How to feed your dog and teach him good habits

Some of the articles we published in 1986, 1987, and 1988 are as relevant now as they were then. Here is one from our second issue, November, 1986. Even then we wanted to make pets part of The Senior Times coverage! Now that there are so many new “pet parents” (because of COVID-19) let’s go back to 1986 and review some of the basics of dog feeding and nutrition.

Feeding your dog
Dr. Howard Shweiger, B.SC. M.V., Nov. 1986
A complete and balanced diet affects your dog’s attitude, lifespan, and appearance. To understand nutrition in our dog, we must understand what our dog’s ancestors ate.

Early dogs, of course, hunted for food and consumed whatever prey was available. It’s important to realize however, that they were very particular in how they ate their catch. These canine ancestors first ate the stomach, intestines, spleen, and liver to meet their carbohydrate, mineral, vitamin, and fiber needs. They next ate the muscles, bones and fat to meet their body’s maintenance, energy, and building needs. Of course, today’s domestic dogs don’t hunt for their food, but fortunately the science of dog nutrition has been well developed and researched to provide them with a completely nutritious diet. Like their ancestors, today’s dogs cannot live on meat alone. They must consume the proper amounts of nutrients. Purchasing a commercial dog food is the most convenient way to provide this diet. Table food should be avoided to keep the diet in balance and to avoid problems such as begging, finicky eating habits and digestive upsets.

What is the best food for your dog? It’s best to meet your dog’s specific needs. These needs change depending on the stage of life, reproductive status, activity, temperament, and environment. Commercial diets are available for growth, maintenance and old age. Prescription diets sold through veterinarians are available as well for kidney problems, heart problems, obesity, and digestive disorders. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best diet for your pet.

It is important not to over-feed. Besides weighing your dog periodically, a good way to tell if your dog is overweight is if a layer of fat makes it difficult, or impossible to count the ribs by touch.

Dogs should not eat bones. They can cause serious digestive upsets, broken teeth, and blockage. Bones can also get lodged in the throat. Normally adult animals should be fed twice a day. Growing pets, pregnant and lactating animals should be fed more often. A guideline in the growing pet is feeding four meals a day until three months, three meals until six months, and then twice daily. Remember never to introduce a new food suddenly. Mix the new food in with the old, taking several days to allow the animal’s system to adjust to the change.

Some of the better diets today are expensive, but the old saying “you get what you pay for” applies to dog food. A less expensive food may be made up of filler or indigestible foods. Meat protein is expensive whether in human or dog food. Pet food quality is determined by its digestibility or how well the animal’s system utilizes the food.

If your dog thrives and looks healthy when fed one food, this is the best test. It’s not important that the food appeals to you but that it appeals to your dog. By the way, variety is not important; it is a learned trait. Your dog will be happy with its diet if you do not teach him bad eating habits! Remember not to overfeed, don’t feed table food, and do consult with your veterinarian about the best diet for your dog’s needs.

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