Feeding your Pomeranian Dogs
Pomeranian Dog Health
FEEDING POMERANIAN DOGS

BY AUDREY BYE

Thirty-five years ago when I got my first purebred dog, I remember the breeder and veterinarian telling my family not to feed a dog "people food" or table scraps. Their advice was that human food was "bad" for dogs, and that dogs should be fed a diet consisting exclusively of dog food. That only dog food provided the right nutritional balance, and to feed anything else would screw up my dog's health.

Later, that "sage wisdom" grew to include the recommendation that it was "bad" to change your dog's food. I was advised by my vet to find a dog food they liked, and to stick with it for the dog's entire life.

Having always wanted to do what was right by my dogs, I followed this advice for years. My dogs have always been first and foremost my companions and pets, so naturally I caved in and gave them table scraps from time to time, but I always felt guilty about doing it. I believed that I was giving my dog something "bad".

Many years ago, this was probably not as bad advice as it is today, but back then, dog food was less commercialized and had more meat in it than the cheap fillers and grains you find today.

Common sense started to kick in with my first rottweiler, Reno. When he was a puppy, he had frequent GI problems - throwing up, diarrhea, and blood streaked stool. The vet would put him on antibiotics and the symptoms would go away, but they always came back a few days later.

My husband and I moved when Reno was about 6 months old and we had to find a new vet. We were way out in the country and we picked the vet closest to our home. This new vet recommended putting him on boiled chicken and rice for a few months so his GI tract could heal and stabilize.

Well, let me tell you, this advice came as quite a shock! After all, I had been feeding my dogs what I thought was great dog food. Reno was fed Puppy Chow and our second rottweiler, Vegas, was fed Hi-Pro! I bought it in big 50 pound bags at the grocery store and like a lot of pet owners, I truly believed that this was the best food for my dogs. After all, their advertising said it would make my dog live longer, be happier and healthier, plus keep their teeth clean to boot!

Boy, was I dumb. This vet told me that some dogs didn't tolerate many of the ingredients used in cheap dog food very well and that I should take him off of it for awhile.

What?!?! How could this be? Feed him "bad" people food? How could this be good for my dog?

We followed this vets advice, and Reno not only recovered, but bloomed. His GI problems cleared up, and you could see a remarkable improvement in him - a glossy coat, bright eyes, more energy. However, I didn't necessarily connect these external improvements to his new diet as much to the end of his GI problems, and the fact that he was a growing puppy.

So I went back to feeding dry dog food. After doing some research, I put my dogs on Pro-Plan, which I felt was a premium dog food with better ingredients. I signed up for their quarterly magazine, where I saw ads and articles from show breeders who were feeding Pro-Plan, and their dogs looked like the picture of health. I felt pretty good about feeding Pro-Plan and again, I felt I was doing the right thing by my dogs, although I admit I no longer felt guilty about preparing a home cooked meal or adding meat scraps to my dogs dish every once in awhile.

So why did I go back to feeding my dogs dry dog food? This is a good question, but it probably had more to do with the fact that feeding dry dog food just doesn't get any more convenient and economical, especially when you have multiple dogs and work a full-time job. We lived out in the country with the nearest grocery store being 30 minutes away. I also worked 10-hour shifts at the time, so convenience was important, as was the economics of a shelf stable food that wouldn't spoil.

My dogs did pretty good on Pro-Plan. Their advertising depicted plump, whole chickens, choice cuts of beef, fresh grains, and wholesome nutrition that made me feel good about what I was feeding, but I was soon to find out that these images weren't really what was in the bag.

We moved again, this time to Georgia, and I took a job with Nutro. This is where I first started learning about how to really read a dog food label, and what the ingredients really are that are used in dog food, by AAFCO definition. I was shocked at what I learned, as this was certainly not common knowledge to the average pet owner, and the $11 billion pet food industry wasn't about to change this state of ignorance.

Nutro was a good company, and I saw pictures and read stories about dogs before and after being fed Nutro. The results amazed me, so I switched my dogs over to Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Rice. They did very well on it, and I saw big improvements in their coat, skin and general overall condition. I fed it long after I left that job, and Natural Choice was a good food. After a few years, they started changing their formulas by adding non-nutritive fillers (like beet pulp), and saying that these fillers were beneficial to dogs as fiber and stool hardeners. Their feeding guidelines also increased, so logically based on what I had learned from them, I didn't believe a word of it. It sounded like nothing more than spin doctoring to me.

From Nutro, I had learned that you can tell a lot about what you feed just by looking at your dog's poop. If a food is full of fillers, which basically makes your dog feel full, adds fiber, but doesn't provide a lot of nutritional benefit, you are going to have a whole lot of poop. Crap in, crap out, so to speak. If you are feeding a nutrient dense diet, you are going to feed a whole lot less and get a whole lot less poop.

Luckily for my dogs, common sense prevailed, so again I switched foods, this time it was to Canidae. Although I no longer feed Nutro products, I still think they make a better than average dog food, particularly in their new Ultra product line. If the foods I feed now were not available, I would switch to the Nutro Ultra, but there are better foods available!

As I had become better educated on the subject of canine nutrition and dog foods, I discovered that economical, convenient and well-preserved were actually undesirable qualities in selecting a dog food. I began to apply the same logic to feeding my dogs that I used to feed my family. After all, I wouldn't feed my family bags of corn chips, beet pulp, soy beans and boxes of cereal as a main source of nutrition, simply because these foods are convenient, cheap and well preserved, so why should it be any different for my dogs? Unfortunately, dried corn, soy and cereal are main ingredients in most commercial dried dog foods, particularly the brands you find in grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and big box stores. Seeing "Complete and Balanced" on a bag of dog food tells you absolutely nothing about the quality of the ingredients inside that bag. It simply, and quite sadly, means only that if a dog eats the specified amount of the food listed on the label, it will sustain life for a specified period of time. You too could sustain life on corn chips, soy beans and cereal for a long time, but it probably wouldn't be very good for your health, now would it?

From a nutritional standpoint, do you really think a dog needs to eat these cheap ingredients? I don't know about you, but I want more for my dogs than just sustaining their life. I want them to be as healthy and full of life as they can possibly be.

Stop and think about this logically for a minute. How often do you see dogs, or their wild wolf cousins, hanging around corn and soybean fields nibbling on grains? I think most dog owners are smart enough to know that if their dogs were forced to forage for food on their own, they would hunt, kill and eat other animals. That's what got dogs through thousands of years of survival, and it is really no different today, just because they are now man's companion animals. Dogs are carnivores, and their diet should be mostly derived from high quality meat sources. You can draw your own conclusion just by looking at their teeth. Both cats and dogs teeth are made for ripping flesh from prey animals and chewing on bones, not grinding corn and soybeans, as you would find in a grazing animal, such as a horse or cow, or even our own teeth. Further, their digestive systems don't support the breakdown of vegetable matter. They have a short digestive track, and even raw feeders puree and pulverize their vegetables because a dog's digestive system is unable to break them down to get the nutrition from them otherwise. Doesn't sound to me like nature intended them to derive their primary source of nutrition from vegetables and grain, which is what you find in most commercial dog foods.

So, why shouldn't a dog owner make feeding decisions based on the fact that a food is inexpensive? Well, there is a reason why corn-based dry dog foods are so cheap. Go to a feed store and look at the price per pound of a bag of corn. It's really not much different from a bag of cheap dog food. Another factor to consider when looking at price is that generally speaking, higher priced dog foods usually result in better nutrition for your dog, so you feed substantially less of it than you do of a cheaper food. Dogs don't digest corn any better than we do, so you must feed more in order for your dog to get enough calories. The foods I feed my dogs are nutrient dense requiring me to feed between 2-3 cups a day, whereas if I were feeding a cheap, grocery store dog food, I would need to feed 8-10 cups a day. How is that more economical? Plus, my dogs are healthier because I feed them food that comes from high quality ingredients, which saves me money on vet bills. So in the long run, does cheap dog food really save you money?

Another factor I have to consider in owning a large, deep chested breed of dog is the less I have to feed, the less the chance of deadly bloat and torsion. Any of us with breeds prone to bloat are aware that we need to split our feedings and avoid excess water consumption and exercise an hour either side of feeding, but the less you put in your dogs stomach, the less there is to expand, and the less likely it is that the stomach will flip, by the laws of gravity.

Unfortunately, I also found that price was not always a reliable indication of quality. A good example is one of the more expensive dog foods, often pushed and touted by veterinarians as the holy grail of dog food. Compare the ingredients of this food to the dog foods you'll find for less than half the price in the grocery store and you'll find similar ingredients and nutrition profiles. So why is it so expensive? I have my own opinions on this, but it has nothing to do with the quantity or quality of ingredients used. A lot of people use it because their vet recommends it, but what DO most vets really know about canine nutrition? Sadly, in most cases, not as much as they should. Most vet schools only require one class in animal nutrition, and while most vets can and do successfully use special veterinary diets made by Hills, Waltham, IVD, Eukanuba and Purina in the treatment of illness and disease, their knowledge of the pet food industry and what goes into commercial dog foods is often pretty minimal.

When it comes to preservatives and shelf stability, I am very suspicious of food that doesn't get stale or go bad when left open to the air. Look at the expiration date on a bag of dog food. Does it make sense to you that a meat based product can be shelf stable for a year or more without refrigeration and without spoiling? The fact that dry food can withstand long periods of time without noticeable deterioration is not necessarily a good thing! Several of the preservatives used in dog foods (such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin) are carcinogens, so let's apply some common sense when we think about dry dog food. The foods I feed now have pretty short expiration dates. They can't be stored in high temperatures without spoilage. This makes sense to me, as the fresh foods I eat myself have similar rules.

Further food for thought. Dry dog food in a bag was only invented about 60 years ago, as a spin off of the cereal industry. I find it a thought provoking coincidence that since the invention of dry dog food, we have seen more health problems in our dogs like hip dysplasia, cancer, degenerative joint disease, and diabetes, just to name a few. These diseases were pretty uncommon prior to the concept of commercial dry dog food, and although there are certainly other contributing factors to consider in these diseases, I don't think that nutrition can be so easily dismissed or scoffed at.

So, what do you feed your dogs? My advice is to apply basic principles of good nutrition that you use for yourself on your canine companions. Read labels. Educate yourself on what the ingredients really mean. Dog food is really no different than human food, it is either protein, carbohydrate or fat, so if the percentages of protein and fat are low, guess what makes up the rest? Look for quality meat proteins in the first 4 or 5 ingredients, the more the better. Meat meals (i.e. chicken meal, lamb meal, turkey meal, salmon meal) are better than their "wet" counterparts (i.e. chicken, lamb, turkey and salmon) as meat meals already have the moisture removed and contribute significantly more meat protein to the finished product than just the meats themselves (which lose most of their volume in moisture loss during the kibble making process). Choose digestible, high quality vegetables, fruits and grains, and stay away from anything with "by-product" on the end of it, along with corn, soy and artificial preservatives. Check out Innova's ingredient wizard for information on what some of the ingredients really are in your pet's food.

What do I feed my dogs, you ask? If I had the time to do so, I would feed them a purely home cooked diet, but I just don't have the time to do this, at least not 100% of the time. They get home cooked on the weekends, and kibble based during the week or when we travel.

I personally don't feed a raw diet, although I know of many people who do with much success. I also know of people who have had some pretty bad experiences feeding a raw diet. My own belief is that our dogs GI tract has evolved somewhat from that of their wild wolf cousins, and quite frankly, I don't think we as humans are all that great at reproducing prey animals for our dogs by feeding them chicken legs, necks and backs. First, they lack the fur and feathers that play an important role in protecting the dog's GI tract as they wrap around bits of bone as they go through, and the stomach ruminants are missing, which provides valuable digestive enzymes of a prey diet. I also have enough concerns about our food supply these days that I would not feed raw to my dogs any more than I would eat it myself.

I feed a combination of high quality dry kibble and canned dog food most days. You may not have even heard of the foods I feed, but that is because they don't spend a lot of money on advertising, which would drive the prices beyond what most of us could afford. Most of these are small, private companies, dedicated to making healthy food for dogs. Some were started by disgruntled veterinarians and pet professionals, dissatisfied with the lack of quality nutritional choices available in the pet food industry. I won't lie to you, these foods will cost you more to feed and are harder to find, especially if you do not live in a major metropolitan area, but the results are worth every penny and ounce of extra effort. To find sources for these foods locally, check the manufacturer's websites for dealers in your area, or alternatively you can mail order these foods from Internet vendors.

I rotate my dog's foods every two to three months. I will feed Canidae, Innova - EVO & California Natural, Natures Variety, Solid Gold, Merrick (canned) and Wellness. I selected these foods because the ingredients in each are of not only comprised of high quality human grade ingredients, but because they allow me to rotate protein and carbohydrate sources for dietary diversity. Any of the foods made by these companies are of the highest quality.

I also feed a dozen or more different types of canned dog foods that I rotate daily (same brands as I feed in dry food). I try to pick a different protein and carbohydrate source each day. I like canned dog food because it is not as highly processed as kibble and it contains more meat protein, which is why I feed it daily. It's easy for them to digest, and isn't as close to "doggie junk food" as is dry kibble is.

I give my dogs a generous dollop of plain, organic yogurt and/or cottage cheese every morning on top of their food.

I randomly add fresh fruits, pureed fresh (or cooked) vegetables, and unseasoned meat. I'll add green beans, peas, spinach, tomatoes, fresh garlic, canned pumpkin, seeded watermelon, overripe bananas, apple (no stems, leaves or seeds), blueberries, broccoli sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, sweet potato (with skins), baked potato (with skins), whole eggs, ground egg shells, carrots, canned salmon, tuna and quality muscle meat scraps that I prepare for the dogs when cooking our dinner (with no seasoning added to the dogs share). Once a week they get canned green tripe, fresh when I can find it, and raw knuckle or marrow bones for keeping their teeth shiny white and clean. For training treats I use string cheese, dehydrated chicken breast strips, chunks of cooked chicken and beef (organic if I can find it), and Pepperidge Farm goldfish. For high value treats I used baked liver, or I microwave bits of liverwurst (they LOVE this!).

I supplement my dogs each day with salmon oil capsules, vitamin C (Ester-C because it is easier on their stomachs), vitamin B-complex, Nupro Joint Support, alfalfa and probiotics. I supplement a couple of times a week with vitamin E, kelp and co-enzyme Q-10. My female also gets cranberry extract on a daily basis to help prevent urinary tract infections. I buy most of these supplements at the drug or health food store at the lowest supplement levels offered, but buying the best quality I can afford. Quality does make a difference in bio-availability and how easily it breaks down and dissolves. I halve the human supplement for an adult rottweiler, and grind them up with a mortar and pestle, then mix in with their food.

I just don't believe that feeding my dogs the same thing day in and day out is any better for them than it is for us humans. How often have you heard that a wide and varied diet is good for you? Dogs are no different.

I've had vets tell me that my feeding regimen will make my dogs picky eaters, give them diarrhea and gas, and give them all kinds of digestive problems. I've had them tell me that the ingredients were "too good" for dogs and that I was wasting my money (immediately followed by the Science Diet push). I've been ignoring this advice and feeding them this way for over three years now. My dogs are not picky eaters and they lick their bowls clean as soon as the bowl hits the floor. I have had absolutely no problems with diarrhea, gas or upset stomachs. My female has been on this regimen since she arrived at 8 weeks of age, and has never thrown up in her life, not even once. Max, who like Reno, also had GI problems as a puppy, and used to be fed Nutro, hasn't thrown up once since I started this regimen three years ago. That's right. Not once, and it used to be a weekly occurence with him. My dogs are healthy and happy, with shiny coats and sparkling, white teeth. They don't have coat problems, ear infections, hot spots, or itching/chewing problems. They are full of energy and life, just like the ads promised me all those years ago. Only it wasn't by feeding their foods. I had to figure out on my own what was advertising hype to get to the truth.

I also have concerns about chlorine and chemicals in the water supply not only for my family, but for my dogs as well. They get clean, filtered water in their bowls, and spring water when we travel, as I am fortunate enough to live close to an everflowing artesian spring.

What do I suggest you feed your dogs? All I can tell you is what has worked for my dogs. I'm not a nutritionist, a veterinarian or even an expert. I'm just a concerned dog owner that has done a lot of my own trial and error research. What works for me, may or may not work for you and your dogs. I encourage you to feed your dog the best diet you can reasonably afford and what you are most comfortable with, whether it be a quality commercial dog food diet, a fresh, natural, home-cooked diet, or a raw food diet. If you make any changes to your dog's diet, discuss them with your veterinarian, and make any changes slowly and gradually, mixing any new foods in with their old food, so as to let their systems adjust and to prevent diarrhea.

Good luck and good health to your four footed friends!

LINKS

ASPCA Poison Control Center - A comprehensive list of what not to feed your dog. Here's the short list: onions (in any form), grapes, raisins, artificial sweeteners, coffee, chocolate, avocados, alcohol, bread dough and macadamia nuts. All of these can be highly toxic or harmful to your dogs, even in small quantities. Visit this page and order a free refrigerator magnet with the Poison Control Hotline's number on it. Having this number handy may save your dog's life someday!

What's Really in Pet Food

Dog Aware - A website with advice on home cooked diets and natural food alternatives to special medical diets. Site owner is Mary Straus, co-moderator of Yahoo K9 Nutrition and longtime site owner of BowChow.com (now DogAware.com).

B-Naturals - An excellent source for holistic health supplements for your dog. Owner is Lew Olsen, long time rottweiler owner, ARC board member, and list owner of Yahoo K9 Nutrition.

Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative (Paperback) by Donald Strombeck - Want to feed your dog a home cooked diet? This book has the information you will need to know to balance your dog's diet and what you can and can't feed.

Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy for You and Your Dog (Paperback) by Carina Beth Macdonald - Want to get started feeding a raw diet? Carina is a rottweiler owner and the person who started me on my journey to feeding my dogs a better way. Her book is a funny, no nonsense approach to feeding a raw diet, and removes the fear and mystery of feeding raw.

Raw Meaty Bones Promote Health (Paperback) by Tom Lonsdale - The orginal raw feeders book.

Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats: The Ultimate Pet Diet (Paperback) by Kymythy Schultze Another book for the raw feeder.

This article is used with permission, ©Audrey Bye, all rights reserved.