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Pantops Pet Salon & Spa
Charlottesville's Professional Dog Grooming

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(434) 293-2424
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Charlottesville, VA 22911

Nutrition

Thursday, January 18th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

A dog’s diet is guided by several shifting nutritional factors which necessitate different diets due to age, breed, genetics, body weight, and activity level.  In some cases, even climate becomes a consideration. 

First, we need to look scientifically at the development of the canine’s ability to process food back to their wolf ancestry.  Dogs were primarily carnivores meaning that they’re built to eat, digest and absorb nutrients that are, for the most part, extracted from a meat diet.  An analysis of the teeth and digestive system of the carnivore vs. the herbivore indicates subtle differences that are essential to a proper diet.  Carnivores tear their food and gulp it down with limited, if any, chewing.  Herbivores have broad molars with the ability to break down plant material in preparation for digestion.  The length of the intestine of the dog is far short than that of a plant eating animal of equal size.  The dog needs the direct protein and vitamin source found in meat whereas herbivores have developed with a much longer digestive tract as well as bacteria within it which are able to process indirect proteins found in vegetable matter such as soy.  A vegetarian diet for dogs would not provide for optimal health due to their digestive limitations.

Aspects to pay attention to when shopping for your dog’s healthy meal:

1. The dog’s keenest sense is smell—make it smell good and you’re in business!
2. Taste matters, but not as much as smell.
3. Meat costs more than corn.  Dog food with quality meat byproducts is going to be more expensive than grain based products.  Sorry, but good nutrition will cost you more.
One thing we can say for dogs that we can also say for humans is that, yes, calories in should equal calories out.  Assuming you are feeding your dog a balanced diet, make sure the amount is regulated.  Consider age, exercise, breed, etc and then feed an according amount.  This consideration is why I don’t feed Lizzie treats or table scraps—I’m not interested in carrying around a notebook to total up the nutrition and calories of everything that goes into her mouth!  Meals are enough, and remember if your dog eats too much “lite” dog food he can still get too many calories and get fat!  Along with “calories in, calories out” we can add “you are what you eat!”
4. Dehydrated meat and byproducts weigh less than canned meat which can be 80% water so labels by weight can be confusing.

Minimum requirements for nutrition have been established by the FDA for two phases of a dog’s life – growth/reproduction and adult maintenance.  Go to www.fda.gov and search dog nutrition.  Once there, click on “Selecting nutritious pet foods” for an easy to understand chart.

You’ll note that companies like Purina offer foods that carry minimum requirements but also a more expensive variety (Purina One) which costs more but boasts higher quality content.  This is their effort to compete with more nutritious dog foods which are manufactured by smaller, personalized companies and are available exclusively in pet stores.

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