, these diets are individually packaged to make feeding simple.

Homemade diets: Homemade diets are meals made from scratch, just like Mom used to make. Often fed to finicky dogs or those with food allergies, these diets incorporate whole foods, such as potatoes or rice, and protein sources, such as cooked chicken or beef, that aren’t packed full of preservatives. Bostons don’t eat a lot, so preparing homemade meals can be relatively simple as long as you include all the nutrients that your Boston needs.


Your Boston will tolerate diet changes, but to protect your dog’s health, consult a veterinarian before introducing him to raw or homemade meals.

Before feeding your Boston a raw or homemade diet, consider these factors:

Do you have the time to prepare the diet? Preparing a homemade or raw diet is just like cooking for another member of the family. The food should be prepared every few days to ensure freshness.

Do you have the space to store the raw meat or meals? Because these foods don’t have preservatives, they need to be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer.

Do you travel a lot? If so, a diet like this may not be appropriate. Dog sitters or boarding centers may not be able to make dinner for your dog every night. And if the dog travels with you, you may not have access to the foods or a kitchen.

Do you have access to organic meats, or is there a reliable butcher near you? If not, a homemade diet may require that you cut your own meat or search out organic meat sources.

Do you know enough about dog nutrition to ensure your Boston is getting all the vitamins and minerals he requires? You can research and learn about dog nutrition, or you can meet with a veterinary nutritionist to outline meals and supplements for your Boston.


If you’re going to feed your Boston a raw or homemade diet, first and foremost, visit a veterinarian. You can consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to help you develop a diet for your Boston. You may even want to talk to a conventional veterinarian and a holistic vet to hear their opinions.

Special Diets for Bostons with Health Issues

Prescription diets are specially formulated meals sold through your veterinarian. Using different combinations of nutrients, these diets are designed to address specific health needs, such as bladder stones, diabetes, obesity, renal disease, or food allergies. The foods come in dry and canned forms, similar to commercial diets.
Your veterinarian will prescribe a special diet if she believes your dog requires it. Before you start feeding your Boston the prescription diet, ask your vet these questions:

Why do I need to feed my Boston this diet? Your vet will explain why this particular diet will benefit your pup’s health, as well as any other lifestyle changes that you need to make.

How often and how much do I feed? Feeding instructions will be listed on the label, but your vet may alter the recommendations depending on your pup’s diagnosis. Follow her instructions for maximum benefit.

Will I need to feed this diet to my dog indefinitely? The answer will depend on the dog’s condition. If your Boston is obese, for example, you may only have to feed him a “diet” food until he reaches his goal weight. If he’s diabetic, however, he may be on the special formula for life.

Prescription diets cost more than commercial diets, but the health benefits far outweigh the additional money you’ll spend. Because these formulas are packed with nutrition, it’s likely that you’ll feed your Boston less quantity while providing more nutrients. Plus, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that you’re offering your pup the very best.

Come and Get It! Serving Meals

Boston puppies and adults have different feeding requirements. Puppies eat foods formulated for growth, which means the foods contain more digestible nutrients, like protein and carbohydrates, to help them build strong muscles and bones. Adults eat foods formulated for maintenance, which means the foods contain the right amount of nutrients to maintain their current size and weight. Puppies and adults also have different eating habits. Puppies eat up to four meals a day, whereas adults require two.
In the next sections, I outline a feeding schedule and portions for Boston puppies and adults.

Setting up a meal schedule

Young puppies need to eat up to four meals throughout the day to stimulate growth, keep their metabolisms fueled, and prevent hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Some experts recommend free feeding puppies, which means leaving dry food out all day and allowing the pup to eat whenever he feels like it. The free feeding is then supplemented by regularly scheduled mealtimes:

Puppies up to 12 weeks old: Feed four times a day in addition to providing dry food.

From week 13 to week 24: Feed the pup three times a day.

From six months on: Feed your Boston twice a day.


As the pup’s body figures out how to use the nutrients in his meals appropriately, you should stop free feeding and stick with the twice-a-day routine. If the food is out all day, the adult Boston will eat it, and if he’s not getting enough exercise, the sturdy dog will quickly pack on the pounds.

Dishing out the right amount

The amount of food you feed your Boston depends on the individual dog’s growth stage, activity level, and external factors, like temperature or stress. At first, offer your puppy small amounts of food formulated for growth, but gradually increase how much food you give him as he grows (as you’ll see below). When he becomes an adult and you switch his diet to food formulated for maintenance, feed him the same amount each mealtime. Active dogs or those enduring stress, like moving or welcoming a new addition to the household, may require more food, depending on the circumstance.

Refer to the feeding instructions printed on the label or consult your vet for advice. Adjust the amounts by how the dog looks. If your Boston has a bulging belly, decrease the portion a bit.
Generally, feed the following amounts at each mealtime:

Puppies up to 12 weeks old (feeding a diet formulated for growth): 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup, four times a day

From week 13 to week 24 (feeding a diet formulated for growth): 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 cup, three times a day

From six months to one year (feeding a diet formulated for growth): 3⁄4 to 1 1⁄4 cup, two times per day

Adulthood (feeding a diet formulated for maintenance): 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup, two times per day

If you decide to free-feed your puppy, remember to keep the bowl of kibble filled all day. Gradually decrease the amount as he ages.

Preventing obesity

More pets than ever are obese, and Bostons are no exception. A high-calorie intake and a sedentary lifestyle result in an overweight pup. Adult Bostons who eat too much at mealtime, free feed, or enjoy too many treats end up consuming too many calories, and weight gain ensues. And if exercise isn’t a part of their daily lifestyle, those extra calories never have a chance to be burned off.


If your pet is packing on the pounds, you have two choices:

Decrease the amount of food you’re feeding your pet. This means cutting back the size of his regular meals and the number of treats you give him. This lowers the amount of calories he is consuming without changing his diet.

Change the diet to a “light” formula. Some people feel that this may not be as healthy as simply feeding less. But just as there are formulas for senior dogs, there are formulas for overweight dogs. As always, talk to your veterinarian before changing your Boston’s diet.

Supplementing Your Dog’s Diet

You take your daily vitamins, but does your dog need them, too? Supplements add nutrition to your Boston Terrier’s diet. They provide vitamins and minerals that are missing from his daily food intake. If your Boston is eating a well-balanced commercial diet, he probably doesn’t need supplements.
Pregnant or lactating bitches, however, require supplements to provide adequate nutrition. Senior Bostons, too, can benefit from formulas, such as chondroitin and glucosamine, that address joint function. And if you’re making your dog’s food from scratch, you’ll certainly need to supplement his diet with added vitamins and minerals found in herbs, eggs, and Brewer’s yeast.


If you feed your dog supplements, do so under the watchful eye of your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist, and never exceed the recommended dosage or substitute supplements for a well-balanced diet. Oversupplementing your Boston can make him sick.

Treating Your Boston

Treats come in all sorts of sizes and flavors, from fresh-baked biscuits and human treat-inspired cookies to freeze-dried lamb and beef jerky. You can find the treats in pet stores and trendy dog bakeries throughout the country, or you can give your Boston safe human foods, such as hot dog pieces, chunks of cheese, or a slice of raw beef.
You can feed your Boston treats to reward him for good behavior or simply to spoil him from time to time.


Like regular meals, treats contain calories. They should be calculated into your pup’s overall intake for the day, accounting for about 10 percent of his calories. If possible, follow the recommended feeding instructions on the treat package. If you feed your Boston dog-safe human foods, like small pieces of luncheon meat or cheese, factor those calories into your pup’s overall intake for the day, too.

As tempting as it may be, don’t feed your pooch too many goodies, or you’ll wind up with an overweight Boston!

by Wendy Bedwell-Wilson