Feeding, Water and Table Manners
Since your dog is living under your care, it is your responsibility to feed him a proper diet. Every dog owner has to learn how to feed a dog properly, just as we have to learn about a healthy diet for ourselves. Family dogs today are exposed to the same health risks we are. Every third dog is overweight and is eating the wrong foods. Obesity in dogs is a serious medical problem. Obese dogs are more at risk in surgery, more prone to injury, and have more stress on their heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and joints. Do not overfeed or underfeed your dog. Loose stools can indicate overfeeding. Hard, light-colored stools indicate a diet that includes too much calcium from too many bones or calcium supplements. Large amounts of stool indicate the food had little nutritional value. A good indicator of your dog’s weight is at his ribs. You should be able to see them or feel them, without being prominent, with the tips of your fingers when you run your hand along the dog’s sides.
The choice between standard and premium varieties of dog food is largely a personal preference, but there are significant differences that you should take into consideration when choosing your dog’s food. Quality control is one of them. Premium and super-premium foods tend to maintain more consistency in the type of nutrient content of the ingredients used than bargain foods. As a general rule, bargain foods are: designed to supply healthy dogs with essential nutritional requirements; manufactured with more fillers and preservatives to ensure a longer shelf life; the least expensive food alternative. Premium foods are: energy-rich with a higher protein and fat content, so dogs eat less to get the same nutritional requirements as the cheaper brands; enhanced with highly palatable food additives to be more enjoyable; low bulk and highly digestible, resulting in less stool; more expensive than bargain commercial dog food. Learn to read labels. Check that the label states the food is guaranteed to meet the particular life stage of your dog. The label should also tell you how those guarantees are tested and if the feeding trials used standards set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or by meeting AAFCO nutrient concentration recommendations. Do not feed canned food as a main food source, as it contains mostly water and does not supply the proper nutrients. Use only for taste as desired. For best results, buy only veterinarian-recommended food. Consult your veterinarian about special diets or special nutritional requirements that may be needed if your dog has specific medical conditions.
Establish table manners right away. Put your dog’s food and water dishes away from foot traffic and noise. Do not change the location of the dishes unless it is absolutely necessary. Do not leave food out all day. Thirty minutes is sufficient time for your dog to eat. If he doesn’t finish in that time, do not feed again until the next mealtime. This also helps in your housebreaking routine. Do not feed table scraps. This can create a finicky eater and the added calories can contribute to obesity. Do not feed your dog from the table or allow anyone else to do so. This can lead to begging or stealing food from the table. Do not vary your dog’s diet unless instructed by your veterinarian. Do not give your dog between-meal snacks or treats. If you are using a lot of treats during obedience training, cut back a bit on your dog’s normal portion of dog food to compensate for the treat calories. Do not feed bones as these can lodge in the throat or pierce the stomach walls and intestinal tract. Do not feed your dog outside. This can attract flies and fleas, both of which cause worms, and can also create a problem with ants and bees. In general,
puppies from the ages of six to eight weeks are fed three scheduled meals a day until three months of age. At three months they are fed twice daily, and at six months they go to a schedule of one meal daily. Puppies should be taken off puppy food by six months of age or at four months if the dog is becoming obese. Consult with your veterinarian about what is best for your dog.
Most dog owners put the food and water dishes on the floor. As the dog leans down to eat and drink, extra stress is placed on the bones, ligaments and tendons. This extra stress can lead to medical problems including injured and ruptured membranes in the elbows, calluses at the joints, breakdown of the wrists or splayed toes. One way to help guard against these problems is to use an elevated feeder. The food dish should be positioned just under the dog’s jowls. Because the feeder is adjustable, it can be raised or lowered to the perfect height to accommodate a dog from four weeks of age through adulthood. Elevated feeders and dishes keep feeding areas cleaner. They may reduce intestinal gas in dogs since dogs that eat bent over their dish have a tendency to swallow more air and gulp their food; the higher the food dish, the less gulping. They make eating more comfortable for older pets, or those with arthritis, stiff muscles, sore joints and neck or back problems. Older pets often eat less anyway, and if eating or drinking is painful or uncomfortable, they are likely to eat or drink even less and may not get the nutrition they need. Raising food and water to their level encourages eating and drinking. Finally, elevated feeders offer an extra bonus. Because pet owners don’t have to bend over as far to pick up or fill up water and food dishes, they are great for frail, physically handicapped or persons with arthritis or back problems.
Water is the most important of all the nutrients. An animal can loose all of it’s fat and half of it’s protein and survive, but only a 10% loss of body water causes serious illness. On a hot day, the average dog can become dehydrated in only a few hours if fresh water is not present. Considering the huge quantity and importance of water consumed in your pet’s lifetime, it is important that the quality of water be the best possible. Household tap water is considered to be safe, although many pet owners give their pets bottled water if their water source is questionable. Water bowls should be washed daily and disinfected periodically. Stainless steel bowls are the easiest to keep clean and resist scratches that can harbor bacteria. Temperature is another consideration in the quality of your pet’s water. Pets prefer cool water in the summer and room temperature water in the winter. Clean water should be made available all day. Make sure the bowl is large enough for the amount of water your dog will drink. For puppies and young dogs, no water should be given for two hours before bedtime. This allows for a final relieving of bowel and bladder before the dog retires to bed and makes housebreaking much easier.