Kibbles and Bits and Bits

Dog Food Secrets

How to Choose Healthy Dog Food

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don't let your precious pooch become a chunky monkey

Sure, it's easy enough to run to Target once every few weeks, pick up that giant bag of food, and pour a scoop or two into your buddy's dish, but is it really the best thing for him? Dogs' diets can be as complex as ours, and it's important to hit all of the vital nutritional bases. Lack of the proper vitamins and nutrients can lead to upset stomachs, skin problems, brittle bones, obesity, and even - in the worst cases - death. Proper pup nutrition is the building block of his overall health. Without the right nutrition and exercise, his defenses against disease and disorders are weakened. Educate yourself about the ABCs of poochie health by reading on!

What does my dog need from food?

As you most likely learned in primary school, dogs are carnivores. After centuries of domestication, dogs still enjoy living out the illusion that they are the wolves from whom they were naturally selected. They hunt prey (unfortunately for Kitty), love their bacon and sausage treats, and love the solid crunch of chewing bones or other hard toys. Yet a diet of meat alone is not ideal for your dog. While meat provides most of the crucial nutritional elements to help provide energy and enhance bone growth like protein, fat, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, your pooch's diet should also include some amount of fiber to help his body digest his food.

Just as in your own body, an overdose or deficiency of any given nutrient, vitamin, or mineral can cause reactions or illness in your dog. We'll discuss the ins and outs of vitamin supplements later in the chapter, but you should be generally aware of what amount of each nutrient is ideal for your dog and select his food accordingly. Decent guidelines for nutrition are the percentages above. Check the sides and back of your dry food bag and you should be able to find the nutritional content fairly easily. If not, give the manufacturer a call and ask them to provide you with the information. If your dog is a sucker for moist food, you'll find an adjustable formula later in the section.

Carbohydrate: 50%

Kibbles And Bits Bag Feeding

The right dog food is one of the first defenses your dog has against illness.

Should I feed him dry food, canned food, or a mixture? Walk down the pet aisle in the grocery or pet store and you'll be able to tell instantly what type of food is the favorite among pups. Commercial dry food is cost-effective, easy to measure, comes in a wide variety of flavors and types, and, as your dog would tell you if he could, feels nice on his teeth and gums and makes fun noises when he bites down. It works well for millions of dogs.

Canned food, on the other hand, is vacuum sealed and therefore doesn't contain any preservatives. Some dogs love the meatier taste and consistency, which is closer to what they would enjoy in the wild. Canned foods often contain the same amount of nutrition as dry food, but they don't have the same dental benefits as dry food, they can be more expensive, and serving them requires more than just a scoop.

Which is right for your buddy? That's up to the two of you. If you prefer the convenience of dry food and have found a brand that meets the nutritional requirements and satisfies your dog, stick with it. Use the same criteria when selecting a canned food, and when checking the label for nutritional percentages be certain to adjust for the moisture. The percentages listed above apply to dry food, which means we need to figure out the dry food content of a canned food, which is largely made up of nutrient-less water. If the label lists the can's moisture content at 75%, this means that 25% of the food inside is dry. Now whip out that calculator and try the following formula:

Nutrient percentage ^ dry food percentage X 100

The result is the actual nutritional content of that nutrient, whether protein, fat, or carbohydrates. Okay, now put away that calculator. You look nerdy and people are starting to stare.

Indecisive? Many people feed their dogs a combination of both dry and moist food for the best (and worst) of both worlds. Again, this decision is completely up to you and your dog, unless your veterinarian has instructed you otherwise. That being said, stick with your decision. Dogs aren't as interested in variety as their owners, and their bodies aren't made for it. Switching your dog's food too often can end up making him sick or even cause him to just lose interest completely in whatever you

Did you know? Americans spend more annually on dog food than on baby food. Of course, when's the last time you saw a baby tear into and eat a 20-pound bag of food?

Today's dogs sometimes eat better than their owners - take a look at some of the flavors of food available to contemporary canines-

a a

Apple cinnamon cookie Lamb and rice

a a a

Duck and potato Beef stew Grape and flax see (vegetarian)


set in front of him. If a food doesn't seem to be working out, ease him into a new selection slowly by mixing small amounts of the new food into his current one. Increase the amount at each feeding time until he's eating only the new food.

Why does he have to eat so quickly?

Let's play "Let's Imagine." Let's imagine you're only days old. You're hungry. You know where the food is, but so do your eight brothers and sisters. Luckily, there are enough food outlets for... six of you. I guess that's not as lucky as I thought. And guess what! All eight of your brothers and sisters are hungry, too! Do you want to eat now or in 30 minutes, when one of your siblings might have had their fill and let go of their assigned food outlet? Oh, but if you do wait 30 minutes, you run the risk that the sibling, now happily full, just wants to take a nap while still clinging to that lovely, warm food outlet.

Why are you still standing there? Get your butt over to that food!

Now you know how your dog felt for the first few months of his life. With limited access to his mother's nipples, he and his siblings bit, scratched, and stepped on one another in a race to get to them first. Those who didn't get there quickly enough ate after the rest were finished or, worse, not at all if their mother was tired of lying still and wanted to get up and move around.

After learning that behavior as a baby, he may still think that his food supply is always limited and on the go. This is why he scarfs down whatever you put in his bowl as though he thinks you're going to try and go after it yourself, and it's also why he may feel the need to take the turkey off the counter and run.

Why does he eat grass?

Have you ever gone on a fast-food bender, eating anything you can find with the word "fried" in the name? When you came out on the other side of those dark, frightening days, you may have found yourself craving something cold, crisp, and nutritionally clean - something like a salad. Your dog's body works the same way. Every so often he may wish to partake of a few juicy blades of grass to

Did you know? Larger puppies take longer to be ready for adult food (up to 18 months) than smaller breeds, who can be ready as early as nine months.

Other Lessons from Puppyhood

Mom's not always around to clean up after you - sometimes she needs a nap just to get away from you and your siblings.

If you're a fat puppy, you'll probably be a fat doggie.

You may think you're the leader of the pack, but that big, pink guy with only two legs can put you in your place any time.

Mom might put up with a lot, but you'd better watch it when she bites back!

compensate for a lack of vegetable matter in his diet. If you notice him grazing often, try switching him to a food with higher veggie content or even give him some steamed veggies as a treat, as they're far easier to digest than grass.

Another reason he may be visiting Nature's Salad Bar is to help calm down an upset tummy. Dogs will sometime eat grass to induce vomiting if they're not feeling well, which is a natural and fairly healthy way to fight illness.

The only time you need to worry about your dog's vegetarian habits is if they start interfering with his regular diet and nutrition. If he refuses to eat his normal food or is inducing vomiting too often, a trip to the vet is probably in order.

Do I really need that $40 bag of dog food my vet keeps trying to give me?

That depends. Does your vet say you need it? Your veterinarian is just like your doctor - if you're not honest and frank with him or her, he/she can't adequately treat your dog. If you can't leave the office without being given a sales pitch for the newest line of top-quality food, ask exactly what it will do for your dog and why you need it. Older dogs with more brittle bones or a lack of energy may benefit from specialized food, many pups have food allergies that prevent them from eating store brands, and some more minor conditions can actually be alleviated through higher-quality food.

The main differences between the more expensive brands and their cheaper counterparts are ingredients. The higher-priced brands have set formulas for their food, which means that the ingredients in one bag of food will be identical to the next. Lower-priced brands have set formulas for nutrition, not the ingredients themselves. This means that the ingredients used to satisfy those nutritional requirements can vary from batch to batch and can sometimes mean trouble for owners whose dogs have very set tastes or sensitive bellies.

If your vet gives your dog a clean bill of health and doesn't have any pressing reasons why he needs the food, simply say so and feel confident in your choice of food.

Fun fact: The makers of Beano also make a doggie-gas reliever called Curtail.


The fact that a food is more expensive doesn't make it better for your dog. In fact, some dog owners who have switched to premium foods have experienced one of the nastiest side effects of any dog food: gas.

If you decide to go with a premium food, check the ingredients label for soybeans, bean powder, and any other bean ingredient. These can have the same effect on dogs as they do on you. And really, who wants that in their living room?

I'm a vegetarian/vegan and want my dog to be one as well. How can I do this?

Some of you may be chuckling right now, but that's no joke. As more humans become vegetarians or vegans, they'd like their pets to follow suit.

To those of you asking this question, please know that, above all, your dog would never willingly opt to be a vegetarian if given the choice. Dogs come complete with all of the necessary equipment for living and eating as carnivores for a reason - they prefer the presence of meat in their diets. In the wild, dogs receive a majority of the plant and vegetable content they consume from the digestive systems of herbivorous animals they've killed (an icky thought, yes, but important to know). If you are morally opposed to the use of meat in society and feel that your pets should share your beliefs and morals, then speak with your veterinarian about possible options.

Some commercial food companies now make vegetarian and vegan dog foods which can be found at whole food and organic markets. Pay close attention to the content and whether or not the food satisfies your dog's nutritional requirements. If not, you may be able to supplement the food with vitamins or other additives, but always consult your veterinarian.

Never feed your pup tofu, soybean paste, or any other bean product, especially if he is of a larger or barrel-chested breed. First of all, would you want to live with your best human friend after he or she ate large quantities of beans? Probably not. As you know, beans create gas. Beyond being aromatically disgusting, excess gas in larger dogs can build up and lead to stomach bloat, an often fatal condition.

Can I cook for my dog?

Great question. Now turn to your dog and ask him the same question out loud. Is he nodding emphatically? No? Maybe he speaks a different language. Try asking in German.

Chicken and rice makes for perfect canine cuisine - bon apetit!

Dogs love home-cooked meals! Besides being a fun treat for both of you, proper home canine cuisine can be chock-full of great nutrients. The most important point to remember is to include a wide variety of ingredients. Don't just broil a chicken breast and slap it in his bowl, give him a side of rice or potatoes with a teeny bit of natural corn oil stirred in. Make sure that all bones have been removed to prevent choking or tears in the stomach lining, and use caution if you'd like to include milk. Some adult dogs have a difficult time processing it, which can mean diarrhea duty for you the next morning.

Can I give my dog vitamins or nutritional supplements? Yes. No. Maybe. Well...

The answers to this question are as varied as the locations your dog has hidden his bone in your flower beds. Many food companies now make supplemental sauces or gravies, others offer daily multivitamins, and some have odorless and tasteless drops that can be added to water. Before using any supplement, talk to your vet. Dogs' bodies use nutrients in a way similar to the human body in that the digestion of certain vitamins and minerals can inhibit others. With too much of one vitamin, other vitamins' levels can drop drastically and result in life-threatening deficiencies. Your vet can offer recommendations for good brands of multivitamins; many vets' offices now sell multivitamins.

You should never, under any circumstance, give your dog additional doses of one specific vitamin unless it has been prescribed by your veterinarian. While the use of multivitamins is risky, the consumption of a high dose of a specific vitamin can cause extreme illness for your pup.

My dog just ate the chocolate bunny out of my Easter basket. Is that bad for him?

In most cases, yes. While the biggest risk for a human eating a chocolate bunny is an extra layer of padding on the hips, a chemical in chocolate can be poisonous to dogs.

The chemical, theobromine, exists in higher levels in darker chocolate. If Peter Cottontail was made with white chocolate, you probably don't have to worry much and should just keep a close eye on your dog for the next few hours to make sure he doesn't get sick. If the bunny

It's nearly impossible for your dog to overdose on some vitamins because extra amounts are eliminated in his urine on a regular basis. These include: • B vitamins

• •

Folic acid Vitamin C

Of course, since no amounts beyond what he needs are stored in the body anyway, there's no point in giving him extra.

Cooking with Barky McBay

Here's a tip to make any discriminating dachshund wag his tail with joy- make your dog organic biscotti, then melt down carob and dip half of the biscotti into it. Bellissima!

was made from dark chocolate, over 4 ounces, and your pup weighs less than ten pounds, it would be a good idea to get to the vet as soon as possible to head off any adverse reactions.

Before you accost your local pet store manager for stocking chocolate treats, check the label. Most chocolate dog treats are actually carob, which is harmless, or contain levels of theobromine so low that even a miniature pooch could handle them.

Oh, someone stop him! That's just disgusting! No, please, seriously, why is my dog eating his own/his sibling's/the cat's feces and how do I make him just stop?!

This is a very simple problem to explain and can be somewhat easy to prevent. First, chill out. Remember that dogs didn't magically appear on the earth fully domesticated and ready to do our bidding. They've evolved from thousands of different breeds of wild dogs, many of whom were scavengers. Consuming the fecal matter of little woodland creatures was an excellent way to consume extra vitamins, so the behavior is sometimes hard-wired into dogs.

My cat, Mr. Meowington, shares his food with my dog. That's okay, right?

Most of the time, yes. And if you've been letting your dog mooch off of Mr. Meowington for any length of time and try to take away the cat food, you may end up with an extremely unhappy pup, if to you "unhappy" means "ragingly angry and vocal." Cat food is far higher in protein than dog food, which makes it taste richer and provides a lot of extra energy. However, if your vet has prescribed a low-protein diet for your dog or he's already bouncing off the walls with energy, Mr. Meowington should eat separately from his canine pal.

How do I know if my dog is obese and what can I do to help him lose weight?

You (hopefully) don't feed him chips and beer, he goes for walks every day, and he eats way less than you. By that formula, your dog should be in fairly decent shape. But is he? The nutritional and activity

Did you know? There's actually a name for the eating of other animals' droppings - coprophagy.

Measuring Weight Loss

Measuring Weight Loss

Measuring Dog Weight

Photos from the side and top can help you measure your pooch's weight loss successes. Take a few shots at his current weight, then again in three months. Compare them to see how much healthier he looks!

needs of dogs are far different from humans', so that 20-minute walk each day probably won't do much for a medium-sized or larger dog. You measure the food you put in his bowl, but is the food constantly available to him? Do you give him bits and pieces of your own food? Does he counter surf or break into trash cans? Any and all of those food sources need to be taken into consideration. Much like their owners, more and more dogs worldwide are showing signs of obesity. Besides limiting their enjoyment of life as a dog, extra body weight can lead to joint and heart problems, shorter lives, and sometimes-behavioral issues.

While some breeds are more prone to obesity than others, every dog can be at risk if fed incorrectly or not exercised often enough. The easiest way to tell whether or not your dog is obese is to examine his body. Try the following:

• Have him stand up, then stand above him. Does his body slope inward at the waist?

• Run your hands over his sides from front to back legs. Can you feel his ribs fairly easily?

• Feel the base of his tail. Are the bones easily detectable?

• Look at him from the side. Does his tummy slope upward as it gets closer to his tail?

If you answered no to any of the questions, your pup is probably overweight. If you answered "What waist/ribs/tail bones?" and "Upward? Really?," your

The methods for treating obesity in dogs are fairly similar to those for treating obesity in their owners, and the principle is simple: eat less, exercise more. And, just like in humans, actually following through with the principle is much more difficult than it sounds. If your dog has a constant supply of food, remove it. Many pet stores stock food scoops with measuring lines included and most food labels have charts indicating dogs' food needs by weight. Try feeding your dog at the lower end of the range for a week, then add a bit more if he seems too lethargic. Create a feeding schedule and stick to it. Whether

Did You Know? Sled dogs running in the Iditarod can use up to 10,000 calories every day. How was your workout today, beefcake?

Weight Watchers Ain't Just for Humans!

Okay, Weight Watchers is still just for humans, but these resources are great if the doc has told your pooch to lay off the Krispy Kremes:

Dog Weight Loss Calculator he: http://wwwHm!ycockerspa!n iel ycoom/wtM^loissHhtm! i bi while the charts and reference material are specific to Cockers, the calculator can be used for any breed.

Fit and Trim Site for Purina's weight control dog food, but it also features tools and educational articles

Canine Zone

The Zone diet has worked for millions of humans - maybe the concepts can work for your dog, too!

pup is probably obese.

you split the amount among two or three separate feedings or one larger meal each day, stay with the routine and he'll adjust to it.

Be forewarned, though. Dogs are survival eaters and don't react well when their food supply is threatened. Your angelic, perfectly behaved pooch who has never shown signs of scavenging may suddenly become a trash can Houdini in attempts to augment his smaller food allowances. Some start counter surfing. Not familiar with the term? You'll understand the terminology the first time you see your beloved Baxter with his front paws on the edge of the counter, nose to the surface, and back paws propelling him down the length of the Formica, inhaling anything that crosses his path. While the trash can raids are more difficult to prevent, counter surfing prevention is elementary: put your food away. Many behavior and training manuals will instruct you to blast a water gun or air horn every time he jumps up on the counter to surprise him and get him away from the food, but the pull of his survival instinct will always be stronger than learned behavior and the next time you leave the room with food on the counter he'll be quite the happy pooch. Instead, train yourself. Don't leave anything within reach. If you're preparing a large meal, invest in a baby gate and let Baxter sniff pathetically from another room.

Securing trash cans involves a completely separate arsenal. Depending upon his levels of hunger and intelligence, the right combination of can and lid may keep him out. Baby locks may be in order for more experienced raiders, while career Houdinis may require high-end stainless steel trash cans with laser security systems. Just kidding! (About the lasers, that is, not the trash cans.) If you can secure your trash can in a closet or pantry, do so. Otherwise, be prepared to take a hit to the wallet or spend 15 minutes scooping up ice cream wrappers and greasy fried chicken boxes every time you come home.

Helpful hint: The baby-proofing section of your local hardware store can be a dog owner's best friend. In addition to cabinet and trash can locks to keep your pooch from getting poisoned or raiding the garbage, you can find toilet lid locks to keep your bathroom high and dry.

Try giving your buddy some raw fruit or veggies to help him work through the initial pangs. Carrots, broccoli, apples, and even pickles have fun crunchy textures, and in small quantities they help complement the nutrients he gets from his usual food. These healthier snacks can contribute to one of the nastier "benefits" of weight loss, though: gas. When that overwhelmingly pungent odor permeates your whole house, remember that you're doing this for your best friend's health and fitness and that a few months of gross odors is nothing compared to his wellness.

When it comes to exercise, most owners need more motivation to get themselves outside for a workout than do their dogs. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to get a dog exercising - get the leash and head out for a walk! Plan to spend at least an hour total every day walking, then gradually increase the speed until your dog is speed-walking or jogging. Yes, it's time consuming. Yes, you're busy. If you have kids, drag them away from the TV and go for a family walk after dinner. If you work out yourself, figure out a way to incorporate the dog's walk into your own routine. With the right amount of caution, you can even have your dog tow you on your bike, skateboard, rollerblades, or skis.

On the weekends, head to the park and play with a tennis ball, Frisbee, or other dogs. A nice side benefit of exercise is that it wins you some quiet time while your dog naps the day away in contentment. Quit making excuses! Think of it this way: would you rather see your dog running, tongue out, tail wagging for the next ten years, or would you rather he simply laid around the house for five? How many people get to have a to-do list that includes "Play with dog?"

The right diet and exercise can make your dog more social, more obedient, and more dedicated to you due to the extra time you spend together and the extra attention he receives from you every day. Wasn't that the whole reason you decided to adopt a dog in the first place?

Fun Toys and Exercise Ideas for Your Pooc


FlyBall ( a high-energy fast-paced relay, foot race, and game of fetch a in one

Skijoring ( stay fit in the chill of winter by skiing with your dog BoundAround (

great if you're low on time

, ll

ChuckIt!: save your arm while throwing 3X further... and making Fido run 3X as much Doggie day care: a small fee for a day of fun at your local kennel

Large exercise balls: too big to pick up, these are great to roll around and chase without any

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Agility training: you've se - obstacle courses at full s

en it on Animal Planet peed

Doga: yoga for dogs!

Swimming: great low-impact workout for dogs with hip or joint problems

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Healthy Homemade Dog Food

Healthy Homemade Dog Food

Choosing the right kind of dog food you provide is probably the most critical decision you'll ever make for your dog- puppy or senior. Dog food nutrition without delay impacts every facet of your dog's life. Aspects such as how pups grow, their behavior practices, health, overall well-being and physical appearance are all tightly linked to the nutrition dog owners provide. Needless to say, this is an enormous responsibility.

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