HOW TO CHOOSE A PET FOOD
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One of the most common questions we are asked is “What should I feed my pet?” Since the most important contribution you can make to your pet’s health and well being is his or her daily diet, it’s a question that deserves a good answer.
Think quality! Don’t switch foods!
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Diet is extremely important for growth. There are two important criteria that should be met in selecting food for your puppy. We recommend a NAME-BRAND FOOD made by a national dog food company (not a generic brand), and a form of food MADE FOR PUPPIES. We recommend that you only buy food that has been certified by an independent organization as complete and balanced. In the United States, you should look for food that has been certified by AAFCO, an independent organization that oversees the entire pet food industry. It does not endorse any particular food, but it will certify that the food has met the minimum requirements for nutrition. In Canada, look for foods approved by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).
Dog foods are available in dry, canned, and semi-moist formulations. Any of these formulations is acceptable, as long as the label states that the food is intended for growth (or is a puppy food), and is “complete and balanced”. This means that the food is nutritionally complete to meet the needs of growth and development. Foods stating they are they maybe fed for all stages of life are not appropriate for growth. For dogs that will be 50lb or more at their adult weight, you will need to choose a ‘large breed’ puppy or growth formula food. These diets are formulated to optimize nutrition for large breed dogs but minimize the deleterious effects rapid growth on musclo-skeletal growth. Growth formula or puppy food should be fed until your puppy is about twelve months of age; (eighteen months of age if large breed). Each of the types of food has advantages and disadvantages.
Dry food is definitely the most inexpensive and a convenient option. The good brands of dry food are just as nutritious as the other forms. It can be left in the dog’s bowl at all times. However, it is recommended to meal feed your puppy. Offer two to three meals per day. Place a measured amount of dry food in a bowl at the same time each day. Allow the puppy access to the food for up to 20 minutes, and then pick up the bowl. Puppies instinctively desire to eliminate after eating. Meal feeding is very helpful for housebreaking.
Semi-moist foods may be acceptable, depending on their quality. The texture may be more appealing to some dogs, and they often have a stronger odor and flavor. However, semi-moist foods are usually high in sugar, and if they are fed exclusively, can cause the dog to develop a very finicky appetite.
Canned foods are a good choice to feed your puppy, but are considerably more expensive than either of the other forms of food. Canned foods contain a high percentage of water, and their texture, odor and taste are very appealing to most puppies. However, canned food will dry out or spoil if left out for prolonged periods of time; it is more suitable for meal feeding rather than free choice feeding.
Table foods are not recommended. Because they are generally very tasty, dogs will often begin to hold out for these and not eat their well-balanced dog food. If you choose to give your puppy table food, be sure that at least 90% of its diet is good quality commercial puppy food.
We enjoy a variety of things to eat in our diet. However, most dogs actually prefer not to change from one food to another unless they are trained to do so by the way you feed them. Do not feel guilty if your dog is happy to just eat one food day after day, week after week.
We do not recommend raw food diets. These diets are often very high in protein and fat while deficient in calcium, other trace minerals and vitamins. Additionally, they pose risks to the animals and humans with regard to bacterial diseases such as Salmonella and E coli 0151 as well as parasitic diseases like toxoplasmosis, trichinosis, and tapeworms.
Home cooked diets are generally not popular with owners as they require a lot of work. They also require a lot of nutritional knowledge to formulate an appropriate diet meeting all of the pet’s nutritional requirements. They are mainly used as trial diets for food intolerance or allergy diagnosis.
What about treats?
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Most dog owners feed treats to their dogs, as well as their regular food. Treats are rarely “complete and balanced”, and are often loaded with salt, fat, artificial colorings and preservatives, all of which comprise “junk food” for animals. Some biscuits every day will not harm your pet unless it has a diet related disease, but it’s best to give these items in moderation. Stick with a crunchy biscuit type of treat for your dog. Some of them are better than others. Read labels before you buy. Some biscuits help slow the build up of dental tartar, but they cannot remove tartar once it is present. Your pet will still need dental care even if you feed him this type of snack. Check rawhide treat labels, and stay away from brands not made in the USA. Foreign manufacturers are allowed to use formalin as a preservative in these chews, which is harmful to pets.
Supplements & Calories & Frequency
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Do not give any vitamin or mineral supplements to your dog without your veterinarian’s advice. These types of supplements can easily cause harmful nutrient excesses.
Puppies need lots of calories to grow on, and plenty of fresh water. Until they are about 3 months old, feed three meals a day, giving as much as the animal will consume in a ten to fifteen minute feeding. It is much easier to housebreak a puppy if you feed him or her at set times every day. Puppies will then have regular, predictable potty times as well.
Once your young dog is 3 months old, you can cut back to two meals per day. Continue to feed a diet made for puppies until your dog is 1 year old.
The most important daily contribution you will make to your pet’s health is his or her diet. So choose wisely, and feel free to consult with us about any nutritional questions you may have.