What is the right food to feed my dog?

It depends on the life stage, from puppy to adult to geriatric dog. They’re ideally they're still nursing from their mom when they’re puppies. We may have to transition to a liquid, if not a wet food diet. Here, we have some. It's calorie-rich, and that's what's really important in puppies if they're not nursing. Then this is a great canned food diet to transition to if need be.

Dr. Lander
Advanced Animal Care in Richmond

What are the life stages of feeding my dog?

Like I said earlier, I kind of jumped the gun there a little bit, but puppy, adult, and geriatric. There are certain things to consider long-term after that.

How do I wean my puppy and get them on regular food?

By the time puppies are four or five weeks old, they can start weaning off of their mother's milk. If they still need to be on a liquid diet, that's not necessarily ideal. The ideal is transitioning to a wet food diet, which still has a lot of moisture in it and is easy to eat.

Should I feed my dog on a schedule? And how do I know if my dog's nutrition is suffering?

Feeding them on a schedule is probably what's the most common. You can free-feed some dogs. Sometimes they just gorge themselves and they eat entirely too much and then we run into conditions like bloat and obesity. As a whole, dogs should eat about twice a day, just like we eat on a schedule.

As for whether your dog’s nutrition is suffering, your veterinarian is probably the best one to determine that. Your vet can decide if they are obese or whether they're having joint issues. Is their fur dry? A dry coat really tells us they are not getting the right oils and minerals in their diet. Those are really good indicators.

How do I know if I'm feeding my dog too much?

Again, it's really good to be assessed by the veterinarian based on what's called body condition score, so we'll feel their hips and their ribs, and overall just how they're doing at home. Are they really lethargic? Do they get winded really fast? Those things may tell us they're a little overweight. On the other han, if we can feel the ribs really prominently and/or their hips stick out, they might not be getting enough food.

What are the essential nutrients my dog needs?

Proteins, carbs, vitamins, and minerals are really important. Especially right now, you may hear about grain-free diets. Those grains, or carbohydrates, are actually a really important part of their diet.

How will a veterinarian be able to assess if my dog is getting proper nutrition?

As a veterinarian, I'd look at the fur and making sure that the coat's really shiny and clean. I'd also take a look at heir teeth. They might be on a wet food diet but need to transition to kibble or a dry food diet to help break up that tartar.

There are so many brands of dog food. How do I know what is the best one for my dog?

All of them have components that are beneficial. Certain companies do more research and make sure that their diets are formulated appropriately, giving them advantages. There are some that also offer prescription diets that are formulated specifically for a certain dog and this dog’s conditions. As a whole, my preferences are Purina, Hills, and Royal Canin. They do the most research in my opinion.

When would my dog need a prescription diet?

A prescription diet is used when conditions arise. Honestly, we can even sometimes use it as a preventative measure in some dogs, but we usually suggest them when something's diagnosed. For example, if we have joint issues, we might suggest a diet that has certain things like glucosamine and chondroitin in it to lubricate the joints. This is weight management. It just helps them feel full, but we worry about calories a little more for that, so maybe our diabetic or overweight patients. And I already discussed the need for calorie-rich diets for puppies.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 202-3641, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Nutrition - FAQs

Dr. Lander
Advanced Animal Care in Richmond

Is a dog able to live on a vegan diet?

There are some vegetarian options, for example, hydrolyzed protein. Because a lot of times, it's the protein source that animals can be allergic to if they have food allergies. The bottom line is protein sources need to be there somehow. So in dealing with a strictly vegan diet, even vegans necessarily need their protein. We just have to be sure it's there.

Is wet food more nutritious than dry foods?

I wouldn't say it's necessarily more nutritious. It may offer certain things that dry food doesn't. Wet food, for example, is really good if we're worried about moisture and ensuring that they get enough water throughout their day. Whereas dry may be better for their teeth. Kibble breaks up the tartar on the teeth. Each one plays their own role.

Are prescription diets better for my dog?

Prescription diets may be better for your dog if your dog has certain conditions that require that prescription. So as a whole, happy, healthy dogs don't necessarily need prescription diets, but it’s not going to hurt your dog. But unless certain things come up, whether they have osteoarthritis and we want to make sure that they get lubrication of their joints, you probably want to avoid a prescription diet due to cost.

If my dog eats grass, does that mean they're missing something in their diet?

Not necessarily. I think that's a myth going around. I've heard that a lot. "They must be sick or they have an upset stomach." I think dogs sometimes just eat grass. They're bored. They like the taste of it. I mean, the point I'll hit later on is just making sure that they get carbs, proteins, and grains in their diet. That's something they've eaten in the wild, whether or not they're eating a wild animal, etc.

Will human food make my dog overweight?

Human food has a tendency to make your dog overweight. They're already getting their normal diet. We probably aren't taking into account the calories that the extra human food adds, let alone that our food is sometimes really fatty and can cause things like pancreatitis.

Will free-choice feeding make my dog overweight?

Free-choice feeding could make your dog overweight. Some dogs can manage themselves well. They eat enough to be full. But as a whole, I would say most dogs need to be fed on a schedule.

What are some other myths about dog nutrition that you hear as a veterinarian?

This is my favorite point. So grain-free diets right now have been going around as the big fad—that's really important in people's opinions. And maybe at one point, it was for certain things, but I think it's getting overused. Unless your dog has been diagnosed with a food allergy by a dermatologist or they're having skin issues or they've seen an internist for GI upsets, we should not be giving dogs these grain-free diets. It's actually correlated to a horrible heart condition called DCM, and that's oftentimes fatal. So let's prevent that by not starting a grain-free diet unless it's been prescribed.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 202-3641, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Nutrition - FAQs 2

Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

How do I know what foods are toxic to dogs?

That's a good question. There is a whole bunch of food out there that's toxic to dogs, and some of them are the common ones that people think of, like chocolate. Some are not readily thought of, though, like onions and garlic, or even things like grapes and raisins can be quite toxic. The best place to go is the ASPCA website. You can look it up on Google, and they have an easy-to-access list of foods that you shouldn't feed to dogs because they are toxic, and cats too.

Can I feed my dog human food?

I don't recommend it, but you can give them some human food. You might consider things like apples, green beans, and steamed carrots. Also, we sometimes recommend offering your pet boiled chicken and white rice if they have some GI upset. So there is sometimes a need or recommendation for it, but I wouldn't feed your dog the fat from your steak, a piece of bacon, chicken bones, or anything like that.

How do I know if the food I'm giving my dog is making them sick?

Suppose they had a bite of people food, and you've noticed maybe they're just not feeling a hundred percent. In that case, their activity levels are down a little bit, or perhaps you see things like vomiting, diarrhea, or even changes in the consistency of their stool. That might be an indication that whatever you fed them isn't agreeing with them. You can also notice those things if you change from one dog food brand to the other too fast. So that's why we always recommend a slow transition when you're changing foods.

Can changing my dog's diet suddenly cause harm?

You'd mostly see a lot of diarrhea, so we recommend making that food transition over at least seven days. Because if you think about it, your dog's GI microflora, those happy bacteria that live in their GI tract, generally sees the same thing day in and day out. And when we make a sudden change, those guys are like, whoa, what is going on here? And it can cause some changes in the consistency of their stool and possibly some vomiting. Dogs' systems don't like that change, so we want to make that transition slow.

How does an elimination diet work?

We use elimination diets if we're trying to figure out if your pet is sensitive to a specific protein. So you often hear this as a food allergy. And so, what we're trying to do with an elimination diet is figure out what specific protein your pet is allergic to. So it may be that we have you take out all of the things with chicken, or maybe we have you take out all the things with beef. Your vet may recommend a completely hypoallergenic diet that has a plant-based protein like soy. But the best thing to do is get strict guidance from your veterinarian, and they can walk you through how to work that elimination diet step by step.

How do I know if my dog has eaten something toxic to them?

Obviously, if you catch your dog in the act, definitely try to figure out what it is. As I said, that ASPCA website is a massive help to pet owners. It's very reliable and easily accessible through the internet. If you're not sure and they start showing some symptoms, look for clues around your house or maybe torn corners of bags or food boxes or things like that. The best thing to do, though, is to try to keep all of that stuff way up in cabinets or off the countertops to keep your dog safe.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Nutrition - FAQs 3

Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

What kind of food is best to give a puppy?

We get asked that a lot. The best food for a puppy is puppy food. It is formulated to meet all of their nutritional needs and requirements. As they grow, they need more minerals and vitamins in a higher ratio than adult dogs do. Puppy foods also tend to be more calorie-dense, which is great for puppies. Most of you who have puppies know that they like to burn a lot of energy, so they need that higher caloric intake and those foods provide that.

What kind of food is best to give an adult dog or a senior dog?

Right around when most dogs hit that one-year mark, or for some of the larger breed dogs that may be as late as 18 months, we like to transition them over to any adult formulated diet. You'll surely see some foods out there that are made for quote unquote, all life stages. But I would encourage you to look for a dog food that's more geared towards the adult life stage instead of all life stages. Selecting a good quality adult dog food from a brand you trust is the best thing that you can do.

What are a dog's nutritional requirements?

Just like you and me, dogs require protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. And what I recommend is choosing a commercial dog food that has been pre rationed, predetermined, and has gone through the AFCO recommendations to be a suitable, fully-rationed diet for your pet. When we do those home-cooked diets, it can be challenging to ensure that we're getting everything that they absolutely need into those diets. And so the commercial brand foods are wonderful.

How can I ensure that my dog is getting a balanced diet?

Getting that commercially prepared diet that has that AFCO statement on it (AFCO has checked that food) is the best way to ensure your dog has the most balanced, proper ration and nutrition they need.

Is dry food, wet food, or a combination of both best for dogs?

It depends on your dog and what your dog's needs are. For the most part, most dogs benefit from a dry food-only diet, but you may want to spoil your pet a little bit and give them a bit of canned food, which is just fine and offers a mixed diet. Some dogs as they get older benefit from having the added water content that's in canned food, or maybe they've had dental work done and they've had a lot of teeth removed, so they benefit from having some soft food. So it depends on your dog and your dog's needs.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Nutrition - FAQs 4

Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care - Berea

How can I feed my dog the healthiest food for them?

The best place to start is to talk to your veterinarian. Some dogs have special dietary requirements that your veterinarian can help you determine. Other dogs do just fine on food that you can get from the pet store. Still, others need diets for their GI tract, kidneys, or things like that, so talking to your veterinarian first is always recommended. But if you have a happy, healthy dog at home, I know my personal favorite is the food you can get over the counter made by Purina, so their Purina One and Purina Pro Plan line, or even Hill's. Hill's Science Diet line and Royal Canin have over-the-counter lines that you can get at the store as well.

And, the reason why I like those brands so much is that they make the veterinary diets that we prescribe for your pet. So, if they have GI issues or kidney issues or liver issues, or things like that, I trust them to recommend them to you for your pets when they have those needs. I also trust their regular diets that are over-the-counter.

How many times a day should I be feeding my dog?

It depends on the age of your dog and what they need. Most adult pet dogs can get away with feeding once or twice a day. I feed my own dogs twice a day, morning and evening because I think they would probably riot at my house if they didn't get dinner, but some dogs do perfectly fine getting fed once a day. When they're puppies, especially very young puppies, they benefit from more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day. So, the amount you should feed your dog varies, but your veterinarian can give you the best advice.

Do I need to feed a specific diet to my dog based on breed or size?

I think it's less necessary for their breed. I know there are some diets out there targeted for specific breeds, and I think that's great. Do I believe that you have to feed that diet? Not necessarily, as I think there are many wonderful options out there. When it comes to the size of your pet, I think that that has a little bit more significance. So, you'll see large breed or small breed-recommended foods, and what I like about the small breed foods is the smaller kibble size. It's much easier for smaller dogs, like Coconut here, who's got a smaller mouth, to eat those small breed diets.

What is meant by life stage nutrition?

Right, so that's going to be where if you've got a puppy, you want to make sure that you're feeding puppy food. If you've got a pet who is a year or older, then you want to feed it adult food, and then we start that whole geriatric classification around seven or eight years of age, you'll go with the senior food. Some of our older pets have issues with maintaining weight or keeping weight on, and so you'll see some senior pet diets out there for when they reach that seven or eight-year-old mark.

What is the most important information I need to look at on dog food bags or cans for ingredients and nutritional values?

The thing that I would have you look at before that would be making sure that there's an AAFCO statement on your pet food. They are a national organization that makes sure that pet food is saying what it is and that it has all of the proper ingredients and nutrition, and dietary needs that your pet needs for a good, healthy life. So, we recommend making sure that that statement's on there, and then you want to look at the ingredients list and making sure that you're comfortable with feeding what's in the ingredients list. When it comes to calories, protein percentages, or carbohydrate percentages, or things like that, I wouldn't stress out too much. There are some situations where we need to be a little particular about that, but it's not a big deal for the average healthy pet.

Do the ingredients of treats matter when choosing a flavor or brand?

Yeah, I always recommend that clients stay away from anything that has a pork product in it because that tends to be what causes the most GI upset in my experience. So, that's one of the only things I would caution you to avoid. But then there are things like xylitol, which is used as an artificial sweetener in some human foods like peanut butter, and you want to ensure you don't see that on the label or anything that could be considered toxic to your pet. So, you want to make sure you do not see any garlic, onions, chocolate, raisins, grapes, or anything like that on those ingredient labels, but other than that; you should be okay.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 985-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.