Category Archives: Dog Food

Age-Appropriate Food for Pets: Why It’s Important

 

 

When it comes to choosing an appropriate diet for your pet, it is important to consider your pet’s age, body condition, medical problems and even breed. It is also important to be sure your pet’s food includes a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which indicates that the diet has either been tested via food trials or has been analyzed to meet nutritional guidelines.

Here, learn more about what to feed your pet throughout his or her life and find out why products labeled “all life stages” might not be the most appropriate option.

Feeding a Species and Life Stage-Appropriate Diet

One of the most important feeding fundamentals for pet parents to understand is that dogs and cats do not have the same nutritional requirements. Cats are considered strict carnivores while dogs are classified as omnivores. While it is not ideal, dogs can receive adequate nutrition on a feline diet, but cats must never be fed dog food. Although adult dogs and cats will intake sufficient nutrients if fed a growth formula (food specifically formulated for growing pets), puppies and kittens should not be fed adult diets while still developing. The greatest concern associated with adult dogs and cats consuming moderate amounts of a growth formula is the propensity to gain weight.

Pet parents with dogs and cats in various age ranges might be tempted to choose a single food labeled for “all life stages.” These diets are particularly appealing when it is difficult to separate pets and feed them individually. Feeding a diet deemed appropriate for “all life stages” may be fine for some households, however, for pets with specific nutrient requirements, or pets that gain weight on an “all life stage” diet, it is best to feed individual foods and keep pets separated during feeding times.

What to Feed a Puppy or Kitten

Because of their rapid growth rate, puppies and kittens possess calorie requirements that exceed those for adult or mature pets. For this reason, it is important to feed developing puppies and kittens diets labeled for growth. There is a general consensus amongst veterinarians which recommends feeding a puppy or kitten formulation until the pet has achieved 90 percent of its adult size. Generally, cats’ stature maturity is reached at 10 months, small and medium dogs at 12 months, and large-breed dogs are usually fully-grown by 18 months.

When it comes to large-breed dogs such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers and Great Danes, nutritional recommendations are different than those for their smaller counterparts. Because large-breed puppies have a genetic propensity for rapid growth, they are prone to skeletal abnormalities. Feeding a diet that is labeled for large-breed puppies is recommended. These diets are formulated to regulate the calories and calcium intake needed to minimize the risk of developmental problems such as hip dysplasia and osteochondrosis, a condition in which there is disruption in the normal maturation of cartilage to bone. The failure to feed a diet formulated for the specific needs of large-breed puppies can result in pain secondary to arthritis and the possible need for corrective surgery.

Feeding an Adult Pet

The majority of commercially-available pet foods are appropriate for young adult dogs and cats. Dogs in the “young adult” category fall in the age range of one to between five and seven years depending on their breed. Cats in this group range from 10 to 12 months to between six and seven years. Young adult pets are typically neutered, which has been shown to slow their metabolism.

Obesity affects more than 50 percent of dogs and cats in the U.S. It is therefore important for your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s weight and body condition and to make diet recommendations and adjustments accordingly. If your young adult pet has an underlying medical problem such as bladder stones, arthritis, allergies or kidney disease, your veterinarian will suggest a specifically-formulated diet to help with these issues.

As pets mature, their dietary needs can change based upon their activity level, overall health and body condition. Mature adult dogs, depending on their breed, fall into the age range of between six and eight years and older. Cats between seven and eight years of age or older are considered mature.

When pets reach this age, many pet parents become interested in feeding diets labeled as “senior.” Since there is no standard for such a label designation, these diets possess caloric and nutrient variability. For example, some companies increase the protein content, while others lower the percentage of protein in their “senior” formulations. Due to the fact that all pets age at different rates and develop individual health issues, consult your primary veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist before switching your pet to a “senior” diet.

Mature pets can fall at either end of the weight spectrum. Some dogs and cats, as they become less active, are predisposed to weight gain. A weight reduction diet, moderate exercise and limited treats can help to restore your pet’s ideal body condition. On the other hand, some dogs and cats become underweight as they age. Studies suggest that as pets enter their senior years, they are not able to digest protein and fat as readily as they did when younger. As pets age, they are also at risk for weight loss secondary to dental disease and diminished senses of taste and smell. If no underlying condition has been diagnosed to account for weight loss such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism in cats, or cancer, discuss a diet change with your veterinarian.

Pet Feeding Tips to Follow

Some ideas for feeding pets individually include:

  • Feed smaller meals two to three times per day rather than free feeding by providing entire day’s portion at one time.
  • Place pets in separate rooms at feeding time, giving them 15 to 20 minutes to finish a meal.
  • If one cat is young and spry and the other is overweight and unable to jump high, feed the cats on different levels. This will enable the younger cat to eat at an elevation while the less mobile cat consumes its food on ground level.
  • If you cannot separate dogs and cats in segregated rooms, disperse food bowls to different ends of the room in which feeding occurs and supervise closely.

Providing an appropriate diet based upon your dog or cat’s age, body condition and medical problems will help to ensure a happy and healthy life.                    By Mindy Cohan, VMD

 

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in Your Home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Dog Nutritional Requirements

Good dog  nutrition is no accident. It takes time and patience to learn what your dog needs to stay healthy, happy and active. It also takes dedication and perseverance to make sure your dog eats what he should, rather than what he wants: dog nutritional requirements.

To make your job a little easier, here are some tips to ensure your pet gets all of his nutritional needs met.

1. Why is good dog nutrition important?

It’s vital that your dog eats a complete and balanced diet. He needs fresh water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. The most important nutrient is water, which makes up 60 percent of a dog’s weight. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are necessary for energy; minerals are important for nerve conduction, muscle contraction, among other things; and vitamins are important to help your dog process biochemicals.

2. How often should I feed my dog?

Puppies under 3 months of age should be fed at least four times a day. Puppies between 3 and 5 months of age should be given three meals a day. Adult dogs can be fed once or twice a day. Dogs like routine, so establish a feeding schedule and stick to it. A good time to feed him is during the family meals. This will occupy him while the rest of the family is eating.

3. How much should I feed my dog?

The amount your og needs to eat depends on many factors, including: life stage (puppy, adult, pregnant or lactating), lifestyle (active versus the “coach potato”), size and general condition. Select a high quality food, weigh your dog (don’t try to guess) and then read the feeding guidelines provided on the package. Remember, though, that every dog is unique, so you might have to adjust his feeding accordingly. Click here to learn more about Feeding Your Adult Dog.

4. Is it okay to give my dog bones to chew on?

You should only give “bones” that have been designed for dogs to chew on. Bones, especially chicken bones, can splinter and become lodged in a dog’s mouth. If swallowed, they can cause constipation, or even bloody diarrhea (the result of fragments scraping the colon). Round bones can get stuck around the lower jaw and if swallowed, can get stuck in the esophagus.

5. When should I change from puppy to adult food?

Puppy food is different from adult food. It is designed for a rapidly growing pup. In his first year, your puppy will grow very quickly. You can begin to switch to an adult diet when he reaches 80 to 90 percent of his anticipated adult weight. For most dogs, this occurs around 9 months of age. Giant breeds, such as Great Danes, have special needs. They require a more specialized diet until they are 12 to 18 months of age. Learn more about how to adjust to your dog’s nutritional requirements by reading the article When to Change from Puppy Food to Adult Food.

6. How do I change my pet’s diet?

Don’t change his diet all at once. Do it gradually over three days. Begin changing his diet by feeding 1/4 adult food and 3/4 puppy food for a few days. Then add 1/2 adult food and 1/2 puppy food. After a few more days, feed 3/4 adult food and 1/4 puppy food. Then, you can feed straight adult food.

7. Can my dog be a vegetarian?

Believe it or not, yes, your dog can be a vegetarian, as long as his meals are well balanced with protein from other sources. There are a number of commercially available vegetarian foods, but you should first discuss his diet with your veterinarian.

8. Are rawhides bad for my dog?

Many people give rawhides to their pet as a toy and to help their teeth. It is theorized that dogs like rawhides, due to their natural instincts as wild dogs. But pets with a history of vomiting, special dietary needs, diarrhea or allergies may have a bad reaction to rawhide. Talk with your veterinarian about whether to give your dog rawhide or not. For more information, see Rawhide, Cowhide: Are They Good or Bad for Your Pet?

9. Can my dog eat cat food?

Your dog may survive on cat food, but he won’t thrive. Dogs and cats are different species, with their own nutritional requirements. Although a dog will get the necessary nutrients, he will be ingesting excess protein and fats that a cat requires to stay healthy. Over time, this can lead to obesity and other health problems.

10. What is in dog food anyway?

Dog food contains a variety of agricultural ingredients, such as meat, poultry, seafood and feed grain byproducts. (Byproducts are parts of an animal or plant not used for human consumption. They still must meet federal standards for safety and nutrition.) Vitamins and minerals are added to complete nutritional needs. Preservatives are added to keep dog food fresh during shipping and while on the shelf, and color is added to make the food look more attractive. The coloring and preservatives are the same used in food for people and have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition, the Association of American Feed Control Officials publishes regulations for nutritional adequacy of “complete and balanced” pet food. Your pet’s food should conform to minimal AAFCO standards. Read the label.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in Your Home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Adult Dog Food

Your dog knows that what’s on your plate is infinitely better than what he’s eating at the moment – and you may be tempted to prove it by giving him some. Before you do, remember that good nutrition and a balanced diet are essential elements for good health in a dog. And that means watching your canine’s caloric intake carefully.

Your dog needs plenty of fresh water and should be fed good quality food in amounts just right to meet his energy requirements. Inadequate or excess intake of nutrients can be equally harmful.

Most dry dog foods are soybean, corn or rice based. Some of the better brands have meat or fish meal as the first listed ingredient. Although higher priced, they are worth looking into. Dogs eat less of the higher quality products, thus reducing the cost. Dry dog foods also have greater “caloric density” which means simply, there is less water in a cup of food as compared to a canned food diet. This is not a big issue for our smaller canine friends, but large dogs may have difficulty eating enough volume of canned food to fulfill their caloric needs (because they also get a lot of water in that food). Overall, the choice of “dry” vs. “canned” vs. “semi-moist” is an individual one, but larger dogs (such as those greater than 30 pounds) should be fed a dry or semi-moist food in most circumstances

Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are necessary for energy. Dietary requirements for dogs can vary according to activity and stress levels and medical history. Dogs expend energy in many different ways. For example, outdoor dogs are likely to experience increased levels of exercise and thus require a higher percentage of protein and fat for energy production than a dog who stays indoors most of the time. Dogs in various life stages [includingpuppy (“growth”), adult and senior (“geriatric”)] require different amounts of nutrients. Special situations such as pregnancy and nursing puppies can dramatically affect nutritional needs. Working dogs need more calories, while the “couch potato” needs less (just like us!).

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an organization that publishes regulations for nutritional adequacy of “complete and balanced” dog and cat foods. Your pet’s food should conform to minimal AAFCO standards. Diets that fulfill the AAFCO regulations will state on the label: “formulated to meet the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile for…(a given life stage).

Recommendations

  • AAFCO Standards: All foods should conform to AAFCO standards (check the label). This indicates the manufacturer is following the national consensus recommendations for dog foods.
  • Food Type: The choice of canned, semi-moist or dry food is an individual one, but if your dog is more than 30 pounds, dry food is preferred as the base diet for its greater caloric density (more calories per volume of food). There are a number of excellent dog food manufacturers.
  • Water: Always provide plenty of fresh water.

    Consider Your Dog’s Age

  • For puppies (less than 8 to 9 months and less than 30 pounds): Feed your puppy a consistent canned, semi-moist or dry dog food designed for puppies. If your dog weighs more than 30 pounds, dry food is preferred for greater caloric density.
  • For adult dogs (8 to 9 months to 6 years): Feed your dog a consistent canned, semi-moist or dry dog food designed for an “adult” dog.
  • For senior dogs (over 7 years): Feed your dog a consistent canned, semi-moist, or dry dog food designed for a “senior” dog.

    Consider Your Dog’s Body Weight

  • Underweight dogs: Feed your dog 1 1/2 times the “usual” amount of food and make an appointment to see your veterinarian about your dog’s body condition. Consider switching to a food with higher protein and fat content.
  • Lean dogs: Many healthy dogs are a bit thin, especially active young male dogs. Consider increasing total daily food or caloric intake by 25 percent. Weigh your dog every week if possible to chart progress.
  • Chubby dogs: If your dog is a bit overweight, try increasing the daily exercise routine. Gradually increase exercise over 2 weeks unless limited by a medical condition. If these measures fail, cut out all treats and reduce daily intake of food by up to 25 percent.
  • Fat or obese dogs: Stop all treats except vegetables. Increase exercise gradually over 2 to 3 weeks if not limited by a medical condition. If these measures fail, reduce the total daily food amount by 25 to 40 percent, switch to a low fat/high fiber diet, and call your veterinarian to discuss your plans. Inquire about prescription-type reduction diets that can really be effective while providing balanced nutrition.

    Medical Problems

    Always consult your veterinarian first regarding any specific foods or dietary adjustments required for a dog with heart, kidney, intestinal or liver disease, or for a dog with cancer. Special dietary measures may also be important for dogs with allergies, certain metabolic diseases, or other medical conditions.

    Preferred Food

    There are a number of prominent manufacturers of high quality dog foods, including Iams® (Eukanuba®), Hill’s® (Science Diets®), Nature’s Recipe® products, Nutra Max®, Purina® and Waltham®, among others. Follow the label recommendations, but use your own judgment in determining how much to feed.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

How Dog Food Can Make You Sick

Recently the American Veterinary Medical Association issued a policy statement discouraging pet owners from feeding raw diets. The American Animal Hospital Association followed with a similar policy statement. Owners of dogs fed raw diets are now excluded from many groups that offer therapy dog visitations to nursing homes and hospitals. And certainly, studies have shown that raw diets do pose a greater risk for bacterial contamination to family members than other pet food sources. This, however, does not imply that commercial dog food is risk free.

Just published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association is an epidemiology study of a Salmonella outbreak in humans exposed to dry, commercial dog food.

The Salmonella Outbreak Case

During routine surveillance of retail dog food, Michigan Department of Agriculture inspectors identified a particular strain of Salmonella in an unopened bag of dog food. The food was traced back to a pet food manufacturing plant in South Carolina that made foods for over 30 brands of pet food. As the 2012 investigation progressed, it was found that 16 brands of dry dog and cat food had been contaminated. The food was shipped to 21 states in the U.S., and to two Canadian provinces.

Fifty-three people were made ill in these locations were infected with the exact strain of Salmonella found in the original bag of dog food. All of the patients had fed their pets the contaminated food. The identical strain of Salmonella was also isolated from the feces (poop) of the dogs belonging to the patients.

Thirty-one cases of illness in dogs were also linked to the dog food during the same period. No illnesses were reported for cats. Fortunately, there were no fatalities, human or animal, associated with the outbreak.

The source of the contamination at the plant was never identified. Samplings of the plant equipment and ingredients were all negative for the bacteria. Oddly, the workers at the plant “were not considered a likely source of contamination” and were not tested.

This case is not unique. Three other studies have documented humanSalmonella outbreaks prior to 2012 which were associated with dry pet food ortreats.

How Is Salmonella Transmitted?

Infection with Salmonella requires ingestion of the bacteria. The routes of infection for those in this study were not identified. Because 38 percent of the victims were children 2 years or younger, infection may have come from direct eating of the food or inadequate washing of the hands after handling the food or food bowls, or from contact with feces from the dogs. Since most dogs are fed in the kitchen, cross contamination to humans could occur when food bowls are washed with human dishes.

A big concern with Salmonella is that dogs can host the bacteria and be disease free. Their saliva and feces can serve as direct sources of contamination. Flies feasting on feces in the yard can contaminate surfaces and food with the bacteria.

How to Avoid Salmonella Contamination?

No one should fear their pet’s food, dry or raw. We just can’t be complacent about how we handle food. Hand sanitation is extremely important. Food utensil sanitation is important. This is too often forgotten, even in the preparation of our own food. Feces in the yard should be disposed of daily in fly resistant containers. Bacteria have been on this planet far longer than us in their original form and they aren’t going away. Common sense can reduce the risk of human outbreaks from bacteria in pet food.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

What is Organic Pet Food?

Is organic pet food the right choice for you and your pet? Can you easily switch your pet to an organic diet if they’ve never had it before? Read on and make an educated decision based on your situation.

What is organic pet food?

Organic pet food prohibits the use of most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, sewage sludge fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones, irradiation, antibiotics, and artificial ingredients. Organic pet food is closely regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP).

Organic Pet Food Labels

The key to knowing the percentage of organic ingredients used in a pet food product is by paying close attention to the label. You may have noticed the term “100% organic” on several pet food labels and wondered if this was a guarantee that the product did not contain artificial ingredients or any other unwanted ingredients. The answer is “yes!” Labels that use the phrase “100% organic” ensure that all the ingredients in the product are certified organic and regulated closely by the USDA. If you see the word “organic” this implies that the product contains at least 95% of organic ingredients, or is made with an organic specific ingredient list. However, there are ingredients that are not organic present. The term “made with organic” simply means that the product contains at least 70% organic ingredients, but a percentage of the ingredients are not organic.

Transitioning to an Organic Food Diet

The best way to switch your pet’s diet to organic is by slowly introducing them to the new organic food. A pet owner can do this by mixing the new food into the food they are currently being fed. It’s recommended to gradually increase the amount of new pet food each day while you decrease the amount of old food. This process generally takes about 7-10 days until the new diet is fully put in place. Remember to consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s diet.

How do I know how much organic food I should feed my pet?

Feeding guidelines are printed on the back of the pet food label. Food amounts depend on the specific needs and preferences of your pet. Your pet’s age, lifestyle, and activity level play a large part in the amount of food they should be fed.

Temple, Courtney