Principles of Dog Nutrition


Here are a few notes relative to "table scraps" or "people food":


Dogs do not get worms from drinking milk! Loose stool is fairly common, though, due to the dog's inability to break down lactose which is milk sugar.


Dogs do not get worms from eating candy. Chocolate, because it contains a caffeine-like chemical called theobromine, in large amounts can cause heart problems and other potentially dangerous effects.


Garlic is not an effective de-worming substance; there are much more effective wormers available. Scientific studies have recently proven that neither yeast nor garlic will repel fleas.


Spaying (ovariohysterectomy) female and (neutering) (castrating) male dogs does not cause them to "get fat". In healthy dogs that are overweight the only reason they are overweight is that they are consuming more calories than they are burning up. Simply put ... somebody's feeding the dog too much!


"Hard bones are okay to feed, but never soft ones like chicken or turkey bones." FORGET IT! NO bones of any kind, ever, if you want to avoid the chance ofobstructive digestive tract disorders.


Dogs manufacture their own vitamin C internally so it is not required in the diet. You can safely give dogs vitamin C, but please don't believe all the stories about it curing hip dysplasia, arthritis, cancer, fleas, mange, cataracts, diabetes, allergies, etc. Dogs under stress of intense exercise, disease or aging may benefit from some supplementation.


Vitamin/mineral supplements for 99.9% of dogs are not required if the dog is on a high quality diet.In fact, providing extra calcium to large dogs on a proper diet will do harm. It is incorrect to give extra calcium just because "it's growing up so fast."


Dogs frequently develop allergies to corn, wheat, soy and other foods. Allergies are manifested usually by dry, itchy skin; reddened, swollen ears; itchy face and chin; compulsive licking of the paws. (Caution! These signs also are present when a dog has sarcoptic mites, so these parasites must be considered in any dog that seems to have a food allergy.) Vomiting and or diarrhea, meanwhile, may result if the dog develops food intolerances. Food allergies and intolerances can be a challenge for the veterinarian to properly diagnose.


Dietary deficiencies may take months to develop. I've seen dogs eating poor diets where it took 6 months before deficiencies became evident. Start feeding a high quality diet and you will see improvement in three weeks.


Many types of dermatological problems are avoided if the dog or cat is consuming an optimum diet. In some cases, adding a supplement such as an omega fatty acid  is the key factor in avoiding repeated episodes of hot spots and other skin afflictions. If your dog or cat seems to lack good coat and skin health, consider upgrading the diet to a meat-based ingredient formula and adding a dietary supplement.


How Much To Feed


Every bag of dog food will give a suggested amount to feed relative to your dog's weight or breed. I'll give you a helpful hint... don't even bother to look at these suggestions. They'll only confuse you since they are imprecise and vague.


Keep in mind that every dog is unique (no wonder I can't find an "average" dog!) in it's metabolic rate (how fast it burns up calories) and nutritional requirements. Whether you feed "free choice" by keeping some food in the bowl all the time or "restricted" or "portion controlled" by feeding a certain amount once or twice a day, the very best way to judge if you are feeding the right amount is to look at the dog. If it appears too thin for its breed (remember, some breeds such as Setters and sight-hounds are normally "thin") then feed the dog more food. If the dog or puppy appears overweight, cut back on the amount fed.


Most dogs, probably 75%, if fed "free choice" will maintain optimum weight. The rest will become overweight and you, having complete control over what your dog consumes, will have to restrict the total amount of food intake to get that overweight dog back to a weight where it appears normal. To learn about weight loss, click here.


So the amount to feed varies with every dog. For example, you could have two dogs, each weighing 40 pounds, where one might require twice as much food as the other to maintain its weight at 40 pounds. So don't look at the food label to tell you how much to feed, look at the dog!


Future Concepts


Strange to say but I believe we dog lovers will be going back to the future in properly feeding our canine friends. Going back to Nature by feeding meat-based foods and including what we term "table scraps" in dogs' diets will surely be an improvement over some of the grain-based, cheap pet foods available today. Raw diets, frozen meat diets  and home made diets are here today and will be even more popular in the future because dog owners will see the excellent results these more natural diets achieve.


This is NOT to say that commercial canned and dry foods are not good for dogs and cats, either. I have personally examined 20 year old dogs and cats that we never fed table scraps but were fed only a brand name dry or canned food. There will always be a deserved place for commercial dry and canned pet foods; I just hope that the high quality ones are most utilized.


In Summary


Use common sense. Read the labels. If you do those two things, you will certainly avoid the cheap, plant-based dog foods with the fancy labels that try to make you think you're getting a good deal.


Remember ... your dog's health, more than any other single aspect, depends upon optimum nutrition.


Image: Amy / via Flickr