Dog Feeding Mishaps Corrected

When George Kingsley's seven-year-old pug Sophie began vomiting a couple of times per week after meals, he was quick to ask her veterinarian about the problem. "My vet describes her, politely, as being 'not a delicate eater,' which means she scarfs down her kibble," the Brooklyn, New York, dog owner says. "He suggested giving her each meal in smaller portions so that the food would have time to move through her digestive track. Now I give her half her breakfast when I get up, and the other half 30 minutes or so later, and do the same with dinner."

Portioning solved Sophie's problem with keeping her food down. For this and other sometimes-elusive solutions to common mealtime blunders, Gail Buchwald of the ASPCA offers nine quick and easy fixes.

Goof:
In multi-pet homes, cat and dog or dog and dog eat side by side.

Fix:
Multiple pets should have separate eating areas in order to avoid competition over resources and food guarding behaviors. "Create a calm feeding environment. It will help your pets' digestion," says Buchwald.

Goof:
Some mornings you're out the door by seven, while others you're in bed past nine. Fido is fed soon after your alarm goes off -- whenever that may be.

Fix:
When you sleep in, feed your furry friend as soon as you wake up. When you're leaving home early, don't pour the kibble until you're just about to leave. "Dogs need to maintain a regular feeding schedule," says Buchwald.

Goof:
Heaping bowls of food have left your always-hungry pooch without a waistline.

Fix:
Talk to your veterinarian about a healthy weight for your dog, as well as its ideal caloric intake -- then change your pet's diet accordingly. "There's a huge obesity problem among dogs," says Buchwald. "Vets are seeing more and more of it, along with the weight-related conditions that we see in people, like diabetes and arthritis." To protect your dog's health, whittle its waist. 

Goof:
Your dog licks its bowl, so why waste water washing it?

Fix:
When feeding wet food, the bowl should be washed after every meal. With dry food, washing every other day should be sufficient. And don't forget the water dish (clean with soap and water once a day). "Dirty bowls harbor bacteria," reminds Buchwald.

Goof:
Every time Rover pleads with those big brown eyes, you melt and give him what he wants: a treat.

Fix:
Give pieces of treats rather than entire biscuits, or substitute a canine-friendly vegetable (e.g., a green bean) for a cookie. "Treats should make up less than five percent of a dog's daily caloric intake," advises Buchwald.

Goof:
Your post-breakfast walk occurs immediately after the morning meal, and often includes a brief jog.

Fix:
You can't run on the treadmill after eating, and neither should your dog. Wait 30 minutes between mealtime and exercise.

Goof:
The pet store is out of your dog's favorite kibble, so you simply purchase something else and begin using it that very night.

Fix:
Be sure to shop for your pet's food when you've still got a week's supply left. If you need to change, make the switch gradually over the course of one week. "Start out with a quarter cup of the new food and three-quarters cup of the old for one or two days, seeing how your dog tolerates it. If everything goes smoothly, move on to 50-50 for a couple days, and then a quarter cup of the old food mixed in with three-quarters of the new," advises Buchwald.

Goof:
Spot's only meal is in the morning.

Fix:
Like people, pooches need to eat more than once a day. Daily breakfast and dinner are ideal. "Dogs are diurnal, like us. They're up with the sun, and ready for sleep at night, and they need nutrition throughout the day."

Goof:
Who could resist that face begging at the dinner table? Leftovers from your plate always find their way into your dog's mouth.

Fix:
Create a no-table-scraps policy and stick with it. "What we eat is not healthy for our dogs," says Buchwald. Aside from contributing to obesity, people food can cause stomach upset or even death for our best friends. The list of forbidden foods is long, and it's difficult to avoid them all. A no-go rule is your best antidote to this problem.

Of course, dog feeding isn't an exact science. Become familiar with your dog's food-related behaviors, as well as, ahem, "output." Changes in Fido's gustatory patterns can clue you in that the menu, or its delivery, warrant further examination. Your dog's stomach will thank you for it.

Photo: Corbis Images

From Finicky Fido to Chowhound Charlie

No matter how hungry your dog may be at mealtime, you'll notice that a quick sniff of the food will almost always precede the chow down. Like a connoisseur inhaling the bouquet of a fine wine before the first sip, your dog is deciding if what you've laid out for the meal is worth eating.

Dogs reportedly have about one sixth the number of taste buds that we humans do, but their sense of smell is far more sophisticated than ours. "The tissue in their brain used for smelling is bigger and actually weighs more than the same tissue in human brain," says Dr. Nancy Scanlon, DVM, at the Sherman Oaks Veterinary Clinic in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Moisture on your dog's nose helps to dissolve molecules in the air around the food, which are then inhaled, making contact with the nerves inside the nose. The nerve impulses travel instantly from the nose directly to the brain and, at this point, your discriminating doggy can immediately determine if this food is familiar, fresh, rotten, sweet or salty -- and whether or not it should be eaten.

But dogs are not easily fooled. Once your dog starts eating, the sense of taste takes over. If a food has been artificially altered so that it smells like beef but is actually soybean mush, your dog will not continue to eat if the flavor is not to its liking.

What flavors do dogs like?
One study found that dogs prefer meat to any cereal foods. They like canned meat more than fresh meat, and cooked meat better than raw. And while dogs have a taste for sweetness, they can quickly detect -- and will avoid -- food with a bitter taste.

Some dog owners may feel that their pets need a variety or certain intensity of flavors to keep them interested. Not so, say experts. "Dogs don't need a lot of flavors," says Scanlon. There is no need to switch foods, she says, unless you need to coax your dog to eat, for instance, when it's sick. Most dogs love, and will accept, flavorful treats, but these should only be used when you're training your dog or at other special times, but not as a meal replacement.

Picky eater problems
Most of us know dogs that will eat just about anything. These tend to be bigger dogs, strays or dogs that were bred to be hunters. "But for the picky guys, the fresher (the food) the better," says Scanlon, who adds that small, thin dogs, such as whippets or grey hounds, tend to be pickier eaters. Canned food or a combination of canned and dry may be best for these dogs.

If you constantly change your dog's food, or frequently give your dog scraps of human food, you could actually create a picky eater, says Dr. Kimberly Bolduc, DVM at Willowood Acres Veterinary Clinic in Romulus, Mich. Keep your dog on a consistent diet and refrain from offering human food, which can be dangerous to a dog's health.

If your dog has lost interest in its food, for some reason, here are a few tips to try to make it more palatable:

1. Warm the food in the microwave for a minute or two, making sure it doesn't get too hot. Most dogs prefer moderately warm to cold food. Warming has the added advantage of heightening the food's aroma, making it all the more enticing to your dog.

2. Add a little bit of fat-free chicken or beef broth to the food. The added hint of moisture, taste and nutrition can sometimes pep up your pup's interest. It can also help to keep the food moist if you microwave it, per the first tip. You can additionally achieve the warming effect by heating the broth itself, but not the dog food, before stirring the two together.

3. Combine wet with dry dog food. Canned food can be more satisfying to some dogs, so try adding a tablespoon or two of canned food to the bowl of dry food, mixing it together completely.

4. Try adding a small amount of a specially formulated dog food sauce to your dog's dry food. These new sauces are designed just for dogs, so look for them at your local pet food store or other pet food retailer.

Dog Food Goes Natural and Holistic

Consumers have become increasingly aware of the link between food and health, which was recently confirmed by a PetfoodIndustry.com survey that found that owners were interested in “green” pet foods. These products were most often defined as being natural and containing no artificial ingredients.

Manufacturers of premium pet foods have responded, formulating new products that emphasize quality, natural ingredients. The approach is often termed “holistic,” but what exactly does that mean? Dr. Katy J. Nelson, an associate emergency veterinarian at the Alexandria Animal Hospital in Alexandria, Va., and Dr. Amy Dicke, a technical services veterinarian for Iams, shed some light on the matter and explain how the approach goes beyond food.

Natural, Holistic Dog Food
“Holistic simply means supplying a complete and balanced diet that supports the entire animal,” says Dicke. Adds Nelson: “Only natural sources are used for the ingredients: no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no artificial preservatives and no fillers.”

The holistic concept first gained strength among medical professionals. Holistic health holds that all aspects of an individual’s needs, including psychological, physical or social, should be taken into account and seen as a whole. In terms of your dog, the food that it eats may therefore affect all aspects of its life, since the same nutrition fuels every thought and activity.

Desirable Ingredients
If you take a look at the ingredients list for new pet food formulas, you’ll probably see quite a few ingredients that you’d include on your own shopping lists. You might also see other nutrients, like FOS, which have more of a medical sound to them. In that particular case, FOS is a prebiotic often derived from fruits and vegetables that can benefit your dog’s digestion and immune system. FOS is found in some foods that you might eat too, such as certain yogurts.

Here are a few other ingredients to be on the lookout for:

Protein from meat Dogs are not carnivores like cats, but they do love and crave meat. Real, whole protein from meat sources is therefore a great food source for your pet. Beef and fish are possibilities, but you’ll often see chicken as the meat source these days. “Chicken, like all meat proteins, can provide all the essential amino acids,” explains Dicke. Chicken is a high-quality, lean protein source that is easily obtainable and inexpensive. It can then be the basis for a “nutritionally superior diet that is very affordable,” says Nelson.

Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants These important nutrients are found in familiar ingredients, such as apples, spinach, eggs and more. “Natural sources of vitamins are used for overall health,” says Nelson. High levels of vitamin E are sometimes included to help boost your dog’s immune system.

Oils for skin and coat health Omega fatty acids, such as those from fish oils, “are extremely important for skin, coat, GI and joint health,” says Nelson. “Obtaining them from fish oils and flaxseed is preferred to synthetically produced sources.” Again, there’s a crossover to human health, since flaxseed is often now included in many breads, breakfast cereals and other products.

Holistic Means More than Just Food
Nelson advises that you should extend the holistic and natural mindset outside of feeding time. She provides the following three tips:

1. Consult with your veterinarian about ways in which your dog’s exposure to chemicals and drugs can be decreased. Many veterinary practices now include alternative medicines or nutrition-based treatments based on natural ingredients.

2. If you have an arthritic dog, perhaps acupuncture could help you decrease the amount of medication required to keep your pet comfortable.

3. Instead of monthly preventatives, discuss with your veterinarian newer products on the market, which may only have to be used every six weeks to every six months.

Dicke believes that the holistic approach can be applied to the entire experience of owning a pet. “A pet needs quality nutrition; health care; a stable, safe and interactive environment; and love. That is holistic pet ownership,” she says.

Determining a Food Allergy

Mimi Drew had her dog Charlie for a little more than a year when he got his first ear infection. She took him to the vet, who sent Charlie home with ointment and a round of antibiotics.

After many trips to the vet over a nine-month period to treat chronic ear infections and itchy skin, Drew began to do some research. She ultimately traced Charlie's symptoms to a rare canine food allergy: beef. "I was surprised that my vet didn't even consider food allergies when Charlie had those symptoms," Drew says. "We could have spared Charlie a lot of suffering -- not to mention the vet bills I could have avoided."

Her vet was not necessarily to blame. Canine food allergies are not very common and, like human allergies, can be tricky to diagnose -- dogs often do not show any immediate symptoms. A dog that's allergic to a certain ingredient, such as soy, may remain symptom-free for years before experiencing any related problems.

When it comes to food allergies, it helps to know what to look for. According to Alexander Werner, DVM, of the Animal Dermatology Center, the signs are:  

  • Chronic/recurring ear infections
  • Itchy face and paws
  • Hair loss, especially around the eyes

These symptoms can almost always be attributed to other issues. However, once you've ruled everything else out, consider discussing the possibility of a food allergy with your vet.

How to Tell
The simplest way to determine if your dog has a food allergy is to put your pup on a hypoallergenic food-elimination diet. Kimberly Carvalho, DVM, says you should "pick a novel protein source that your dog has never had before and feed it for six-to-eight weeks." For example, a commercial lamb and rice formula works well if your dog did not previously eat this combination much before.

Carvalho advises that your dog must not have access to any other food, such as table scraps, bones or treats during the trial period. She also recommends transitioning your dog gradually by mixing small amounts of the new flavored food in with your dog's old standby until you are feeding exclusively the new food.

At the end of the trial period, provided your dog's symptoms are gone, try feeding your dog its original diet. If a food allergy is to blame, symptoms will return within two weeks. If this does happen, go back to the food that you used during the trial. If your dog's symptoms still have not cleared up, and you have ruled out other causes, keep trying different flavors until your dog's symptoms disappear. Usually you can stick with your favorite pet food brand throughout the process. If your dog previously ate beef and veggies, try chicken and rice, or vice versa, depending on your dog's prior diet.

Dr. Carvalho also points out that once you've successfully concluded the trial and gotten your dog's allergies under control, it is important to reintroduce treats one at a time, waiting six to eight weeks each time you introduce a new treat flavor, to make sure it does not lead to an allergic reaction again.

While food allergies can be frustrating for pet owners -- and no doubt, even more frustrating for dogs -- they are solvable. So continue with the suggested feeding techniques until you find a food combination that agrees with your dog.

Global Dog Food Market Trends

Dogs worldwide are enjoying better food and longer lives, multiple studies show. If you are the owner of a canine, you are helping to drive that trend. By the year 2017, demand for pet food is expected to boost sales to $95.7 billion across the globe, according to a new report by Global Industry Analysts Inc. (GIA).

This report and others help reveal pet food trends in other countries. Here’s a look at what is happening now in some key locations:

Australia

Down Under, the number of dogs and cats per household is actually declining a bit, the industry analysis firm IBISWorld suggests. Some of that is due to increasing urbanization, since farmers tend to care for more animals in general. Pet food and other product sales are booming, though, just as they are in many other countries. The reason: increasingly spoiled pooches and kitties. “Though declining in number, the average pet now enjoys better food, more treats and even inclusion in sophisticated human products like health insurance,” says IBISWorld analyst Craig Shulman.

Online sales of pet food are going up in Australia, with the Internet market “in a growth phase, brought on by expansion of products and services.” Over the past five years in Oz, online sales of dog food and other pet products have doubled. Shulman and his team credit this to improved technology and infrastructure supporting such purchases.

Europe

GIA concludes that the European pet food market is now primarily influenced by four factors: health-oriented products, foods for dogs at different life stages, breed-specific diets, and treats. Health concerns are paramount, though.

Although dogs remain incredibly popular in the United Kingdom, fewer families are able to keep larger-breed canines, says Lee Linthicum, head of food research at Euromonitor International, another market analysis firm. The tough economy is taking a toll on families, requiring them to work more hours while still limiting their budgets. “It burdens those owners that want to offer the best for their pet but cannot afford to do so.” Nevertheless, people are working hard in an effort to feed their dogs the best and healthiest foods possible.

In fact, they often feed their dogs too much. “Obesity is also emerging as a major issue for pet owners in the U.K., driven in large part by the fact that many are feeding their pets human food,” explains Linthicum. He adds that this practice “perpetuates the increasing costs associated with owning a pet.” In the U.K. and elsewhere, it is better to feed your dog a quality commercial diet.

Asia-Pacific

This large, widespread region is enjoying the fastest-growing market for pet foods. GIA found that in Vietnam, India and China, product pricing and value for money are extremely important to dog owners.

Japan is somewhat similar to Australia. As for that nation, many families in Japan own older pets, so people are interested in buying new products that are appropriate for aging and elderly canines. That’s a good sign, further supporting that dogs are living to advanced ages.

In Singapore and South Korea, as well as Japan, four factors are fueling pet food sales:

1.    Innovation

2.    Shorter product lifecycles (customers want to feed the freshest possible foods to their pets)

3.    Healthier products

4.    Convenience

Shared Trends

In most places around the world, the following seem to hold true, based on the GIA findings:

· Dog food sales are growing at a faster pace than cat food sales.

· People are mostly buying their pet food at retail grocery chains, at pet superstores and on the Internet.

· There are good signs that the economy is now post-recession, so leading companies are gearing up with new food product launches.

“The pet food industry continues to grow and expand,” says Stephen Zawistowski, science advisor for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). “Even during the toughest economic times, owners want the best for their pets.”

Duane Ekedahl, president of the Pet Food Institute in Washington, D.C., agrees. “Pets have become like every other member of the family, and this is increasingly reflected in how people feed their animals.”

“Pet foods are looking more like people food,” adds Ekedahl. “Consumers are into organic, natural foods now, and that’s what you’re seeing on pet food shelves. The industry has really come a long way in the past 10 years in meeting this growing interest.”