A Backstory and History of Dogs in my Family…
Let Me Elaborate
I grew up in the Midwest, but my parents were Deep South – born and raised. They grew up in a small town in Arkansas in the mid 1930’s through late 1950’s. They lived in tar-paper shacks, went to the “outhouse” had dirt porches and had their own chickens and pigs. Dogs were not pets; they were for protection. My grandparent’s dogs all stayed outside and were thrown (out the back door) slop or left over “parts and pieces” from preparing the night’s dinner…and if they did a great job of protecting the coops and pens from thieves or predators, on some special occasions, where thrown table scraps – maybe in a bucket instead of on the ground.
And come to think of it, I don’t remember the dogs having actual names. I do remember one was called just “Dog”. But what I remember hearing most was…go-own, get! And the dogs would run.
That was 50 years ago.
Fast Forward to the Present
We are now a new generation of dog owner. We are kinder, gentler and caring of our pets. Dogs for me were meant for companionship, and love. After losing so many beloved dogs from cancer, well that’s when my attitude really changed. (Read my article in Paw Paw’s Eats and Treats to understand how the environment has changed things for everyone on this planet).
Our dogs our domesticated and they need and rely on us for their care. A huge part of our dog’s health is determined by the food they eat and the quality of the nutrition. There are literally a TON of options out there; so how do you choose which is best for your dog? Of course we all know there is no perfect or “best” dog food, there are definitely good, better, best choices out there.
First Things First
Always partner with your family veterinarian in all aspects of proper care for your fur baby. I can’t stress this enough. It’s one thing to do research, I love research! But it’s another thing entirely to try and self-diagnose health concerns or issues for this precious part of the family.
Okay. Here we go. Now, these are just my suggestions pulled from my many years of experience and taking the advice of our veterinarian and various trainers.
Dietary Needs of Your Dog – What to Think About
What is your dog’s age and activity level?
Think about your dog’s exercise and activity level, rate of growth, reproductive status and age. I personally never believed in “pet stage” foods, but what I do believe is feeding your dog the appropriate nutrition and amount of food for their age and activity level. Case in point (and a no brainer) a puppy needs more food than an adult; adults need more food than a senior. Pregnant or nursing momma’s need more calories than a dog that’s spayed.
Nutrition and caloric needs of your dog.
Think about what a well-balanced diet looks like. What amount of calories does your dog need? And just like us human pet owners, their diet should be varied and come from multiple sources; protein, carbohydrates, good fats and oils. This was important information to have since our baby Luther has so many tummy issues. Giving him a healthy balance was top of the priority list for us. Our vet and trainer both suggested good protein sources at levels of 24% and above and good quality Omega 3 oil for his skin allergies.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I have to for your sake. Our vet told us our last lover dog, Roach, was overweight. He was a large dog but kind of roundish. To us, Roach didn’t seem to eat a lot and he was mildly active for an old guy. Our vet said his unhealthy weight and possibly bad dog food choices was a huge determining factor in his short life. I STILL FEEL BAD ABOUT THAT! He was old, fat and sluggish unless there was a squirrel to chase. We found out this: His food was mostly filler and by-products.
We also learned the importance of paying attention to your dog’s body. With your dog standing up, look down at his/her shape. Your dog should have a kind of hour glass shape. They should be broad at the shoulder the narrow in the waist then widen back out at the hip, and looking from the side, their belly should tuck and slant up toward their back legs, and you should be able to feel some ribs when you rub their sides. Nope. Roach had none of that going on. He had a barrel body. GEE-WHIZ.
A calorie is a calorie, doesn’t matter if it’s protein, carbohydrate or fat. Too many calories and not enough exercise = FAT, UNHEALTHY DOG. What does this mean? Roach developed pancreatic cancer due to the extreme high fat and calories in his diet.
Feed your dog 2 to 3 times per day with the appropriate recommended amounts at each meal. For example, if for your dog’s weight and activity level he gets 3 cups per day and you feed 3 times per day – you got it – that’s only ONE (1) CUP PER MEAL! DO NOT just fill the bowl and let it be a free-for-all. We feed Luther twice a day – 1 ¾ Cup per meal. I’m not gonna lie here, it seems like not enough food. I feel so stingy. But apparently in the past I had no concept of proper quantity and never read the bag to figure it out. Shame on me!
My advice? Talk to your veterinarian about the best nutritious diet for your pet.
Listen to the advice they provide based on your pet’s current health and needs. If your dog has a particular health issue that is caused by diet (diabetes, kidney disease, pancreatitis, food allergy, etc.), your veterinarian will discuss options with you and help you to develop a solid nutritional plan. Our vet has been instrumental in getting Luther’s tummy troubles under control. It was a long process, but worth it.
Talk to your veterinarian if you have concerns about chronic diarrhea or skin conditions that may be related to food allergies. Diarrhea in dogs can come from many sources such as internal parasites or even bacterial infection, but sometimes it’s the food we choose. There are good commercial dog foods out there, but remember, your vet can help you narrow down and pick the best option. This can be trial and error, so just be patient. You’ll find the perfect one for your fur kid that’s within your budget. More important for us was the information we received from our trainer and associates at Petco. They helped us find the best food that was within our budget. Listen to the professionals, use what you learn! Listen to your vet, but still take charge and do a little research on your own. You’ll be glad you did.
Don’t be fooled by marketing and TV advertisements.
Marketing is targeted for humans and tug on our heart strings. Oh look! Aren’t those pups so cute running and jumping in that field or playing and sliding across the floor toward their food bowls? You know what I mean. We all do it. We buy into the beautiful, happy colors and packaging and fancy pictures of cute dogs on the bag and the funny commercials that stick in our minds – these things do not mean the food is good. Don’t be fooled people. Do the research, read the label.
Learn about the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). When you see words like “premium,” “natural,” or “gourmet” just as with human foods, these words are not actual definitions recognized by the FDA or pet food manufacturers. Instead, they are marketing based.
Giving your dog dry, canned, or a combination, is a matter of choice and budget. Canned is way more expensive and our pet store says it contains about 75% water. The thing I don’t like about canned food is it gets stuck between the teeth and between their back gums and cheek. That stuff sits there and causes a lot of tooth decay and very smelly breath over time. Remember dental health and brushing especially with canned varieties of food. We love “Greenies”. And think about your dog’s tummy. You may have feed previous dogs canned, but maybe your new pup gets tummy troubles from it. I guess what I’m saying is, taylor your dog’s food to his digestive system, not to what you fed previous pets.
Remember I mentioned AAFCO above? (below is cited from http://www.aafco.org/)
- AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) is a guideline for the formulation and manufacturing of pet foods. Simple.
- The AAFCO is a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies. Pet foods that meet these labeling requirements offer a baseline of assurance to the consumer that their food meets the basic nutritional requirements for the type of animal listed on the packaging. “Although AAFCO has no regulatory authority, the Association provides a forum for the membership and industry representation to achieve three main goals:
- Safeguarding the health of animals and humans
- Ensure consumer protection
- Providing a level playing field of orderly commerce for the animal feed industry.”
Read and compare ingredients.
Are dogs omnivore and carnivore? This is a much debated issue. They can eat meat, grain, and vegetables. However, the first ingredient you want to see listed should be meat, such as “chicken”, “beef” or “pork” and not anything that says “meat by-product” or grain.
Nutritional guidelines have been developed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO guidelines are the general basis for the nutritional content of commercial pet foods. Here are some key nutritional guidelines from the 2009 AAFCO guide:
Keep in mind that these are only guidelines from the AAFCO; your dog may need more or less based on its individual needs and health status.
Find the freshest package of dog food.
Just like we do with our own people food – check the “sell by” date and “expiration” date on the package. Also store your dog food out of harsh light, high humidity situations and heat. These all deteriorate the food much faster.
- Check that the bag is intact and there are no holes in the bag before you take it home. I still forget sometimes. I get in a hurry, grab the bag and go.
- Just like grocery stores, pet stores rotate their stock and will place the oldest food on the top of the stack or in front of the line for the sake of inventory turnover. They want to sell the oldest food first, which makes sense. Okay. I’ll admit I’m that person. I’ll dig to get the newest food. Can’t help it. 🙂
- Check pricing. Sometimes buying two smaller bags is cheaper than buying that big bag. I hope you all do this at the grocery store for your own food as well. Don’t be fooled by the large or bulk packaging. Look at the cost per serving instead. Do the mat
Store open dry dog food in an air tight container. We open our bag and put it in a food storage container in the kitchen. We store our extra bag in the garage (a cool and dark space), but a pantry or closet will work too. If you feed canned food, store the leftovers covered in the refrigerator. Unopened canned food should be stored in a cool, dry place as well.
Use your opened dry food within 6 weeks of opening, as long as it is stored properly. So…get an appropriate sized bag. Don’t buy too much! Keep it fresh!
That was a lot of information. I’m tired and need a treat for myself! Maybe even a nap. This was a lot of information, but I’m pretty passionate about it. Honestly, I didn’t realize I had so much to say or that I knew so much stuff. Isn’t it amazing what you learn when you love those “people” in your life? Nutrition is the basis for good health for everyone. Just like we strive to make the best nutritious choices for ourselves and our families, it’s also satisfying and gratifying that we put the same efforts into our much loved fur kids.
Remember, most of this is my personal opinion through various issues and health situations within our home. I realize that most of this information, for some of you, is already a known fact. If you are that person, I hope I didn’t bore you and I still hope you found something new. And I hope if you know something more, you’ll take time to share.
I hope you take a moment to share your inspirational nutritional journey with us. We appreciate new information and we love to hear stories about what you’ve learned and what has worked for you. We hope you take a moment to share with us!
Also, if you haven’t do so yet, please check out my sub-heading on “10 Myths About Feeding Your Dog“.