What ingredients make for good and bad dog food

November 25, 2008


With the many commercially prepared dog foods available on today’s
market, it is often quite difficult to tell which ones are better
than others and why.

First of all, you can’t judge by advertising which are the good and
bad dog foods. Many advertisers spend millions of dollars per year
advertising inferior foods. Unfortunately, a good indicator on
quality of food is price. Low priced foods are not always, but most
often, the lowest quality foods on the market.

You want to make sure that the adult dog food you are feeding is
22-25% protein and 15-19% fat. The protein should come from a good
quality source. Some dogs such as puppies, large breeds, and active
breeds have different protein and fat requirements. Make sure to
discuss this with your veterinarian to ensure proper feeding of
your dog.

In order for you to make an informed decision, you must know which
ingredients are better than others. When you look at a food label,
the following are the kinds of ingredients that you are looking
for: Human Grade Ingredients Chicken meal, Turkey meal, Fish meal,
Rice, Potatoes, Lamb meal, Potatoes, Rice, Sunflower Oil,
Vegetables and others. Good dog foods first four ingredients should
not be grains, but should consist of things like meat and proteins.
You also want to make sure it says chicken meal and not chicken as
the primary ingredient. If it says chicken only, this means that
the manufacturers are counting the entire chicken toward protein
value. This includes beaks, feathers, and feet. With chicken meal,
they are only counting the cooked down version of the protein. This
will ensure that your dog is getting the appropriate kind of
protein and not byproducts. Vitamins and fatty acids are also good
ingredients in dog foods. Some examples include Vitamin E, Omega 3
and 6, etc. These are very important for a healthy looking skin and
coat. Make sure the dog food is not laden with preservatives.

Some of the ingredients that you don’t want to see on your dog food
include: Inferior protein which consists of but not limited
to variations of the following: Wheat, Corn, Chicken by-products,
Soy, Gluten. These ingredients are hard to digest and can cause
health problems later on if used for a long period of time. Sugar
is another ingredient that you want to stay away from.

You are always better off purchasing food from a company that
spends time and money field testing their products. You can always
be sure that companies such as Purina, the Iams Company (which also
includes Eukanuba), Royal Canin, Nutro, Diamond, and Hill’s Science
are constantly testing their foods to provide the optimum
quality ingredients. These companies offer different grades of
food, however, from lower quality to premium quality so make sure
that you always read the labels. These are not the only companies
by any means who make good quality dog food. The important thing is
to read the label, do your research, ask questions of your
veterinarians and pet professionals and always be informed. People
who work at feed stores are usually a good resource and can help
you find good quality pet food. Breeders can also be a good source
for finding a quality food for your dog. Dog trainers will also
often have a good knowledge of proper nutrition.

You should always follow your veterinarian’s recommendation on food
as well. Many times dogs of certain ages or with certain health
conditions need to be on a prescription diet. While these diets are
often expensive, they do contain the proper nutrients that dogs in
these categories need. Many times owners will switch to a
commercial food because of cost or palatability concerns and the
dog’s health will go in to a decline. Your veterinary staff know
what is best for your particular dog.

While it is often confusing, proper dog nutrition is vital to the
health and longevity of your dog. By knowing what consists of good
quality ingredients and which ingredients to avoid, you can be
assured that you will choose the proper food for your dog. As
always, if you have questions, ask your veterinary staff for more


Raw Meat vs. Dog Food: Which is better and why

November 19, 2008


So you’ve got a new dog and you’re wondering what to feed him. The
market is full of commercial diets, and you’ve heard that some
people feed their dogs raw meat. What should you do?

Dogs are omnivores which mean they require meat, fiber, and other
nutrients to stay healthy. Generally, adult dogs need a diet that
consists of 22-25% protein and 15-19% fat, although puppies,
pregnant dogs, and active dogs will have different nutritional

If you choose to feed your dog a commercial based diet, it is very
important to choose a high quality food. You want to make sure that
a good quality protein source such as lamb meal, chicken meal, or
turkey meal is the number one ingredient. You want to stay away
from foods that list a grain as the number one ingredient or
contain lots of byproducts and preservatives.

Many people choose to feed their dogs’ raw food or the BARF
(Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food) Diet.
This diet consists of raw meaty bones, vegetables, offal (the organ
part of the protein source), recreational bones, and proteins like
cottage cheese and eggs with the shells. Proponents of this diet
claim that it keeps their dogs healthier than commercially prepared

The following are some pros and cons of both diets:

Testing: People who advocate raw diets claim that the diet is tried
and true and has been tested positively for centuries on wild dogs.
They say that since commercial diets have been around since only
the 1950’s, there is no long term testing that has been done on
this food. Proponents of raw food claim that the increase in
allergies, dysplasia, and other health conditions is as a result of
dogs being fed commercial dog food.

People who believe in commercial dog food point to the millions of
dollars each year companies such as Purina, Iams, Hill’s, and Nutro
spend on scientific and field testing of their products. They
believe that commercial dog food contains all of the nutrients that
a dog needs to grow and be healthy and that since the BARF diet is
complicated, expensive, and difficult to prepare, many people do
not properly understand it and are not appropriately feeding their

Grains: Advocates of raw feeding say that dogs cannot properly
digest grains and therefore do not feed them. They feel that the
commercial market uses grains because they are inexpensive fillers.

Proponents of commercial dog food say that as dogs are omnivores,
it is only natural that they require the nutritional benefits of
grains. They feel that people who feed raw food are depriving their
dogs of this nutrient.

Raw Ingredients vs. Cooked Ingredients: People who feed their dogs
raw food diets feel that nature intended for animals to eat their
food raw and that cooking damages the chemical makeup of foods and
that cooking the food actually damages an animal’s immune system.

Those that feel that commercial food is the way to go, claim that
there is no difference between cooking the animal’s food and
cooking human food. That all of the nutrients are still active in
cooked food providing healthy meals for animals.

Additives: People who believe in feeding their dogs’ raw food feel
that no additives are needed and that their animals are getting all
of the nutrients they require. They feel that the commercial food
companies use additives to enhance the palatability of their food
effectively “addicting” a dog to it.

Commercial food advocates say that additives such as omega 3 and 6
fatty acids are essential to giving the dog the proper balance of
nutrients he requires, while raw food is missing some essential
vitamins and minerals

Variety: Those who feed raw food feel that dogs need variety in
their diet and that commercial food is very boring for them.

Commercial food advocates say that dogs have very sensitive
digestive systems and that variety actually can cause things such
as vomiting and diarrhea.

Whether you choose to feed your dog the BARF diet or commercial
food, it is important to be educated on what a dog’s nutritional
requirements are. You should also consult your veterinarian for his
recommendation on diet.

Tips for keeping your dog fit and trim

November 17, 2008


Just as with humans, one of the biggest health problems today for
dogs is obesity. Many owners think their pudgy dogs are adorable,
when in fact they are extremely unhealthy. Overweight dogs can
develop the same kinds of problems that overweight humans can, such
as diabetes mellitus, which can be very tricky to treat. Obesity
can also reduce your dog’s life expectancy.

If you are not sure if your dog is overweight, there is a very easy
way to do so visually and by touch. A dog of normal weight should
have an indentation at his waistline, and his ribs should be easily
felt under his skin. An overweight dog will not have a waistline
and there will be a thicker layer of fat over his ribs.

There are several factors that can contribute to obesity in dogs.
Among these are overfeeding, not enough exercises, health
conditions such as hyperthyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism, age,
gender, and breed. If your dog is overweight, the first thing you
should do is have your veterinarian do a full examination. This
will help rule out any underlying health conditions.

If no health conditions are present, the next thing you should look
at is the quality and quantity of food you are feeding your dog.
Many store brand and generic foods do not have the proper nutrients
required to keep your dog fit and healthy. If your dog is
overweight, you will want to choose a high quality food
specifically designed to be low in calories. Many prescription and
over the counter diets are available. Talk with your veterinary
staff to help determine which food is right for your dog. If you
will be switching to a new food, you will want to do this
gradually, over the period of about a week. This will help reduce
digestive problems like vomiting and loose stools. Feed your dog
the amount that the label or your veterinarian recommends.

While your dog is losing weight, ideally you should cut out all
treats. Many people feed their dogs the appropriate amount of food,
but do not realize how high in calories many treats are. Keep track
of what kinds of treats and how many you are giving your dog. You
may be amazed to find out that his caloric intake of treats is
greater than that in his food. If you must feed your dog treats
while he is dieting, choose healthy snacks like carrots or a low
manufactured treat such as Charlee Bears. You should also
never feed your dog leftovers. Not only is this unhealthy for dogs,
it can lead to unwanted behaviors such as begging. In general, your
leftovers do not have the proper balance of nutrients that dogs
require and are often higher in fat and calories than dogs should

Proper nutrition is not the only factor in reducing weight in dogs.
You must provide them with appropriate amounts of exercise. Many
people do not understand that dogs require an awful lot of exercise
to maintain proper health. If your dog is overweight, you will want
to go for at least one walk in the morning and the evening for up
to 30 minutes each time, depending on the size of your dog. Dog
parks are an excellent place for both you and your dog to get
exercise. Sign up for a class like agility or flyball to help keep
your dog active. Play lots of games like fetch and Frisbee. You
have to be an active partner in helping your dog reduce his weight.

Weight loss in dogs should be very gradual. Dogs should only lose
between one and two percent of their overall weight per week. You
should weigh your dog on a regular basis to keep track of his
weight and to check your progress.

Dogs become overweight by overeating and inactivity. By following
the feeding guidelines set by your veterinarian, reducing the
amount of treats given, and increasing the amount of exercise and
activity your dog gets, you can help your dog lose weight and
become the healthy and happy dog you want him to be.

Responsible Dog Ownership

November 15, 2008


What does it mean to be a responsible dog owner? For starters, it
means getting a dog for the right reasons. Dogs are meant to be our
companions and to share our lives with us. The right reasons to get
a dog are to help him become all that he can be, to properly feed
and exercise him, and to spend quality time socializing and
training him. But there are many wrong reasons to get a dog. Some
of these include: as a means of protection or to be a hobby
breeder. When dogs are purchased as a means of protection, most
people think this means keeping them away from other dogs and
people to make them more protective. By doing this, your dog is not
getting the socialization that he requires and as a result ends up
fearful, aggressive, and destructive. What invariably happens is
the dog bites someone and ends up getting euthanized. Reputable
breeders generally breed their dogs as a profession. They have
studied genetic lines and ensure that their puppies are healthy and
of good temperament. Breeding dogs is often very expensive, and
most hobby breeders are not ready for what they are getting
themselves into. Also, there is already an overpopulation of dogs
in this country. It is best to leave breeding to the professionals.

Responsible dog ownership begins BEFORE you get your dog. Make sure
to properly research which type of dog is right for you. Make sure
to discuss with your family who will be responsible for caring for
your dog
. Talk with your veterinarian about what kinds of costs you
must consider throughout your dog’s life. Make the commitment that
your dog will be cared for by you for the duration of his life. By
doing your homework before you even bring your dog home, you are
ensuring that you and your dog will be a good match, you know what
to expect financially, and that your dog will have a forever home.

Responsible dog ownership means properly socializing your dog.
Young puppies need to be exposed to a variety of other dogs,
people, and sensations to help them learn to not be afraid of new
situations. Puppies also require a lot of time and training.
Responsible dog owners understand that the demands of puppy hood
will be many. Puppies need to be housebroken, a task which often
requires a lot of time and patience. They need to learn basic
commands and manners and you need to learn how to properly
communicate with them.

Responsible dog ownership means taking your dog to the veterinarian
for regular healthy pet checkups. Usually at this time, your dog
will be vaccinated as well. All good owners know that dogs need to
be vaccinated on schedule to help protect them, the public, and
other dogs that they come into contact with. Your dog will also
need to be tested for intestinal parasites periodically.
Responsible owners know that by preventing and treating parasites
they are keeping their dog healthy and protecting their families as
most parasites can be transmitted to humans. Another facet of good
dog ownership is knowing when your dog is ill. It is your
responsibility to keep your dog in optimum health.

When you take your dog for a walk or to the dog park, pick up after
him when he goes to the bathroom. Not only is this common courtesy,
but fecal matter can be harmful to humans or other dogs. If you do
not have a fenced in yard, always keep your dog on leash. Not only
are there laws in many states requiring you to do so, this will
also ensure that your dog will not get loose and bite a person or
another dog, or dart in to traffic and get injured or killed.

Spend as much quality time with your dog as possible. If you happen
to have an employer that allows it, take your dog to work with you.
Go jogging with your dog. Find a sport like agility, flyball, or
sledding that you can do with your dog. Participate in community
events such as dog jogs and dog fests. All of these things will
enhance your relationship and are a factor in responsible dog

Common sense, proper socialization, training, and spending good
time with your dog are all a part of responsible dog ownership. By
displaying these traits, you can help others learn about how to be
good dog owners.

Teaching your dog NOT to bark

November 3, 2008

Unwanted barking is one of the most common behavior problems in
dogs. It is normal for dogs to vocalize and bark from time to time
but many times this behavior escalates much to the frustration of
many dog owners. There are many causes of unwanted barking. First
you must determine why your dog is barking before you can begin a
program of retraining. You may need help from your animal
or veterinarian to do this.

One cause of unwanted barking is attention seeking barking. You may
have inadvertently reinforced this behavior if as a pup your dog
barked a lot and you gave him attention to try and stop the
behavior. As an older dog, he may be exhibiting this behavior
because he is left alone for long periods of time, does not have
appropriate stimulation or exercise, or is an active dog that needs
to have a job to be happy. If you suspect this is the cause of your
dog’s unwanted barking behavior, you can start to retrain him by
making sure first and foremost that he is getting enough exercise.
Make sure to take daily walks – this also allows him to explore the
world around him which is good mental exercise as well. If you have
a local dog park, take your dog there and let him socialize with
other dogs and people. Take an obedience class – this is good for
mental stimulation and will help you to better communicate with
your dog. Provide many interesting toys to keep your dog busy while
you are not around. Make sure to spend one on one time with your
dog on a daily basis and make it fun so that your dog learns that
he doesn’t need to bark to get your attention.

Another cause of excessive barking is as a response to something
that your dog is afraid of. Many dogs bark during thunderstorms or
around unfamiliar people. If your dog is barking as a response to
thunderstorms or other loud noises, provide him with a safe place
he can go in these situations such as a crate. Make his safe place
fun by providing good treats such as a Kong filled with peanut
butter to keep him occupied. Play a radio or the television at a
low level to help mask the noise. If your dog is barking at
unfamiliar people, help him get over this fear by enlisting the
help of your friends and neighbors. Have them walk by and approach
your dog. Have them ask him to sit, and when he does so without
barking, have them give him a treat. Pretty soon, your dog will
learn to associate unfamiliar people with treats and will learn new
positive behaviors. If your dog barks at people and noises that are
coming from outside the house, you may want to limit his access to
rooms with windows. This will help cut down on the unwanted barking

If your dog is barking when you’re not home, it could be due to
separation anxiety. If your dog is especially attached to you or
has recently experienced a situation of change in his routine such
as divorce, a move, or a death in the family, this could be the
case. To remedy this kind of barking behavior, you will need to
start a course of desensitization. You can begin to do this by
taking very small trips such as just out to the mailbox and back,
while leaving fun toys and yummy treats for your dog. As your dog
learns to behave while you’re gone, slowly increase the length of
time you are gone. To check and see if your dog is barking when
you’re gone, you may need to use a tape recorder or enlist the help
of your neighbors. Separation anxiety often needs to be treated
with medication as well as desensitization. If you suspect your dog
is barking due to separation anxiety, please consult your
veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

Some people choose to treat their dog’s unwanted barking problems
with bark collars. The most humane bark collar available today is
the citronella collar. These bark collars work by spraying harmless
citronella in your dog’s face whenever he barks. Studies show a
very high rate of success with the use of these kinds of collars.
Using a citronella collar for a period of time can help to
reinforce more positive behaviors.

There are many training tips and tools available to help you
replace unwanted barking with more positive behaviors. If you need
more information, consult your veterinary staff or pet professional.