Category Archives: Nutrition

Dog Supplements: Should You Feed Your Dog These?

As a general rule, before supplementing your dog’s diet, you should discuss with your veterinarian the available evidence or recommendations supporting the use of nutriceuticals and dietary supplements. Be certain to avoid high levels of supplementation of any single nutrient unless you’re certain that it’s safe and won’t interfere with any other medications your pet may be taking.


Supplements fall into two general and very large categories: vitamin and mineral supplements and nutriceuticals. Nutriceuticals are nutrient supplements given to obtain a pharmacologic (drug-like) effect or to prevent a specific disease. The overall benefit of vitamin and mineral supplements is hotly debated. According to most feeding studies of healthy dogs, dogs that eat an appropriate balanced diet do not need supplements. Nevertheless, many of us take dietary supplements ourselves and wish to provide our pets with the same potential benefits.

Of course, dietary supplements can also be dangerous. Excessive supplementation with calcium salts, for example, can lead to significant bone diseases in growing dogs. Vitamin D supplementation can lead to harmful elevations of the blood calcium and damage to the kidneys. Nutriceuticals fall into a different category since they are used to either prevent or treat specific diseases. Examples include: taurine (an amino acid essential to cats) and Cosequin (a protein complex of possible benefit in joint health). There are others, such as L-carnitine (sometimes used for heart conditions), rutin (used for a serious condition called chylothorax) and co-enzyme Q10. Be aware that the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements in the same way that drugs are regulated and controlled. The proof of effectiveness and safety demanded for pharmaceuticals is not required for nutriceuticals or vitamins.


As a general rule, before supplementing your dog’s diet, you should discuss with your veterinarian the available evidence supporting the use of nutriceuticals and dietary supplements. Be certain to avoid high levels of supplementation of any single nutrient unless you’re certain that it is safe and will not interfere with any other medications your pet may take.

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.
310 919 9372

Dog Nutrition

 Commonly Asked Questions About Dog Nutrition

Good 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.

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 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.

11. Why can’t I feed my dog table scraps?

Most table scraps are too fatty for your dog’s digestive system. They can cause vomiting, diarrhea or, over a period of time, obesity and other health conditions. Furthermore, chicken bones, or bones from rabbit or fish can splinter and become lodged in his esophagus or digestive system. For more information, see Why Table Scraps Are Bad for Pets.

12. Isn’t my pet bored eating the same food?

Probably not. Your dog has fewer taste buds than you do, so he doesn’t have the range of tastes that a person does. A dog’s greatest sense of taste is sugar, which is why many dogs have a “sweet tooth.” He is attracted to a combination of taste and odor.

13. What tests are done to make sure the food is safe for my pet?

Pet food companies use standardized animal feeding trials designed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Animals are fed and monitored for 6 months to ensure that the food provides the right balance of nutrients. A product using this test will have language similar to the following on the label –”Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Shep’s Food for Dogs provides complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages.”

14. Which pet food company or brand is the best?

That’s a hard question to answer. In general, there are a number of prominent manufacturers of high quality food. They include Iams (Eukanuba), Hill’s (Science Diets), Nature’s Recipe products, Nutra Max, Purina and Waltham. The key is to know the protein and fat levels, moisture content, fillers, added vitamins and types of ingredients your particular dog requires. Your dog’s age, medical condition and other factors (whether she is pregnant, for instance) also need to be taken into account. Work with your veterinarian to decide what pet food is best for your dog.

15. Should I buy expensive name-brand food over store-brand or generic?

In general, the pricier name brands are better, and they usually cannot be purchased in a supermarket. To buy them, you need to go to a pet store. Supermarkets stock what sells the most rather than the healthiest pet food. It’s up to the dog owner to know what brands are the best.

16. Canned or dry, does it matter?

Dry dog food has greater “caloric density” than canned food. Simply put, there is less water in a cup of dry food as compared to a canned diet. Bigger dogs (over 30 pounds) should be fed semi-moist or dry food. They can consume less while getting enough nutrients, and it is more cost effective for you. For very large dogs, feeding only canned food is not recommended since it will be difficult for him to eat enough canned food each day to meet his requirements. There are other differences between canned and dry, which you can learn inFeeding Your Adult Dog.

17. Does my dog need vitamins and supplements?

According to most feeding studies of healthy dogs, dogs that eat an appropriate balanced diet do not need supplements. If you feel your dog needs supplements, talk to your veterinarian first. Feeding too many supplements to your dog can be dangerous.

18. What are prescription diets, and why would my pet need them?

Prescription diets are specially formulated diets to help in the treatment and care of pets with certain ailments or diseases (such as allergies, heart disease or diabetes). Some of these diets are only intended as a temporary change in food and others are recommended for the duration of the pet’s life. These diets should only be given under the instructions of your veterinarian.

19. What is the best way to store dog food?

Dog food should be stored in a cool, dry place, preferably off the ground. It is helpful to pour dry dog food from the bag into a large, clean, plastic container with an airtight lid. Canned dog food can be kept in a cupboard with other canned foods.

20. I have a fat and skinny dog. How should I feed them?

The larger dog may be eating his own food and that of his skinny comrade. Feed them in separate rooms to allow the smaller dog time to eat his meal.

21. What healthy treats can I give my pet?

Vegetables make good treats for dogs. They are healthy and he can digest them. There are healthy doggie treats available in pet food stores as well. Talk to your veterinarian to find out what treats are best for your dog.

22. Should my dog eat raw meat?

This is a controversial topic. Some people claim that dogs need raw meat because they are natural hunters and have survived on mice, birds, etc. for thousands of years. Others worry about the bacteria and parasites present in raw meat. A little raw meat is probably all right, as long as it is not the primary part of the diet. It should be high quality beef, chicken or turkey. It might be best to avoid raw pork.

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.
310 919 9372

Basic Dog Nutrition

Help ensure a long, healthy life with appropriate diets.

Good nutrition is important to keep the human body healthy, and the same goes for dogs. Without a good diet, your dog is prone to a number of health issues, some of which can be serious.
The key to choosing the right dog food is to educate yourself first on what your dog needs. Start by looking at his age. The dietary requirements of a puppy are different from those of a senior dog.You know you need to give your dog a quality food, but how do you choose from the many brands and types available at pet supply stores? The sheer volume of options can be daunting.
Young puppies need more protein than full-grown dogs, so you should start your young dog off with a food made especially for puppies. When your dog reaches 6 months of age, you can start switching him to a diet for adult dogs. Senior dogs need less calories than they did when they were young, so a senior diet might be in order for your older dog.
When it comes to choosing the brand, you should feed your dog the best food you can afford. That means spending money on a premium brand if you can. The highest quality brands are sold in pet supply stores, and list a meat protein source—such as beef, chicken or lamb—as the first ingredient on the label. Dogs are meat eaters and do best on a diet that is meat-based.
Some dog owners take the meat-based concept even further by feeding their dogs grain-free dog food. These foods list a meat source as the first ingredient and contain vegetables, but no cereal grains (vegetables take the place of grains as a binding agent). For dog owners concerned about food allergies in their dogs, a unique protein diet can be a particularly good choice.
Several years ago, several dog food companies purchased many of their main ingredients from China. Though this can reduce the price of the food, many pet owners are not comfortable with these brands. Particularly after the 2007 pet food recall, where thousands of pets died from renal failure after consuming pet food contaminated with toxic wheat gluten that originated in China. The solution for many dog owners has been to stick with diets that are strictly U.S.-sourced and made, although foods from Canada, New Zealand and Europe are increasingly in popularity.
Once you choose a brand that fits both your criteria and your wallet, the next decision is dry vs. wet. Dry food is less expensive than wet and more convenient. Most dogs prefer wet food, however, and wet can be the best choice for picky eaters. Some dog owners opt to give a combination of dry and wet to help save money while also making meals more enjoyable for their dogs.
Before you choose a dog food for your canine companion, it’s always a good idea to discuss your options with your dog’s veterinarian. Your vet can help you pick the best diet to suit your dog’s individual needs.

About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines.

Gas in Dogs: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Oh, that smell! If you’ve ever lived with a Bulldog or Boxer you’ll know what I’m talking about, but you don’t have to belong to the snub-nosed breed crowd to have experienced the worst kind of room-clearing flatulence. This is especially true if your pet happens to suffer from certain chronic gastrointestinal disorders.

I don’t recall this topic getting treated in much depth back in vet school despite its prevalence. The flashier subjects of diarrhea and vomiting always overshadowed “intestinal gas” in the category of GI ailments.

And while that’s understandable (both diarrhea and vomiting are arguably more dramatic events) flatulence needn’t be ignored. It too deserves to be treated with respect. After all, pets who suffer from it aren’t just distressing you with their stench; their alimentary tracts are telling us something about how they’re processing the foods we feed them.

Is Gas in Dogs Normal?

Make no mistake: Flatulence is perfectly normal and physiologically appropriate in almost all cases. That’s the “good” part the title refers to. After all, every mammal lives in symbiotic harmony with the bacteria in its digestive system. These are the gut’s co-digesters, which release gas during their normal course of their nutrient processing duties.

But even when it’s normal, flatulence is rarely a welcome punctuation to our pets’ post-prandial slumber. Indeed, it’s no more comfortable to them than what happens to us humans after a bowl of 3-alarm chili or a plate overflowing with beans and rice. To be sure, flatulence is normal, but when it’s excessive it’s time for taking action.

Unfortunately Beano isn’t on the menu. My internal medicine colleagues described the use of this over-the-counter remedy for humans as “probably non-toxic but likely not helpful.” Sure, that’s not scientifically tested, but it’s not a ringing endorsement either.

So what does help?

What Causes “Gas” or Flatulence in Dogs?

Not so fast … Before all else, a diagnosis is probably in order. Why exactly is there so much nasty gas coming out the business end of nature’s most efficient composter? Here’s a short list of possibilities:

Is there too much gas going in?

  • Gulping food down causes excess ingestion of air
  • Chewing certain toys or rawhide-style chews may cause inappropriate ingestion of air
  • Certain respiratory ailments can lead to excess gas ingestionHow about too much gas production inside the digestive tract?
  • Dietary intolerances
  • True food allergies (though uncommon, it’s always a possibility)
  • Bacterial overgrowths secondary to dietary indiscretion (aka “garbage gut”)
  • Chronic bowel diseases (as diverse as parasitism and cancers)
  • Pancreatic disorders (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in particular)To determine the cause of the gas, methods such as stool checks, bloodwork, X-rays, and ultrasound are the standard. But sometimes endoscopy (including colonoscopy), abdominal exploratory surgery, and even CT scans are required to get to the bottom of it. Yes, even flatulence disorders can be hard to diagnose.  Most of us stop short of more invasive methods when it comes to something as seemingly innocuous as gas. Nonetheless, severe or worsening conditions often warrant more aggressive diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause.  What Can You do to Treat “Gas” or Flatulence in Your Dog?  For most common gas issues, however, I like to try the simple tricks they never taught us in vet school. Here’s a list of methods that are worth a try, best employed after your vet’s done her basic workup and can’t find an obvious source of the dilemma:#1 A Change of DietIs some ingredient giving your dog gas? Just like people, pets can be intolerant of proteins and/or carbohydrates. Simply picking out a new diet has worked for many pets, but beware: always make diet changes slowly by carefully and gradually mixing in the new food with the old for a week.For pets with possible food allergies or severe dietary intolerances, a diet containing novel proteins and carbohydrates (or a hydrolyzed protein) is often recommended. Switching to a therapeutic diet recommended by your veterinarian might make all the difference.#2 Feed Your Dog Smaller or Moister MealsSome pets are simply pigs, gulping mouthfuls of air along with their food. Slowing the process down helps and frequent smaller feedings is one way to accomplish this. And don’t forget to check out the chewing action. If your pet is gulping as she goes you’ll want to make some changes. Wetting the food might help here, too.#3 Probiotics for DogsSome pets respond to the simple addition of yogurt (preferably laced with extra acidophilus cultures) but some commercial pet probiotics have been formulated specifically to provide the kinds of “good” bacteria that live in the digestive systems of cats and dogs.
    #4 Charcoal for DogsApparently, some gastrointestinally-focused internal medicine specialists will recommend charcoal tablets to speed nasty bacteria through the GI tract. I’ve never tried it but, considering how safe charcoal is, it might be worth a shot for those of you at your wits’ end.#5 Simethicone for DogsSimethicone is the active ingredient in Gas-Ex, a super-safe human product we veterinarians occasionally prescribe. Despite its safety, though, you should always check with your vet since it may not be his or her first choice.

    In fact, everything I’ve just offered in the post above should serve as a basis for questions to ask your veterinarian and should not be taken as gospel. Until you get their approval you’ll just have to resort to exiting the room the next time your pet “bombs it.”
    So what are you waiting for? Go ask your veterinarian for help dispensing with olfactory discomfort once and for all.
    I hope this article gives you some tips for dealing with your dogs flatulence.                  Patty Kuhly, 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.
    310 919 9372