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Gourmet Cooking for Your Dog
By Suzan Anson, Judy Knipe, Bunny Matthews
New Chapter PressCopyright © 1989 Suzan Anson
All rights reserved.
BASIC FACTS ABOUT DOG NUTRITION
Qualitatively, the dog requires essentially the same nutriments as man.
— American Kennel Club Complete Dog Book
A dog's appetite and nutritional needs constantly change throughout his life, much as ours do. Age, activity level, environment, temperament, sickness, and reproductive cycle all play a role.
Wild dogs, like their coyote ancestors, are hunters and depend on freshly killed meat as a food source. But it's interesting to note which part of the animal the wild dog consumes: It goes for the soft meat of the belly first, eating the insides — the organs and intestines. Since most of his prey have a vegetarian diet, the dog consumes a fair amount of vegetation along with the meat. So, although they are carnivorous, all dogs must have what would be considered, in human terms, a well-balanced diet. Eating meat exclusively can cause what many veterinarians refer to as "all-meat syndrome," a dangerous imbalance in the calcium and phosphorous ratios of the diet. This syndrome can cause joint diseases, fragile bones that break under the dog's own weight, weight loss, diarrhea, and a dull coat.
In fact, dogs need the same nutrients as we do — protein, fat, and carbohydrates — and they need them in roughly the same percentages of total daily calorie intake:
Recommended Content of Dog Foods
Young Adult Pregnant
Bitch Working or
Protein* 16% 20% 24%
Fat 10% 12% 14%
Carbohydrate 44% 38% 32%
Calories from protein 20% 24% 28%
Vitamins and Minerals A
* Values are for high-quality protein. For average-quality protein, add two or three percentage points.
A. Values recommended by the National Research Council.
B. Values as for A plus 10%.
C. Values as for A plus 20%.
Chart courtesy of Dr. Ben E. Sheffy, James A. Baker Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University.
Protein, which is essential in every dog's diet, provides about 25 amino acids necessary for the growth, repair, and maintenance of healthy muscles, bones, and internal organs. Experts say that between 15 and 30 percent of the total calories in a dog's diet should be protein. The National Research Council is an agency of the National Academy of Sciences with responsibility for setting nutritional guidelines for minimum nutrient requirements for growth, reproduction, lactation, and muscular activity for pets and their human owners. According to the National Research Council, protein requirements are influenced by digestibility, caloric density in the diet, the physiology of the dog, and the composition of amino acids in the diet.*
Dogs digest about 90 percent of the eggs and meat they consume, but only 60 to 80 percent of vegetable protein. In the scheme of dog digestion, wheat gluten and cooked kidney beans, for instance, are only half as digestible as meat.
Raw and Cooked Meats. Raw meat is hazardous in your dog's diet. Uncooked meat can harbor parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Dogs have strong stomachs and they're capable of digesting things that humans can't, but if foods are contaminated with bacteria, food poisoning can result. Puppies can die from consuming tainted food. Meats should be cooked to destroy parasites that may be present, such as trichinosis organisms and worms. Poultry should also be well cooked to prevent any salmonella organisms from polluting the food.
Use a variety of meats, including organ meats. Dogs love liver, and it is recommended by many breeders. But since liver stores many toxic substances and pollutants, it should be rotated in the diet and used only occasionally.
Eggs. The egg is one of nature's most perfect foods. Raw eggs were a favorite of my dog Emily before she left her country home. The same impulse that led her to raid the chicken coop guides many wild predators. However, scientific studies indicate that raw egg whites can cause a biotin deficiency, which in turn can lead to problems with a dog's nervous system and with its coat, as well. Even though it would take a large number of raw eggs over time to create an imbalance, it's best to err on the side of safety and cook the eggs. Dogs love them scrambled, poached, and fried.
Milk. After puppies are weaned, most veterinarians recommend that milk be removed from the diet on the assumption that the pup will gain necessary nutrients from other foods. Some dogs are lactose intolerant; that is, they are unable to digest milk properly and may suffer from intestinal gas and diarrhea. Since many farm dogs thrive on cow's milk, apparently never developing an intolerance, it is possible that pasteurization may be the culprit, since it changes the chemical structure of the milk and destroys enzymes and bacteria. If you want to include milk in your dog's diet, try raw milk and goat's milk. The lactose in cultured milk products has been altered by bacteria, so yogurt, buttermilk, and cheese are usually well tolerated.
Fats are a highly concentrated source of energy. Most commercial dog foods contain between 4 and 10 percent fat, but your dog may require up to 30 percent fat in his diet for optimum energy. Fats are necessary to maintain a healthy coat and skin and to keep the nervous system in good working order. Fat is 100 percent digestible, and it increases the palatability of most other food. Dogs whose protein intake is restricted can obtain energy through fat in the diet while still reducing the strain on the liver and kidneys.
The primary source of energy, carbohydrates can provide up to 60 percent of a dog's daily calories. High-level complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides), which are the kind you want to feed your dog, are present in wheat and grain products, rice, potatoes, and other starchy vegetables (dried legumes, such as beans and lentils). Simple carbo- hydrates include sucrose (sugar) and lactose (milk sugar).
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins are essential to your dog's growth and well- being. If you have any uncertainties about the proper levels for your pet, consult your veterinarian. Curiously, unlike humans, dogs are able to manufacture their own vitamin C. However, many experts believe that large breeds cannot supply enough of this vitamin naturally, and recommend that you give your dog vitamin C supplements.
Minerals work with vitamins to form important enzymes necessary to support life. The National Research Council has published specific guidelines for certain minerals: calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, iodine, zinc, sodium, and selenium.
Sodium. Dogs need salt to maintain proper fluid balance and avoid water retention or dehydration. A dog with heart disease is usually placed on a low-sodium diet. If your dog is eating a well-balanced diet, there is no need for table salt to be added. Bone Appétit! recipes call for salt to taste, which means just the tiniest pinch to enhance the natural flavors of the food.
Supplementation. Just as many of us substitute vitamins and minerals, sometimes in very high and/or uneven doses, for well -balanced meals, we may try to "help" our dogs in the same way. If you can't make it home from work until midnight a few nights during the week, you may find yourself feeling sorry for your pet — it's not getting enough attention or exercise, and we won't even mention the pooch's overextended bladder.
But what will assuage some of your guilt? Vitamins, of course! Popping a few vitamins into the dog food may make you feel better, but it's likely to set up metabolic imbalances in your dog unless you really calculate your dog's requirements and determine whether any real deficiencies exist.
Doctors can't agree on supplementation for humans, and canine experts can't reach a consensus either. If you must supplement, consult your veterinarian and get a recommendation for specific supplements and dosage. If you do use a supplement, veterinary formulations are your best bet. Pet-Tabs by Beecham Laboratories are an excellent daily supplement for dogs and cats. Pet-Tabs Plus is formulated for dogs with higher requirements: older dogs, show dogs, and hunting dogs. Pet-Tabs F.A. contains fatty acids and zinc for poor, shedding coats.
Common sense tells us that a varied diet of fresh foods usually meets our own nutritional needs, and the same is true for dogs. The key word is fresh. And that, by definition, rules out nearly all commercially processed dog foods.
Fiber, popular in the diets of health-conscious dog owners, also contributes to dog health and should comprise about 5 percent of a healthy dog's diet. Good sources of dietary fiber are whole-grain cereals, including bran, and fresh, crunchy vegetables.
A Word about Bones
All dogs love to chew. Bones can provide hours of pleasure and also assist in the removal of tartar from the teeth. The selection of the right bone is important to your pet's well-being. Most bones cannot be chewed without serious side effects. For instance, bone splinters can accumulate in the colon and create severe constipation. Short, round bones can become lodged in the dog's throat or jaw, creating problems that can only be solved surgically.
Safe substitutions include synthetic chewing bones or natural rawhide chews. However, some dogs are sensitive to rawhide and experience vomiting and diarrhea. No matter how large and safe a natural bone may be, a determined dog with a powerful bite can splinter the largest bone. In short, for your dog's safety and well -being, never give your dog a natural bone.
Special Nutritional Needs
Extra Protein. High-protein diets are essential for pregnant dogs, puppies during their first year of rapid growth, and stressed or convalescing dogs. Some commercial kibbles, such as Eukanuba Premium and Nutro Puppy Food, have about 30 percent protein content to meet these increased needs.
Exposure to freezing weather or extreme heat will also increase a dog's need for protein. Extra calories will be required to help dogs maintain weight during the cold season. Dogs who are outdoors all the time or who sleep outdoors will have a higher caloric requirement than the indoor pet.
Pregnant Bitches. Starting with the fifth week of pregnancy, pregnant females should be fed from a third to a half more food than normal, including high-quality protein. As the pregnancy progresses, it is better to feed smaller meals more frequently to keep her comfortable as the puppies grow. You should also administer a vet-pre-scribed vitamin and mineral supplement.
Orphaned Newborn Pups. Use a commercial formula (KMR or Esbilac) or your own homemade formula for orphaned pups that have not yet been weaned. If you want to make your own puppy formula, combine in a blender 1 ¼ cups of evaporated milk, ¼ cup of warm water, 2 teaspoons of protein powder, and 2 egg yolks. Blend until smooth and feed to the puppy. Protein powders are available in health food stores, and it's best to use one derived from milk and egg sources (casein, egg albumin, or lactalbumin) in order to supply necessary amino acids. Not all puppies can tolerate cow's milk, and some pups may experience constipation when given milk substitutes.
Young Puppies. By the middle of the third week of life, pups can be introduced to a slurry of milk and baby cereal twice a day. The puppies will take to the new food more readily if you first offer it to them by putting a small amount on your finger and letting them lick it off. Later they can have some mashed grains, packaged puppy growth food, and milk.
Older Dogs. Some dogs live to be twenty, and some live only half that long, but most dogs have a life span of between ten and fifteen years. Many factors influence your dog's life span: breed, genetic endowment, and environmental factors, among them food.
You can't control your dog's genetic inheritance, but you do have control over nutritional and environmental factors.
Older dogs should have regular checkups to discover or monitor a wide range of geriatric problems. A few of these, such as kidney disorders and weight loss, can be managed to some extent by nutritional means.
Stressed, Ill, and Convalescing Dogs. Dogs who are under stress, whether it be from a recent move, a dog show, family upheaval, or illness, have increased nutritional requirements. A stressed dog may require extra calories as well as temporary increase in vitamin and mineral supplements.
Adult dogs, if left to their own devices, will eat when hungry, eat only enough to be satisfied, and will not over-eat or become fat. The question remains, however: How much should you feed your dog? The American Kennel Club cites the old adage, "the eye of the master feeds his dog," and recommends feeding adult dogs once or, preferably, twice a day. How does this translate into caloric intake?
Smaller dogs burn more calories per pound than larger breeds. For example, a 10-pound dog needs about 42 calories for each pound of body weight, while a larger dog (50 to 75 pounds) requires about 26 calories per pound of body weight. Of course a dog's age, condition, lifestyle, and breed will also affect its daily caloric requirement. Equally important, the AKC recommends establishing a feeding schedule and sticking to it.
Puppies need four times as many calories as an adult dog. However, some pet owners unknowingly push their pups nutritionally to bring them to maximum size for their breed. It's best to let the puppy grow at its own rate, since overfeeding can contribute to illnesses in the adult dog.
Climate is a factor in how much your dog needs to eat. In very cold weather, dogs need to consume more food to maintain their weight. In very warm climates, a dog may eat less, but will still require the same amount of protein required in milder climates.
Sick dogs and those recovering from surgery, malnutrition, or illness should be given small amounts of food that will not overwhelm the digestive system, such as rice, chicken, and nutritious broths. Food may be gradually increased to bring the dog up to proper weight.
Some dog owners make dry food available all day, some will feed on demand, but most people are comfortable feeding an adult dog once or twice a day. Routine is comfortable for most of us, and dogs also appreciate consistency in their lives, so feed your dog at the same times and in the same place every day. This constancy will also help regulate the dog's elimination cycle. A dog that hasn't finished eating within thirty minutes has probably had enough. Leftover food should be covered and refrigerated.
Weak puppies may need to be fed separately at two- to three-hour intervals. Special nursing bottles can be obtained from the veterinarian.
Pups from seven to twelve weeks should be fed four times a day. At twelve weeks to six months, young dogs do best on a three -feedings-a-day schedule, and from six months to maturity twice a day is sufficient.
Hunting dogs and those who perform under strenuous conditions (water rescue, coursing, and other activities) will benefit from a twice-a-day feeding schedule.
Between-meal snacks should be discouraged. Snacking can create a begging pattern that is a nuisance and can also contribute to obesity. Once in a while, of course, it's all right to give your dog a small scrap, but it is the spirit in which the snack is given that is important. When offering a tidbit, be sure to make a show of praise so the dog realizes that your love is the most important thing, and the food is just a delightful accompaniment.
Fasting Your Pet
Many veterinarians suggest that occasionally you fast your dog for a day so its system can slough off toxic accumulations. A dog will go off its feed naturally from time to time, and a day without food is a common occurrence in the wild. If your pet is ill and develops a fever, its appetite will naturally decrease — remember the old adage, "starve a fever." During this voluntary or imposed period of fasting, offer your pet nutritious broths, a few light vegetables, and a small amount of lean cooked meat.
Your dog should have its own bowls for food and water. The size, shape, weight, and height of the bowls are factors we usually don't think about, but they are important to your dog.
Some breeds, particularly the larger ones, and dogs who are prone to choke on their food will benefit from a bowl that is raised off the floor.
Long-eared dogs need deep bowls with narrow, contoured openings designed to keep the ears out of the food. Not only is it a chore to clean food residue off a dog's ears, but the food can also create an ear infection.
Plastic and stainless steel bowls are convenient, but they are often too light and end up being pushed across the kitchen floor as your dog eagerly wolfs down its dinner. In addition, some dogs may be sensitive to certain types of plastic and may develop redness or swelling around their mouths. Glazed ceramic bowls, if chipped, may present a lead-poisoning hazard. The best bowl to use is a sturdy ceramic one well-suited to your dog's size and individual characteristics.
Excerpted from Bone Appétit! by Suzan Anson, Judy Knipe, Bunny Matthews. Copyright © 1989 Suzan Anson. Excerpted by permission of New Chapter Press.
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