Feeding Your Beagle
- Deciding what to feed your Beagle
- Creating the right dining atmosphere
- Tempting your Beagle with treats
- Bypassing culinary hazards
- Discovering Beagle beverages
Back when you were a kid, you probably got sick of hearing your mother tell you to eat your peas, drink your juice, or that you’d have no dessert until you finished everything on your plate. Your health teacher probably irritated you just as much when she lectured you about needing to drink four glasses of milk every day, and then proclaimed that you are what you eat.
What a Dog Wants . . . What a Dog Needs
Many a food-loving Beagle would probably love to give you her idea of what a dog wants and needs to eat happily. Of course, her idea of happy dining (dumpster diving, anyone?) may bear little resemblance to her nutritional needs. That’s one reason why your Beagle needs you. You’re the parent in this relationship, and your knowledge of canine nutrition enables you to devise a food regimen that’s not only good for her, but also good to eat.
What about carbs?
Traditionally, experts have included carbohydrates on the list of must-have canine nutrients — but these days, that opinion isn’t unanimous. Most carbs come from grains, such as wheat and corn, which not only are tougher for dogs to digest than other food sources, but also may cause allergic reactions in some dogs. Consequently, some veterinarians and breeders now advocate keeping grains out of a dog’s diet. Such dogs ingest relatively few carbohydrates, but that absence of carbs doesn’t deprive them of robust health.
– Proteins, which enable your dog’s body to change food into energy, come mainly from meats, vegetables, and grains. However, all protein sources are not created equal. Most dogs, for example, can digest a protein that comes from meat more easily than a protein that comes from grain.
– Fats, which play a huge role in keeping a dog’s hair and skin healthy, are found not only in foods but also in special dietary supplements. Fats also help promote healthy digestion and keep your Beagle’s body temperature stable.
– Vitamins and minerals, which help the dog’s body maximize all those other nutrients, are already present in many foods. Vitamins and minerals also keep your dog’s immune system and coat healthy and prevent many health and behavioral problems.
Choosing Your Beagle’s Chow
Store-bought and savory
No one says that you have to choose between kibble and canned when it comes to feeding your Snoopy-dog. If you want to give your Beagle the good nutrition that comes from dry food but also the great flavor of canned fare, give her both. For example, try giving her a meal that’s 90 percent dry food and 10 percent canned.
Deciphering dog food labels
Homemade and delicious
If you decide that the advantages of cooking your Beagle’s food outweigh the disadvantages, be sure to consult your veterinarian. He can help you devise a meal plan for your Beagle that keeps her not only healthy but happy. Consider, too, consulting a book such as Dog Health and Nutrition For Dummies, by M. Christine Zink (Wiley).
To BARF or not to BARF? Feeding a raw food diet
– Cleaner teeth
– Glossier coats
– An end to food allergies
– Infection-free ears (Full disclosure here: My own dog has enjoyed a near-total absence of ear infections since I put her on BARF two years ago.)
– Raw bones can cause internal injuries or choking.
– Raw foods increase the odds of contracting salmonella or other bacterial poisoning — either by the dog or by the person handling the food.
– A diet of raw food causes some dogs to develop chronic diarrhea or vomiting.
A raw diet isn’t for every dog or for every owner. If the idea of handling raw food makes your stomach queasy, then bag the idea of BARF-ing without feeling any guilt. If your dog has a compromised immune system or a lot of chronic illnesses, a BARF diet probably isn’t a good choice.
Before you decide to do the BARF diet with your Beagle, consult some expert sources. A great book to start with is The Holistic Dog Book: Canine Care for the 21st Century by Denise Flaim (Howell Book House).
But is your chow of choice good for her?
– How does her poop look? Food that’s good for your dog is easy for her to digest — and the clearest indication of digestibility is small, compact stools. If your Beagle’s poop is big, bulky, soft, and/or stinky, she may be having trouble digesting the food you’re giving her. Try switching to another brand — but do so gradually (see “Making the switch” later in this chapter).
– Is she getting flaky? If your Beagle’s coat is littered with flakes, her food may be lacking vital fats. Consider switching to a food that has a higher fat content, or ask your veterinarian whether your Beagle needs a fatty acid supplement.
– Do her toots clear the room? If your Beagle’s gaseous emissions are frequent and/or make you want to keel over, her daily fare may have too many carbohydrates. A higher protein/lower carb regimen may reduce the flatulence and restore a fresh smell to your home.
– Is she porking out? A dog food that’s loaded with calories and fats will probably cause your little hound to lose her girlish figure. A switch to a low-calorie food — or smaller portions of what she’s currently eating — can help her regain her svelte shape.
A new take on table scraps
Almost every dog care book exhorts the reader to refrain from feeding table scraps to her dog. But anyone who’s been subjected to the guilt trip that a dog can inflict (courtesy of those big, soulful eyes) knows that such restraint is almost impossible to sustain. Consequently, I offer a new take on table scraps: an approach that bows to reality.
The short version of this approach is that it’s okay to feed your dog table scraps, within the bounds of good taste, your Beagle’s health, and simple common sense. The long version includes these tips for healthful, guilt-free sharing of your food with your Snoopy-dog:
Making the switch
Getting the Skinny about Your Hound’s Pounds
Slimming the portly pooch
– Ask your vet for help. Your Beagle’s veterinarian can help you help your dog in two ways. First, he can see whether your Beagle’s extra inches result from a health problem such as those described in Chapter Dealing with Health Issues. Second, if he can rule out a health problem, he can help you develop a diet and exercise program that will help your dog slim down safely.
– Reduce portions. It’s simple: Dogs who weigh too much need to eat less. Your vet can tell you how far to cut back your Beagle’s rations. Your goal here is to help her take off weight, but not to starve her!
– Limit treats. Reducing your Beagle’s mealtime portions will be useless unless you also reduce the number of treats you give her. Don’t let your little hound have a snack attack!
– Give more meals. Make those reduced rations go further by dividing them up into three or more meals. That way, you’ll help your dog’s tummy stay fuller for a longer period of time. And don’t think that free feeding, or leaving large amounts of food out for your dog to dine on as she feels like it, is an acceptable alternative to feeding your Beagle three times a day. See the “Free feeding forbidden” sidebar for drawbacks on this practice.
– Add some fruits and veggies. A low-cal way to fill your dog’s tummy is to add some fruits and vegetables to her regular fare. Good stuff to try includes apples, carrots, frozen green beans, frozen Brussels sprouts, and frozen broccoli. Be careful not to feed too many of these items, though, or you’ll find that your dog will need to poop more often. Cut any fruits and vegetables into very small pieces or, better yet, run them through the blender so your Beagle can eat and digest them more easily.
– Get her moving. Exercise is as important for your Beagle as it is for you. Your dog’s small size makes it easy for you to give her extra exercise opportunities without tiring her out or taking too much of your own time. A couple of extra walks or longer-distance strolls can burn up extra calories; so can swimming. More info on great exercises and activities for Beagles is in Chapter Getting Physical: Exercising Your Beagle.
Picky, picky, picky
– Add something special. A diet that’s all kibble all the time may be nutritious, but for some dogs it’s also way too bland. Back in my less-enlightened dog-owning days, my dog went on a hunger strike after enduring an exclusively kibble diet for way too long. Adding canned dog food or nutritious table scraps — or even just pouring some warm water on the kibble to create a rich gravy — can lure your bored Beagle gourmand back to her dish.
– Make a change. Another way to combat gastronomic boredom is to change the food your Beagle’s been eating. Look for something that’s a little more flavorful than what you’ve been giving her, and gradually switch her from one food to another over several days.
– Add some variety. Some experts advise Beagle owners and other dog owners to refrain from varying their dogs’ menus. They contend that consistency keeps a dog healthy. However, consistency may also result in a dog who’s less than thrilled at mealtime. In my many years as an enthusiastic dog owner, and almost as many as a student of all things canine, I’ve concluded that many dogs enjoy variety in their meals, just like we do. Consequently, I rotate three or four different meats in my dog’s fare. You can do the same — and give your sweetie something to look forward to at mealtime.
The suggestions here apply only to those Beagles whose pickiness is habitual and long-standing. If your usually ravenous Beagle suddenly loses interest in food for more than a meal or so, she could be seriously ill. Call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Attending to Ambience
For example, some dogs prefer to eat alone, while others like to have the rest of their family around them. Some prefer to eat in one place, while others have such a strong need to be where the family is that you need to bring the dog’s dish to wherever the action is. In any case, catering to these preferences won’t spoil your Beagle. Instead, your thoughtfulness will help her eat more regularly (and thus, eliminate more regularly) and cut down on digestive troubles that unnecessary stress can trigger.
Free feeding forbidden
The idea of leaving food out for your Snoopy-dog 24/7 may seem like a great idea — or, at the very least, a practice that would be really convenient for you. And if your dog is like most Beagles, she’d probably like nothing better than to have food at the ready instead of having to wait for you to feed her. But this is one case where the convenience for you and desirability for your Beagle of leaving food out all the time — a practice that experts call free feeding — don’t offset the downsides of this practice. Here’s why:
– Letting her eat in peace: When your dog is scarfing down her rations, don’t interrupt her — and don’t let anyone else do so, either. That includes not only human family members, but also animal family members, such as cats and other dogs.
– Forestalling food fights: If your Beagle is one of several animals in your family menagerie, feed each nonhuman member separately — either in different locations at the same time or at the same location but at different times. Such forethought will prevent the battles over food that almost always result when you attempt to feed all pets at the same time in the same place.
– Not rushing her meal: Good food is an even bigger pleasure for dogs than it is for people — for dogs, breakfast and dinner are among the high points of their day. So don’t be in a rush to pick up her dish; give your Beagle sufficient time — at least 15 minutes — to savor her daily fare. By doing so, you’ll reduce her chances of getting an upset stomach.
– Doing the dishes: Washing your dog’s dishes not only constitutes good hygiene, but also enhances your dog’s meal. In fact, many dogs refuse to eat food from a dirty dish. Can you blame them? Do for your Beagle what you would do for yourself: Give her clean dishes to dine from.
Treating Your Beagle Right
Selecting scrumptious snacks
– Fish-based treats, such as those available from high-end dog product Web sites, such as SitStay.com (www.sitstay.com).
– Fruits and veggies, such as tiny pieces of carrot, apple, and frozen vegetables.
– Meaty treats that you cook to reduce the fat content. Small hot dog pieces microwaved to a crisp smell like bacon — a heavenly smell to a Beagle. Those goodies will contain a lot less fat if you wrap them in a paper towel before you feed them to your dog. The paper towel will absorb much of the fat.
– Semi-moist dog foods, such as those that come in a tube, can make wonderful treats. They smell delicious to your Beagle, and that great smell can be a wonderful incentive for her to learn what you’re trying to teach her. These foods are full of calories, though, so feed in moderation — and scale back your Beagle’s regular fare.
– Commercial dog biscuits and treats are OK — if you feed them in moderation and if they don’t contain artificial colors or dyes. Those colors may catch your eye, but they do nothing good for your dog’s health and well-being.
Keeping calories under control
After your Beagle’s learned a new trick, command, or other maneuver, start cutting back on the number of treats you give her for obeying your command. Instead of rewarding her every time she complies, start rewarding her every other time, then every third time, and so on. Eventually, she should be satisfied with some lavish praise and petting as a reward for a job well done.
Avoiding Dangerous Dining
Alas, your Beagle doesn’t necessarily have a clear sense of what’s good and what’s not so good for her to eat. She needs you, her knowledgeable human, to keep her away from those foods that could make her seriously ill, not to mention very uncomfortable. Here’s a sampling of food items that you need to keep your Beagle away from if you want to keep her healthy:
– Cooked bones: The big rib from that roast may smell wonderful to your Beagle, but the effect on her digestive tract could be decidedly unwonderful. Cooked bones splinter easily, which could result in small pieces of bone getting stuck anywhere in the digestive tract.
– Onions and garlic: We humans like these flavorful root veggies to flavor our foods, but they can be poisonous to our canine companions if used in raw form. Make sure that your Beagle doesn’t get any! Garlic powder is okay, though.
– Grapes: Another food that your Beagle needs to avoid; too many grapes are toxic to all breeds of dogs.
– Chocolate: I once lived with a dog who would have done anything to get a taste of mint chocolate liqueur, and most canines adore the scent of chocolate. But here, too, the siren smell of a food meant for humans is toxic to members of the canine race. Don’t let your Beagle anywhere near your Godivas — or any other brand.
Your Beagle’s Drinking Habits
And do make sure that your Beagle drinks only the water in her dish. Pond water, water in the toilet, and swimming pool water contain substances that could upset her tummy.
by Susan McCullough