After being married about a year, I was committed to getting a dog. If my husband, Grant, and I ever wanted to raise children I had to prove to myself that I could keep a precious dog alive! In an effort to delay me, for Christmas my husband gave me a book on different dog breeds (and so did my mother). Over the next six months I took time to read and understand which dog would be the best fit for us. We settled on getting a Great Dane! In my effort to find a good breeder, I called the Humane Society for Hamilton County and came home with a Great Dane/Lab mix that we named Indi. I cannot explain how much I loved this dog. She was my best friend for three years. I like to say I talked to her more than I talked to my husband.
A few weeks into my first pregnancy with twins, we found out that Indi had inoperable cancer. We just continued to live as if she was the same old Indi. However, about three months later, after cancelling with the vet three times to put her to “sleep,” one morning she would not get up. I knew it was time and it literally killed my heart. That day we took her to the vet and came home with her collar. Just writing this breaks my heart and tears are flowing.
Today, seven years later, the largest framed picture in my house is Indi and it faces my desk where I am writing this blog. Since being introduced to Pet Wants, I have learned so much about dog nutrition. We have come to accept that we contributed to Indi’s cancer by feeding her food that was just not meant for her body. Grant and I had not been able to bring ourselves to have another dog, not just because we now have three kids running around but because our hearts will never recover from losing Indi. We just could not comprehend putting ourselves through losing another dog. After investing in Pet Wants, we decided it might be time, and it would be awesome for our children to have a dog. We now have a 12-month-old English Cream Golden Retriever and nutrition is the top of our priority list!
WELCOME HOME . . . WHAT DO WE FEED YOU?
By Martin McIlvenna
You have brought your new friend home and he or she is getting settled in. In all the newness, things can be pretty overwhelming: Unpacking the dog bed, adjusting the collars, hoping the new squeaky toy you bought is a favorite. One of the first things you need to do is decide what to feed your new pup and at what time. As far as food plans go, no set plan works for all dogs or breeds. You may know friends and family who always leave food out for their dogs. The other option is mealtime feeding. What is best? There are some considerations when deciding.
Of the two options of free-choice feeding and timed feeding, I believe in timed feeding, twice a day, and giving a portioned sized meal. Free-choice feeding is more suited to a laid-back dog or less active breed and is not likely to work if you have several dogs in the home. Timed feeding sets a healthy routine for your dog and is recommended for larger breeds, for dogs that tend to overeat, or overweight dogs. Now the much-confused question, “What do I feed my new dog?” Like me, I’m pretty sure most have stood in pet food aisle looking at all the multiple colored packages stacked upon row after row with words like new, natural, best, healthy and even organic.
Keep in mind that no one food is best for every dog. No single food will give every dog the brightest eyes, the shiniest coat, the most energy and the best digestion. Dogs are individuals just like people, which means that you could feed a brand of very well-formulated food to a group of dogs and find that most of them do great on it, some not as well, and it may cause some gastrointestinal upset in a few dogs. My recommendation is, know your pet food! Take the time to investigate and research your options. Here are some points to consider:
Look at the ingredients
High-quality ingredients are essential for healthy food. Some economy brands of dog food are made from inexpensive ingredients that are not easily digested and do not provide the best nutrition. While they may technically meet the legal specifications for percentages of protein, fat, carbohydrates, etc., these foods have lower energy values and lower-grade proteins. Because of this, many health-building nutrients may pass right through your dog's system without being absorbed. It also means that you have to feed larger amounts of that lower quality food to provide your pet with the same nutrition as a smaller amount of premium food. When you compare the cost of these meals on a per-serving basis and realize how quickly you go through a bag, economy foods may cost more in the long run.
When you are looking for healthy food for your dog, review the list of ingredients on the back of the bag. By law, pet food labels must list their ingredients by weight. Look for meat, fish or eggs in a meat or fish meal as the first ingredient. Meat, fish and eggs all have a high biological value; they have a high percentage of protein in the form of digestible, usable amino acids. Consider your pet’s size and breed in determining the size of its digestive tract. Look for ingredient lists (the ingredient deck) that are small and precise in the description.
Do the types of preservatives used make a difference?
Keep in mind that the kind of preservative used may affect the shelf life. Natural preservatives (such as vitamin E) tend to break down more quickly than artificial preservatives (such as ethoxyquin, BHT, and BHA). Do not be surprised if the shelf life of products using natural preservatives is several months shorter than those using artificial preservatives. You may need to compensate for this by buying pet food in smaller packages or on a more frequent basis.
Compare the Guaranteed Analysis
The next thing to look at is the Guaranteed Analysis on the back of the bag. It is a chart that lists the percentages of various ingredients contained in that food. However, the numbers given in the Guaranteed Analysis are on an “as fed” basis and do not take into account the amount of moisture in that food. All pet foods have different levels of moisture; canned foods can have up to 80 percent and dry foods can have as little as 6 percent.
Here are some resources to assist in your research:
http://www.petfoodindustry.com/topics/253-pet-food-recalls (Unfortunately, recalling of pet food still seems to be a present situation. Searching a particular brand will help you make conscious decisions in picking your pet food.)
On a related note, avoid giving your dog table scraps. Some foods can upset your dog’s digestion, and some human foods can harm your dog’s health.
Being somewhat of nutrition “nerd,” I will close with this: Sometimes it feels like your dog needs more food, or I should say your dog makes you feel like they are still hungry for more. Try not to give into their attempts at pulling on your heartstrings to overfeed them. If you want to give them between-meal snacks, do your research first. There are many dog treats out there, so look for ones that are low in fat or cholesterol and that are more helpful to your dog, such as homemade jerky from pure meats, treats without the preservative pack, natural chews such as Bully Sticks and breath freshener snacks or teeth cleaning chews.
Consider the food you are giving your new friend. You want him to grow up to be healthy and be in your life for a long time. Feeding nutritious food now could mean fewer vet bills later. Get a good brand, not just the cheapest. Check carefully the age-appropriate range on the packaging. If for any reason your dog does not take to a particular brand, find which one your dog does like and stick to it for as long as your dog does well with it.
My family and I are committed to healthy pets and healthy pet foods. If you have any questions please contact me at Martin@petwants.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Any question is a good question! We provide the best health and wellness for you and your pet family.