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Old 09-13-2012, 08:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Practical Approach to Feeding

Want to incite a riot among an otherwise amiable group of dog breeders, commercial nutritionists, veterinarians and pet food salespersons within a relatively short amount of time? Begin a conversation about which brand of dog food one should be feeding their puppy or adult dog. Among dog breeders, brand of food is an extremely sensitive topic, mainly because many breeders base their evaluation of dog food on many years of experience and performance among their dogs. In many cases, the best dog food isn't always the most expensive or the most socially acceptable dog food on the market.

At the heart of the controversy, many nutritionists and pet food salespersons take the stand that puppies require expensive, specially formulated high protein, calorie-dense diets to maximize skeletal development. However, clinical research on the occurrence of skeletal diseases in growing dogs have veterinarians and canine orthopedic specialists taking the opposite side that high plane nutrition increases risk of skeletal diseases in medium and large breeds predisposed to developmental bone disorders (including hip dysplasia, osteochondritis dessicans, panosteitis, hypertrophic osteodystrophy, etc.). To minimize occurrence of these disorders, they recommend that foods encouraging rapid and maximized growth in puppies be avoided with the premise that a gradual, progressive growth curve obtained through restriction of high-calories and avoidance of rapid weight gain, particularly between the ages of 4-8 months, ensures less stress on developing joints and bones.

The following article addresses the nutritional requirements of the dog for the purpose of selecting good-quality dog food. Additionally, common misconceptions regarding feeding and supplementation are discussed in regard to medical findings.

Dogs are considered carnivores--meat eaters--however, to acquire complete nutrition, a dog must eat a wide variety of cereals and vegetables as well as meat. Therefore, meat-only diets, particularly those which must be supplemented with excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals are not recommended since they often do not provide the critical balance of nutrients required.

To take the guess-work out of canine nutrition, recommendations for the daily nutrient intake for proper growth and maintenance of dogs is outlined by the National Reasearch Council's Nutrient Requirements of Dogs (NRC). The latest NRC publication provides a guideline for the manufacturing of good-quality commercial brand dog foods. However, dog food labels are misleading because although many of them claim to meet or exceed NRC recommendations for nutrients, the quality and thus the digestibility (bioavailability) of these nutrients are often undetermined in these dog foods. Therefore, a more reliable assurance of nutritional quality is given by labels that state that the food has passed American Association of Feed Control Officials' (AAFCO) feeding trials.

Unfortunately, there is no one superior brand of dog food on the market which will work best for all dogs. This is primarily because nutritional requirements differ from dog to dog based on factors related to breed, genetics, body weight, level of activity, environment, pregnancy or lactation, and age. It is, therefore, important to take these factors into consideration when selecting a commercial dog food that will provide the necessary levels of protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

When acquiring a puppy from a breeder, it is recommended that the brand of dog food and feeding guidelines be discussed with the breeder. Unlike dog food salespeople who have a vested interest in selling expensive dog foods, breeders usually recommend dog food based on years of experience with the performance of their own dogs on a particular brand of dog food. If a breeder is pleased with a particular brand of dog food, it is usually because her dogs have exhibited signs of good health and nourishment while on that brand. Such signs include alertness, vigor, good appetite, regular urination and defecation habits, proper weight, glossy haircoat, unblemished skin, and bright eyes and indicate that a dog food is providing the necessary nutritional requirements.

Sometimes, however, advice pertaining to dog food may not be available from a breeder. In such cases, pet owners may have to make decisions based on little or no experience.
Amanda Cotton
M.S.K. Designz & Midnight Sky Kennels

"The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is the knowledge of our own ignorance."
- Benjamin Franklin
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