Puppy Eating

How, When, and Where to Feed

Our last blog covered a few things on how to select the right food for your puppy.  Choosing the right dog food can be almost as challenging as keeping all those fun extracurricular items out his mouth! If your puppy is anything like our Skipper, he’s equally as interested in the rubber and plastic bits of toys as he is puppy kibble. Once you settle on the right food to give your puppy, the next step is deciding how and when, and where to feed him. 

How

There are two main feeding styles for pets: free feeding, or allowing the pet to have unlimited access to food at all times, and meal feeding, where an allotted amount of food is given at specific times of the day. I always recommend meal feeding, for both cats and dogs, for several reasons. First, it allows for monitoring of an individual’s appetite and feeding habits. Change in appetite is often one of the first signs that a pet is feeling unwell.  Second, it allows for appropriate metering of a pet’s intake.  Dogs often eat way too much, way too quickly, and in their later years, this can lead to obesity. And finally, some types of food can spoil, or minimally become less appetizing, if left uneaten for several hours.

In either feeding option, you’ll need something to set the food out in.  There are many bowl options aside from the standard dog food dish. Skipper currently enjoys his meals from a puzzle bowl, as does his sister, Lily. We even use feeding toys for Whisper, the feline sibling as well! These bowls cause the pet to take a lot longer to finish meals and prevent them from eating their food too quickly.  There are many options on the market, and changing up the puzzles can keep feeding time fun and stimulating.  Always make sure to select a bowl or puzzle that can be easily and thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis.

When

When your puppy is young, his belly will be quite small.  He should be fed three to four times a day for the first few months to ensure that his stomach doesn’t become uncomfortably distended from being overly full.  For toy breed puppies, like baby Yorkies and Chihuahuas, regular feeding every 4-6 hours is also important to ensure that they have a constant source of energy, as these little guys can experience low blood sugar levels more easily than some larger breed puppies. Skipper was fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner until he was about 4-5 months old. As he got older and bigger, we started weaning him from three to two meals daily, by decreasing the size of his lunch meal, and increasing his breakfast and dinner meals.  At 7 months of age, sometimes he forgets and still thinks he should get a lunch, but otherwise he’s adjusted pretty well!

Where

Historically, most families have fed the household dog in the kitchen. This may work well for some dogs, but it’s important to make sure that your puppy eats in a location where he feels safe.  Large, open spaces can seem vulnerable, and make a dog feel the urge to guard their food or eat it too quickly for fear of someone else stealing it. Always make sure to allocate a safe, quiet space for the puppy to finish his meals on his terms. This may mean separating other pets into other rooms for a short time to prevent any altercations from occurring. Keeping a bowl of fresh water full near the food bowl can also encourage appropriate hydration following a meal. 

We know that feeding your puppy is a huge part of your relationship, and there are lots of conflicting sources of information out on the internet. The staff and veterinarians at Aldie Veterinary Hospital are more than happy to discuss your puppy’s individual feeding program and ensure it is right for both of you!

Buen provecho!

Skipper & Dr. Conroy

#SkipperAndConroy #FF #FollowFriday #VetsRus

Dog Food

Feeding Your Puppy Part 1- the What of Food

With Skipper growing like a weed since the day we brought him home, ensuring he gets the proper nutrition is key.  The media has inundated advertising markets with a plethora of feeding strategies for dogs and cats.   Aside from what you decide to feed your pup, how you feed it, and when, are equally, if not more important.  Pet nutrition is a vast topic, and could warrant its very own blog! I’ll cover some of the basics in the next two blogs, but always check with your pup’s veterinarian about recommendations for his individual needs and lifestyle.

What you feed

The AAFCO label phrasing is the most important part of your dog’s food bag to read. It verifies that the food will sustain a particular life stage. Look for the phrase, “… Provides complete and balanced nutrition for growth of puppies,” to ensure that the national feed guidelines are met by the diet.

After this, you may wish to review the ingredients.  Ingredients are listed in order of their inherent weight, including the natural water/moisture content. For example, chicken will have more water contributing to its overall weight than something like corn or rice.  During the kibble-making process, a portion of water is extruded. Therefore, if equal volumes of whole chicken and corn are put in to the process, there will be less chicken weight after the drying process. I’m outlining this to help you look past media discussions, and understand the label. The ingredients listed earlier in the list will comprise more of the food content than those lower down the list.

By-products are often also listed on the label, and can sound very scary.  By-products, by definition, are the secondary products which remain after a meat source is processed for its primary intention (usually human consumption). For example, the nutrient-rich, internal organs left over after chickens or turkey are processed for your dinner plate, are considered by-products.  The term, “by-product” does not indicate a source is unsafe for consumption, human or otherwise. In some cultures, by-products like chicken livers, pigs’ feet, etc., are routinely enjoyed.  The decision to feed by-products is personal. Some owners prefer to feed only what they would eat themselves.  However, taking into consideration the large human population worldwide, and stress it puts on the animal agriculture industry and environment, feeding appropriately cooked by-products to our less-discerning canine companions is an environmentally friendly alternative to waste. While I would elect to pass on chicken liver, I would also never choose to eat the pony poops outside which seem to be a popular snack option at our house!

The grain vs. grain-free marketing has also been very strong as of late.  It’s important to note that there is a difference in cat metabolism as compared to dog metabolism, and even differences from dog metabolism compared to wolf metabolism. It is critically important that all cats consume meat. They are considered obligate carnivores, meaning they MUST derive nutrients from a meat source and will not survive or thrive if fed vegetarian diets only. Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores.  They have evolved from their wolf cousins, and are far more capable of digesting grains and starches with their digestive enzymes. Recently, there has also been a correlation between dogs who were fed a grain-free diet, and a particular type of heart disease.  Dr. Barnes wrote a very detailed blog on this topic earlier this year; please check it out for further information. At this time, the veterinary cardiologists do NOT recommend feeding a grain-free diet unless your dog has a documented grain allergy. As an aside, most dogs with food allergies will be allergic to the protein source in their food, like chicken, beef, or soy. Corn/grain allergies exist, but are much less common than media sources and advertising would suggest.

Raw diets are NOT recommended for any pets. Raw foods put both your pet and humans in the household at risk for contracting food-borne and bacterial illnesses.  Dogs and cats are well equipped to metabolize processed foods, and these are recommended as a safe alternative to raw foods.

There are also lots of dog treats on the market, as well as human foods which are safe to feed as treats.  It is very easy to over-love our pets. They are happy to accept any/all treats, maybe even steal a few without permission, without ever thinking twice about their waistline. There are studies which show that lean pets live an average of almost 2 years longer than their overweight counterparts.  The lean dogs in the study were also noted to develop orthopedic disease and graying muzzles later on.  I recommend using small bits of treats, and often just toss a single kibble or two, rather than give a high calorie treat. Most dogs (and this definitely applies to Skipper and Lily!) don’t care what you’re feeding as a treat, just that they’re getting a snack!  If you use human foods, stick to low calorie/low fat options, like boiled chicken bits, cucumbers, celery, or carrots.  Do not give onions, raisins, or grapes. Be sure to review a full list of toxic foods list on Animal Poison Control’s website.

Feeding your dog is an integral part of their care, and the human-animal bond you have with him.  There are many reputable brands with several different flavor options; we know this can be over whelming as a pet parent. Please let our staff know if you have any questions!

Bon appétit!

-Dr. Conroy & Skipper