Principles of Dog Nutrition


What Is The Guaranteed Analysis?


This listing, required on dog food labels, is intended to instill confidence in the product's contents; however, it only gives you a percent approximation of what you are buying. It indicates maximum or minimum amounts of the substance in the food.


For example, if Crude Fiber is listed as "Not less than l0%", you have no idea how much over 10% is actually in the diet; or if Crude Fat "Not less than 15%" is listed, does the diet contain 16% or 36%? So the Guaranteed Analysis helps, but not much.


Should I Feed Canned or Dry ... or Both?


If dog owners had to choose one or the other, canned food or dry food, they should choose the dry. Canned food is generally 75% water, so 75% of your purchase price is going toward a non-nutritive ingredient that you can readily obtain from your own water faucet. Plus, there is an advantage to oral hygiene in the friction of the dry dog food, helping to keep the gums and teeth healthier than if the dog were eating only canned food.


The only time I recommend canned food is to someone who refuses to stop buying cheap dry food; the addition of canned food to a cheap dry food will generally improve the total diet. And just like the dry food, canned food has an ingredient list you can read to help guide your purchase decision. A dog being fed a high quality dry food does not require any canned food.


Semi-Moist Foods


I never recommend semi-moist foods. You know the ones ... they're wrapped in cellophane and look like meat and have names that give the impression they're meaty. I often wonder why the manufacturers, if they want to associate these foods with meat, don't put any meat in them! They do put lots of food coloring, soybean meal, sucrose and preservatives like propylene glycol in them, though! Forget about the semi-moist dog foods.


Table Scraps


Many of my clients, when I query them about what they feed their dog, will proudly offer this statement, "... but we never feed table scraps!" And I respond, "Why not?" Dogs can be fed many foods that people eat, but there are exceptions -- such as the fact that some dogs are lactose intolerant, grapes on occasion can cause (kidney damage,) and overfeeding certain foods can create nutritional imbalances.


You, at home, could feed your dog a perfectly fine diet if you knew the right amounts of meats, vegetables, fruit, etc. to feed and in the proper ratios. But why bother when there are good diets already prepared for you by companies employing highly knowledgeable scientists with years of research backing them up?


Table scraps are perfectly acceptable to give to most dogs under certain conditions. And it is better to feed them to the dog than throw good food in the garbage. But you must remember that sudden changes in some dog's diet may promote diarrhea, vomiting and in the instance of providing too much fat all of a sudden, pancreatitis.


Most dogs eat more consistently, are less finicky, and are less likely to have digestive tract upsets if they are fed consistently every day. If you choose to feed table scraps, try to do it on a fairly consistent basis.


I am not a proponent of feeding bones to dogs. For one thing there is almost no food value in bones (although there is plenty of good nutrition in the attached muscle and fat). Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself to see just how little food value there is in bones.


I've actually had clients brag to me how their dog "Eats 'em right up." As dogs chew on them, animal bones are apt to splinter and if the dog swallows them, the dog may get into a situation requiring surgery to save its life. I have surgically removed bones and bone fragments from dog's anatomy ranging from bones caught between the upper molars in the mouth to razor-like fragments from a lacerated rectum. Many dogs have died as a direct result of eating bones; if you feed your dog any kind of animal bones, you're asking for trouble. Besides, there's very little nutritive value to bones, they are NOT quickly digested by stomach acids, and there are infinitely better ways to keep your dog's teeth clean!


For more info about this controversial topic, see some (actual cases) of bone obstruction here.