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Dog Nutrition - What you need to know about feeding your dog

What is the right food to feed my dog?

The right food to feed your dog is going to vary tremendously based on the stage of life that your dog is in—meaning puppy, adult, senior, or geriatric. It also depends on whether your dog has an underlying condition like kidney disease, liver disease, or an infinite number of medical conditions that might require a specific diet.

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

What are the life stages of feeding my dog?

Life stages are probably the big three. So you have the puppy stage, which is obvious. Normally, that's for the first year of life. Adult stage, most veterinarians would tell you, is between the ages of one year and roughly six to seven years. And then anything beyond seven years is typically considered geriatric or senior.

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

So weaning your puppy is simply introducing it at an early age, and my answer is four weeks. At four weeks is typically when a puppy that's nursing should be introduced to solid food, whether it's in a canned or the dry form. Canned can normally work better because it's softer. But start to add it as part of their regimen. You can never go necessarily straight from milk to hard food. So you want to incorporate it over the course of a couple of weeks. And typically, by around the six to seven-week range, they're fully weaned and strictly on hard food.

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

So in reference to the schedule, yes. I always recommend doing that. How often? With really young dogs, particularly your small breed dogs, I will tell clients as often as four times a day, just because their metabolism is so fast. And again, that's only on very small puppies. Once they hit about the three to the four-month range, you can start to cut back. Ultimately, with adult dogs, usually once to maybe twice a day is sufficient.

An answer to how do you know if your dog's nutrition is adequate, that's a tougher one to answer. It just has to do with health in general. You want to watch for their stool consistency. You want to watch for a steady but normal rate of weight gain, things like that. And if you start to see a failing in any one of those areas, have that dog examined by your veterinarian. A stool sample may be needed to be examined by your veterinarian as well.

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

That one is pretty simple. So if they are overweight and you should be able to look at your dog and see their rib cage - not see that from a half a mile away - but see their rib cage. You want to be able to palpate their ribs and they should have an abdomen that tucks up. If your dog is looking more like a barrel, that's usually an issue.

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

Well, we assess by using a lot of the things. So overall health in general, weight loss, stool consistencies, any vomiting—those kinds of things could be a sign of improper nutrition for that dog. Or they could just mean that there is a certain food that doesn't agree with that particular dog. It's not that you're feeding bad food, but maybe they're sensitive to that one or they have a sensitive gastrointestinal system. If that's the case, maybe a simple diet change can remedy those problems.

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

The million-dollar question. I don't know if the “best food” in the market exists. I don't think there is such a thing. What I do tend to stick with is the higher quality foods. What's higher quality food? Check the ingredients. If some of the first things you're seeing in the food are corn or a byproduct of some other protein source, it’s probably not the best food out there. But you do want to stay with the higher end, better-ingredient foods.

If you still have any other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (337) 223-9581, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook if you'd like. But please do reach out, we'll try and get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Nutrition - FAQ

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

Hi, I'm Dr. Broussard with the Waggin Train Veterinary Clinic. And in today's segment, we're going to discuss common misinformation or misinterpretations of dog nutrition. My assistant, Chole, and I have put together a list of questions and we're going to run through those questions to hopefully give you a better understanding of the topic.

Is a dog able to live on a vegan diet?

I'm definitely going to say “no” to that question, and the simple reason why is dogs are carnivores. I'm not even talking about domestic though. Let's talk about dogs, canines. They are carnivorous animals. So to completely remove all animal protein from their diet is not how God created them. Can they live for a period of time? Heck yeah, they can. Would I recommend that you put a dog on a vegan diet long-term? My answer would be, "No."

Is wet food more nutritious than dry dog food?

If you ask the dog, absolutely. It's more nutritious. It tastes better. Just imagine, you get to eat a little piece of dry kibble that looks almost like cardboard, or you could eat this nice, juicy, wet dog food. Yeah, they're always going to choose that. Is it more nutritious? That’s a bit more complex. If you start reading the labels, most of the products—whether it's a prescription diet or regular maintenance diet—most of the formulations have very close to the same levels of proteins and carbohydrates and fats and those kinds of things. Normally, my vote is dry food. I know I didn’t make it sound very scrumptious, but it's better for the teeth. And I find it's a little bit easier to control your dog’s weight with dry food.

Are prescription diets better for my dog?

I'm going to answer that and say, "Only if your dog needs a prescription diet." Most of these prescription foods, and I underline the word most, not all, are formulated for dogs that have medical issues that require dietary changes to help treat medical issues such as kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, and diabetes. So for those cases, yes, prescription diets are superior. But if you have a young, healthy dog that has no underlying medical issues, the only thing that I would say is that a prescription diet might benefit the teeth.

If my dog eats grass, does that mean we are missing something in their diet?

I get this question a lot. My answer to that question has always been, "No, not necessarily, because you have to think about their diets.” Most of these commercially prepared diets are formulated to contain all the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and everything else they need. I would be a hard person to convince that they're not getting enough in those diets. And now they've got to start seeking out grass—that doesn’t make sense.

What I have seen and anybody that's owned a dog that eats grass will probably see is that they usually throw the grass right back up. It’s hard to find a known cause in literature, but I think that when they feel nauseous, they will seek grass out to empty their stomachs and hopefully make them feel better. This is only my impression and my interpretation, but that is what I have seen. That's what I've seen in my own dogs for the 30, 40 years I've owned them.

Will human food make my dog overweight?

No more than it'll make us overweight. Everything in moderation. I'm not a big fan of feeding table food, people food, human food, or whatever you want to call it. It's not balanced very well for dogs. Does that mean it can't be done? Of course not. If you are feeding a balanced diet that contains what they need, it is fine. But the question about being overweight or not because of that food, no, it's everything in moderation. If you feed a lot of it, yes they could very well be overweight.

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

Right now? What I hear so much about is grain-free diets. That's the biggest one because they think their dogs have allergies and they're going to put them on grain-free and everybody's going to live happily ever after. And let me just say that if your dog is allergic to grain, then yeah, you might live happily ever after. But that's the only reason. If they're not allergic to that, why do it?

If I'm allergic to strawberries, I'm not going to quit eating steak or anything like that. It just doesn't make sense. Not to mention one of the things I will say about grain-free diets and a lot of the public is still not aware of, and I won't go into great detail, but there has been plenty of studies that show that there is a correlation between dogs who eat grain-free diets that developed premature cardiovascular disease or heart disease if you will.

You will find a plethora of information out there about the potential dangers of a grain-free diet. Unless a dog has been proven to be allergic to grains, I don't recommend grain-free diets. And that's one of the big misconceptions that I hear on a weekly basis.

If you still have any other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (337) 223-9581, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook if you'd like. But please do reach out, we'll try and get back to you as fast as we can.

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