Feeding Your Dog
In This Chapter
- Meeting your dog’s nutritional needs
- Recognizing the connection between nutrition and growth
- Making your own dog food and other diet plans
Your dog’s behavior, happiness, health, longevity, and overall well being are inextricably intertwined with what you feed him. Dogs, just like humans and all other animals, have specific nutritional requirements that need to be met. And to complicate matters, the needs of dogs vary. For example, even though your first dog may have done wonderfully well on Barfo Special Blend, the same food may be completely wrong for Buddy. Every dog has his own nutritional needs that may be quite dissimilar to those of your neighbor’s dog. What your dog eats has a tremendous impact on his health and his trainability.
Finding the Right Food for Your Dog
– Forget about advertising. Disregard what the ad says about how good this food is for your dog. It may be okay for Buddy, but perhaps it isn’t. You have to look at the food’s ingredients.
– Forget about price. This works both ways. Just because one brand of food costs more doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than a less expensive variety.
Reading labels and making choices
If Buddy doesn’t eat the amount recommended for his weight on the package, he’s not getting the Minimum Daily Requirement of known nutrients.
– Performance: A high-quality food, performance food lists two or three animal proteins in the first five ingredients — usually two kinds (chicken and lamb, chicken and fish, beef and chicken, and so on).
Although these foods are marketed primarily for working or breeding animals, they’re the best-quality foods on the market for all dogs. Performance foods also contain the correct quantity of fats and oils needed for energy, good coat, and skin. Performance foods don’t contain soy, which dogs can’t digest.
– Super Premium 1: These foods usually contain an animal protein first, followed by several grains. Although they provide energy for your dog from high fat levels, they’re not as good as the performance foods because they contain less animal protein.
– Premium: These dog foods contain a high level of protein, but you need to look at the source because the protein can come from grains and not animal protein. These foods may also contain soy.
– Regular, Econo, Low Protein, or Light (Lite): Foods listed with these names are full of grains and are guaranteed to make your dog into a couch potato. They’re animal protein deficient and, although marketed for the older dog, in our opinion they should be taken off the market. They produce voluminous smelly stools, caused by the inability of the dog to break down and digest this food. Dogs fed this diet for any length of time show classic signs of animal protein deficiencies (see the “Animal protein deficiencies” sidebar later in this chapter).
Giving meat to a carnivore
Your dog is a carnivore and not a vegetarian. He needs meat. His teeth are quite different from yours — they’re made for ripping and tearing meat. They don’t have flat surfaces for grinding up grains. His digestion starts in his stomach and not in his mouth. All the enzymes in his system are geared toward breaking down meat and raw foods. Buddy is a carnivore, and he needs to eat meat to stay healthy.
- Protein, consisting of 9 to 12 essential amino acids
All these nutrients need to be in the correct proportion for the necessary chemical reactions of digestion, absorption, transportation, and elimination to occur. If the cells are going to be able to continue to live, the exact composition of the body fluids that bathe the outside of the cells needs to be controlled from moment to moment, day by day, with no more than a few percentage points variation.
These nutrients are the fuel, which is converted into energy. Energy produces heat and how much heat is produced determines the ability of your dog to control his body temperature. Everything your dog does, from running and playing, to working and living a long and healthy life, is determined by the fuel you provide and the energy it produces.
- Produce energy to grow correctly
- Maintain health during adulthood
- Grow into a quality old age
Keeping your dog’s diet rich in protein
By law, the heaviest and largest amount of whatever ingredient contained in the food has to be listed first. By looking at the list of ingredients, you can easily discover the protein’s origin. For example, if the first five ingredients listed come from four grains, the majority of the protein in that food comes from grains. The more grains in a dog food, the cheaper it is to produce. We wonder what Buddy thinks of such a food.
Amino acid is the name given to the building blocks of protein, and when heated, they’re partially destroyed. All dry and canned commercial dog food is heated in the manufacturing process. So commercial food contains protein that is chemically changed by heat and therefore deficient in amino acids. We show you how to compensate for that at in the “Feeding Buddy” section later in this chapter.
Animal protein deficiencies
When Buddy doesn’t get enough animal protein or his diet is unbalanced in nutrients, one or
more of the following may occur:
This is only a short list of the more common symptoms associated with an animal protein
Identifying Food for Growth at Critical Times
The most critical period for a puppy is between 4 and 7 months, the time of maximum growth. His little body is being severely stressed as his baby teeth drop out and his adult teeth come in. He’s growing like a weed, and at the same time his body is being assaulted with a huge number of vaccines. During this time of growth, Buddy needs the right food so that his immune system can cope with all these demands and onslaughts.
Deciphering puppy food labels
Look for a puppy food that has two animal proteins in the first three ingredients — or better yet, one that lists animal protein as its first two ingredients.
Going easy on the carbohydrates
Soy is another carbohydrate found in some foods. Soy admittedly is high in protein, but it binds other nutrients and makes them unavailable for absorption. We recommend that you stay away from dog foods containing soy.
Knowing the value of fats — in moderation
- Cell damage
- Dry skin
- Heart problems
- Growth deficits
- Lack of energy
- Cancer of the colon and rectum
- Mammary gland tumors
Linoleic acid is one of the three essential fatty acids that have to be provided daily in your dog’s food. Safflower and flax seed oil provide the best source of linoleic acid and are the least allergenic. These oils are better than corn oil, which contains only a tiny amount of linoleic acid.
- Coarse, dry coat
- Extreme itching and scratching
- Horny skin growths
- Improper growth
- Poor blood clotting
- Skin lesions on the belly, inside the back legs, and between the shoulder blades
- Skin ulcerations and infections
- Thickened areas of skin
What else is in this food?
Common chemicals used in dog foods
When you’re reading dog food packages, distinguishing what a preservative is and isn’t can be difficult. Following is a list of the more common chemicals seen on the packages:
Note that natural preservatives are vitamins C and E and rosemary extract. Vitamin E is often listed as tocopherol.
What else isn’t in this food?
Two types of vitamins exist — water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are B and C. Any excess is filtered through the kidneys and urinated out between four to eight hours after ingestion. For this reason, these vitamins must be present in each meal. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble and stored in the fatty tissues of the body and the liver. Your dog needs both types.
– Vitamin C: A fairly common misconception is that dogs don’t need extra vitamin C because they produce their own. Although they do produce their own vitamin C, they don’t produce enough, especially in today’s polluted environment.
Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, speeds wound healing, helps the function of the musculoskeletal system, and is needed whenever the dog gets wormed, is given drugs of any kind, or is put under any kind of stress. A lack of vitamin C in the diet commonly results in urinary tract infections, cystitis, and limps.
Buddy needs vitamin C for healthy teeth and gums. In the old days, sailors often suffered from a vitamin C deficiency due to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables while at sea. This malady is called scurvy and results in weakness, anemia, spongy and inflamed gums, and dirty teeth. The same thing happens to the vitamin C–deficient dog.
– Vitamin B: This vitamin, which comprises a number of individual parts, is called vitamin B-complex. Also water-soluble and fragile, vitamin B is needed for energy and to promote biochemical reactions in the body that work with enzymes to change the carbohydrates into glucose, as well as to break down protein.
Vitamin B–complex helps to maintain the health of the nervous system, skin, eyes, hair, mouth, and the liver. This vitamin is necessary for muscle tone in the digestive tract and proper brain function. Vitamin B also helps to alleviate anxiety and depression, and is important to the older dog to maintain his health.
Because vitamins begin to break down when you open your dog food bag and expose the food to the elements, close the food up tightly and keep it away from light. Doing so helps to retain the quality of the contents. (Vitamins B and C are particularly sensitive to exposure.)
- To correctly compose body fluids
- To form blood and bones
- To promote a healthy nervous system
- To function as coenzymes together with vitamins
Quenching his thirst — keeping fresh water around
Water is the most necessary ingredient that dogs need on a daily basis. Without water, your dog will die. If a dog has adequate water, he can live for three weeks without food, but he can live only a few days without water. Your dog uses water for the digestive processes, breaking down and absorbing nutrients, as well as maintaining his body temperature. Water helps to detoxify the body and transport toxic substances out of the body through the eliminative organs. Water also keeps the acid levels of the blood constant.
City water systems usually provide water free from parasites and bacteria by using chemicals such as chlorine, aluminum salts, soda, ash, phosphates, calcium hydroxides, and activated carbon. According to a study reported in Consumer Reports in 1990, the main contaminants remaining are lead, radon, and nitrates. Lead comes from water pipes in houses built early in the last century. Radon is a by-product of uranium found in the Earth’s crust and is more prevalent in water from wells and ground water in the northeast, North Carolina, and Arizona. Water from lakes and rivers is less contaminated with radon. Nitrates come from ground water sources and contain agricultural contaminants.
You can test to see if Buddy’s pH is correct by going to the pharmacy and picking up some pH test strips. Place a strip into Buddy’s urine when he goes out first thing in the morning to relieve himself. The pH should read between 6.5 and 6.7. If it’s higher than 7.5 to 8 (7 is neutral), his diet is too alkaline.
Sugar is commonly listed as the fourth or fifth ingredient in these foods. The chemical name for sugar is dextrose. Sugar stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin, which is needed to break down carbohydrates and sugar in the food. The pancreas has to work overtime to produce enough insulin to break down this food, setting the stage for diseases of the pancreas, which can cause not only digestive upsets but also behavioral problems. Hyperactivity is the most common of the behavioral problems.
Before changing Buddy’s diet, we recommend that your vet conduct a blood test on Buddy to establish a baseline. After Buddy has been on his new raw diet program for six months, have another blood test done and compare it to the previous one. The follow-up blood test can tell whether or not his new diet is an improvement.
You need to keep other considerations in mind. Feeding raw meat or raw chicken to a dog can cause digestive upsets if the meat contains a high level of bacteria in the form of E. coli or salmonella. Although a dog that has been fed raw foods for a long time can easily deal with both of these bacteria, a sick dog or a dog just being transferred over to a raw diet may become sick.
Enzymes and enzyme robbing
A dog’s vital internal organs — his heart, liver, and kidneys — need the enzymes that they contain to function at their best. When a dog consumes semimoist and dry foods, some of these enzymes must be diverted to the stomach to aid in digestion. Ultimately, the dog’s vital organs lose out. Robbing various organs in the body of the enzymes that they themselves need to function correctly can have a detrimental effect on those organs. If a dog has a predisposition for problems in his heart, kidneys, or liver, such enzyme loss can hasten that disease and reduce the dog’s life span.
Option 1: The easy way out
Option 2: Beefed-up commercial food
11⁄2 cups Performance Food
1⁄4 teaspoon of vitamin C
1 vitamin B-complex
1⁄8 teaspoon of vitamin/mineral mix (Wellness from PHD)
1⁄4 cup of beef (hamburger, 80 percent), or 2⁄3 meat and 1⁄3 beef liver for a total of 1⁄4 cup. You can also use chicken and chicken livers.
2 tablespoons fresh vegetables
2 tablespoons fresh or dried fruit
Making major changes in Buddy’s diet without keeping track of how these changes affect him isn’t a wise idea. We recommend that you have a blood test done before making a dietary change and again six months later.
Option 3: Natural Diet Foundation formula
Option 4: Wendy Volhard’s Natural Diet recipe
Making your own dog food is becoming a popular option, although it’s hardly a new one. Every dog alive today can trace its ancestry back to dogs that were raised on homemade diets. The dog food industry, in comparison to dogs themselves, is young — maybe 50 to 60 years — although canned meat for dogs was sold at the turn of the 20th century. Originally, the commercial foods were made to supplement homemade food.
Why make your own?
Benefits of the Natural Diet
– The diet increases health and longevity. Diabetes, skin, ear, and eye problems are rare, and so is hip dysplasia and bloat. Teeth rarely, if ever, have to be cleaned. Fleas, ticks, and worms are almost unheard of on the Natural Diet. Overall vitality and energy are unequaled.
– You can tailor the diet to individual needs. Doing so is beneficial for some breeds of dogs, especially imported dogs or relatives of imported dogs, who have difficulty in digesting corn contained in the majority of prepared commercial diets. You can also substitute individual ingredients as necessary. Dogs are able to digest and utilize the Natural Diet.
– The diet contains a lot of moisture in the natural ingredients. As a result, the dog drinks little water.
– Young dogs raised on this diet grow more slowly than dogs raised on commercial food. They also have fewer musculoskeletal problems.
– Dogs love to eat it. A happy dog is a healthy dog.
Transferring to the Natural Diet
Day 1: No food. At mealtime, feed 2 teaspoons of honey mixed with a cup of lukewarm water.
Day 2: In the morning, give honey and water as in Day 1. In the evening, give 1 cup of yogurt or kefir and 2 teaspoons of honey.
Day 3: In the morning, give 1 cup of yogurt or kefir and 2 teaspoons of honey. In the evening, give 1 cup of yogurt or kefir, 2 teaspoons of honey, and 1 teaspoon of dry or 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs.
In the fall and winter, rotate the following herbs: Parsley, nettles, corn silk, burdock root, ginger root, golden rod, watercress, rosemary, sage, dandelion root, and alfalfa.
In the spring and summer rotate dandelion leaves and flowers, borage, peppermint leaves, sorrel, goldenrod leaves, rosemary, watercress, comfrey leaves, alfalfa, and milk thistle.
Day 4: In the morning, give 2 cups of yogurt or kefir, 2 teaspoons of honey, 1 tablespoon dry or 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs, and 1⁄2 ounce (dry weight) of cooked oatmeal. In the evening, give 1 cup of yogurt or kefir, 2 teaspoons of honey, 1 tablespoon dry or 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs, 2 ounces of (dry weight) cooked oatmeal, and 1 garlic capsule.
Day 5: In the morning, give 1⁄2 normal ration of cereal and supplements as listed in the Natural Diet chart shown in Table 18-1. In the evening, give 1⁄2 normal ration of meat meal as listed in Table 18-1.
Day 6: In the morning, give the normal amount of food as listed for Days 1 through 6 in Table 18-1. In the evening, give the normal amount of food as listed on Days 1 through 6 in Table 18-1.
Now your dog is ready to follow the full Natural Diet listed in Table 18-1.
Table 18-1 Natural Diet — 50-Pound Dog
Breakfast (Days 1–6)
Dinner (Days 1–6)
3 oz. grain mix (dry)
12 oz. meat (days 1–5)
2 teaspoons of molasses
21⁄2 oz. liver (days 1–5)
2 teaspoons of safflower oil
14 oz. cottage cheese (day 6)
200 IU vitamin E
200 mg vitamin C
200 mg vitamin C
1 teaspoon of cod liver oil
50 mg vitamin B complex
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
11⁄4 egg, small (4 times per week)
1⁄2 teaspoon of kelp
1⁄2 cup of yogurt or kefir
1 teaspoon brewer’s yeast
11⁄2 garlic capsule (325 mg)
21⁄2 bone meal
2 tablespoons of wheat germ
3 tablespoons of wheat bran
2 teaspoons of dry herbs
2 tablespoons of fruit (alternate days)
Breakfast (Day 7)
Dinner (Day 7)
2 1⁄3 oz. grain mix (dry)
200 mg vitamin C
50 mg vitamin B complex
1 cup of yogurt or kefir
4 teaspoons of honey
Give your dog a bone
What about table scraps?
There is nothing wrong with adding table scraps to Buddy’s food, provided they don’t exceed 10 to 15 percent of his total diet. Many dogs love leftover salad, meat scraps, and veggies. In fact, for the picky eater, table scraps are often the best way to get him to eat his rations.
You do need to avoid certain foods, particularly those with a high sugar count, such as chocolate and highly salted foods.
Feeding too many bones, however, can give him constipation and hard, chalky stools. Be careful, too, to give your dog only large bones that can’t splinter.
When you give your dog a bone, leave him alone. Dogs get possessive about their bones. Bones are one of the few items that may cause Buddy to growl at you if you try to take one away from him. It’s a very special treat, and he wants to be in a place to relax and enjoy it. Let him go to his crate, which is the perfect place for him to enjoy his bone in peace. Letting him go there gets him away from other dogs or cats in the family, the children, and you. Give him a few hours just to indulge himself. Let him be a dog. After a few days of chewing a fresh bone, it loses its magic, and most dogs will allow the kids, other dogs, or you to pick it up or handle it.
by Jack and Wendy Volhard