Archive for Dog Nutrition

Thanksgiving is nearly here once again and for most of us that means wonderful aromas wafting through the house and a table groaning under the weight of turkey and other favorite dishes. There will be family and friends gathered ’round and perhaps a slice of pumpkin pie. But, what about your dog? What does Thanksgiving mean for him?

Well, if you’re lucky, it won’t mean a trip to the vet because you’ve overfed him or given him some sharp bones to eat! Most of us want to share Thanksgiving with our dogs but, the truth is, Thanksgiving can be a dangerous time for pets. Rich foods can cause gastrointestinal upsets or even pancreatitis. Giving your dog a cooked turkey bone can lead to a punctured esophagus or other puncture in your dog’s stomach or G.I. Tract, so no cooked bones! Here are some other tips for you and your dog this Thanksgiving.

  • According to one poll, 56 percent of pet owners said they gave their pets Thanksgiving leftovers but you need to be careful about what you share with your dog. For instance, turkey is great. It’s an excellent protein that is nice and lean – as long as you remove the skin. And be sure to avoid giving your dog any cooked bones. Cooked bones are brittle so they can easily snap and form jagged edges that are harmful to dogs.
  • Say no to onion and garlic. Many Thanksgiving dishes contain onion, garlic, leeks, and scallions. If your dog eats these ingredients in any large amount, it can be harmful to him. These items are all members of the allium family and they have been linked to a form of anemia in dogs. Sure, you may occasionally give your dog something that contains garlic and it doesn’t hurt him, but don’t give your dog any foods that contain much of these ingredients.
  • Yes to veggies. It’s fine to give your dog some leftovers of green beans, cranberries, or even macaroni and cheese (if he can eat cheese). Mashed potatoes are good, too. Dogs enjoy many vegetable dishes. However, watch out for the “extras” and fancy fixin’s – those things added to a dish to make it special. For instance, if you add garlic or sour cream to your mashed potatoes, it could make it off limits for your dog. If you use cranberry sauce that has a lot of sugar added, it won’t be so good for your dog. If you would like to give your dog some veggies, try setting aside a bowl for your dog before you add the extras to it.
  • Avoid fat. Just avoid giving your dog extra fat, in general. While we like to see good named fat sources in dog food, it’s not a good idea to feed your dog leftovers that contain generous amounts of fat at Thanksgiving. Most dogs aren’t used to eating so much fat all at one time. The result can be an attack of acute pancreatitis. Vets report that the days following Thanksgiving are some of their busiest of the year for pancreatitis in dogs.
  • Be careful with other foods. There are some foods you should never give to dogs such as chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, pits from cherries and other pitted foods, and the artificial sweetener xylitol.
  • As for the pumpkin pie? Well, canned pumpkin, minus the spiced pie filling would be better for your dog. And dogs really don’t need whipped cream.
  • And one more time: No Cooked Bones! It’s fine if you would like to give your dog a raw bone such as a turkey neck. Raw bones are comparatively soft and easy for your dog to chew and digest. They won’t break off into jagged pieces when he chews them.


You can see there are many delicious things you can share with your dog at Thanksgiving. Just give some thought and care to what you give your dog and you won’t end up taking him to see the vet.

Lots of dog owners today like the idea of feeding their dogs grain free dog food. Grain free foods have plenty of benefits. They often have higher protein levels. They avoid some of the common grains that can cause allergies in some dogs. They often use carb sources that are less common so they are good for dogs with certain food sensitivities. But are they the best food for all dogs?

While many grain free foods are very good, they are not all superior foods. Some grain free dog foods can be just as much out of balance as foods with grain. If the calcium and phosphorus ratio is out of whack, for example, the food may be completely unsuitable for puppies. This happens frequently with grain free foods, especially foods that have very high protein percentages. AAFCO has formulated their nutritional charts for vitamins and minerals with popular (grain) foods in mind. These foods with grains contain phytates that absorb a lot of the vitamins and minerals in the food. That’s not necessarily true with grain free foods. They can have some ingredients that have phytates, but not the abundance that come from grains. As a consequence, dogs that eat grain free foods often get an overdose of vitamins and minerals. There’s nothing in the food to absorb them and prevent the dog from digesting them.

Some people also mistakenly believe that since a food is “grain free” that it is also carb free. This isn’t true. Vegetables generally contain plenty of carbohydrates. For instance, a dog food that is grain free can use sweet potatoes as a carbohydrate. Sweet potatoes are approximately 92-93 percent carbs. Dogs don’t need carbohydrates for nutrition but neither do people. Nevertheless, they perform important functions in the diet, providing a good source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

Many people like the idea that dogs are descended from wolves and believe that they need to eat a similar diet – a carnivore’s diet. But the truth is that dogs have been living with humans for over 15,000 years and eating what we feed them. The latest scientific research shows that dogs are perfectly capable of digesting the starches in grains – unlike wolves.

This is not to discourage anyone from feeding their dog a good grain free dog food. But when choosing a dog food for your dog, keep in mind that there are still many good dog foods that contain some grains. Here are some things to look for in a good dog food:

  • Choose a food that has several good animal proteins in the first few ingredients. Named proteins such as chicken, lamb meal, and fish are best. Avoid generics such as “animal meal.”
  • Avoid foods that have lots of grain and cereal. Small amounts are okay but foods that have white rice, brown rice, and rice bran add up to a lot of rice in your dog’s food. Corn is not necessarily bad unless there is too much of it. Foods with lots of different kinds of grains (cracked pearled barley, millet, oatmeal, etc.) also add up to a lot of carbs in the food, even if the grains sound appealing. Too much of anything is not good.
  • Look for good sources of animal fat. A named fat such as chicken fat is good. A vague fat such as “animal fat” is not good.
  • Avoid by-products and digest. These are less desirable parts of animals and you probably don’t want your dog to eat them.
  • Avoid artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. If you are in doubt whether a company uses ethoxyquin to preserve fish, call and ask.
  • Avoid artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners. Your dog doesn’t need these ingredients.

Remember that there are lots of good dog foods available. You don’t necessarily have to feed your dog a grain free food for him to get good nutrition. Just read the ingredients and the rest of the label to see what’s in the food.

Most dog owners today are happy to open a bag of kibble or a can of pet food without thinking too much about what’s inside. We take it for granted that the food is nutritious for our dogs, though some foods may be better than others. Most people don’t realize that commercial dog food has only existed for about 150 years. Prior to that, dogs ate leftovers and whatever their owners scraped up for them.

Can dogs eat people food?

Yes, dogs can eat the same food that people eat. There are some particular foods that dogs should avoid, but they can eat most foods without any problem.

Which foods should dogs avoid?

Foods that dogs should avoid include:

  • Alcohol
  • Avocado and other pits (note that the flesh from avocados is fine for dogs; it’s the pits and skins that are problematic)
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate (the darker the chocolate, the worse it is for your dog)
  • Cooked bones (raw bones are usually fine)
  • Corn on the cob (the cobs can be very dangerous)
  • Grapes and raisins (they may be coated with a mycotoxin which doesn’t affect humans but which is dangerous to dogs)
  • Hops
  • Macadamia nuts (can be deadly to dogs)
  • Marijuana
  • Nutmeg
  • Onions (very harmful to dogs; deadly to cats)
  • Persimmons, peaches, and plums
  • Potato, rhubarb, and tomato leaves (potatoes, tomatoes, etc., are fine; it’s the leaves which are a problem)
  • Tobacco
  • Xylitol (found in sugarless candy and chewing gum, among other things; also found in human toothpaste)
  • Yeast

Some people recommend avoiding milk and dairy for dogs because some dogs are lactose intolerant, like people, but most dogs can eat foods with low levels of lactose. Milk has a lot of lactose in it so it’s hard for some dogs to digest. But yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheeses like Swiss, Cheddar, and American have small amounts of lactose and most dogs can eat them in small amounts.

Some people will add other things to this list but these food items are nearly always recommended for dogs to avoid.

If you avoid giving your dog these specific foods, you can give your dog anything you eat. Many people feed their dogs raw food diets or cook for their dogs. These diets are based on feeding the dogs certain percentages of meat, fat, and other ingredients such as vegetables or dairy.

Can you give your dog people food along with his regular food?

Yes, within limits. If you want to add some people food to your dog’s regular kibble, you can generally make about ¼ to 1/3 of his food people food such as chicken wings, hamburger meat, or ground turkey. Add a little liver or other organ meat to the food along with a little yogurt and some steamed veggies (or break them down in a food processor first to serve them raw). As long as you keep the total amount of food added to your dog’s diet at less than 1/3 of his total food intake, it should not upset the balance of vitamins and minerals in his kibble. If you start adding more food than this to your dog’s kibble, it will throw off the vitamins and minerals in his food which can cause nutritional problems.

Some people like to toss their leftovers into a crockpot and use the crockpot stew as a topping for their dog’s food.

Will your dog like eating people food?

Yes, most dogs like eating some real meat and other foods, even if you just add it to their kibble as a topping. It adds more flavor to their kibble.

What if you want to feed your dog more than just a small amount of people food?

If you would like to start feeding your dog homecooked meals or a raw food diet on a regular basis, there are a lot of good books and e-mail groups to help people come up with nutritious meals for their dogs. It’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian first, before making this kind of change in your dog’s diet. Many vets oppose these diets, partly because it can be hard to feed dogs a nutritionally balanced diet when formulating meals yourself. But even if your vet is discouraging, it’s still a good idea to have your dog checked out and make sure he is in good health before making a radical change in his diet.

You can also look for a vet who is comfortable working with an owner who feeds their own diet. There are vets who support raw food diets and homecooking for dogs. Or talk to a canine nutritionist before you start your dog’s new diet to get the best advice about what to feed.

Feeding your dog the correct diet is important at all ages but none more so than when they reach their senior years. Dog food created especially for older canines is an excellent way of helping your dog maintaining its health during its later years.

Different breeds of dog mature at differing rates, depending on their size. Giant breeds for instance are considered as being senior at a much younger age than small breeds such as a Chihuahua. In general though, a dog is usually classed as a senior when it reaches seven or eight years of age.

Consulting your Vet

As a dog becomes older its metabolism begins to slow down, meaning it becomes more prone to weight gain. With the body slowly losing its ability to repair itself so readily, illness may become more frequent and longer lasting, requiring extra trips to the vet which, in turn, raise the stress levels in your dog. This is most definitely the time to research dog nutrition needs and feed your dog accordingly.
It is certainly advisable to consult your vet before making the switch to senior food on a permanent basis, as one dog’s metabolism may be completely different to another. Senior dog food has less calories and nutrients in it as most dogs become less active as they age. However, for dogs with digestive problems, those nutrients are still important so a switch to senior food would not be advisable. In these cases, a food which specifically caters for these particular health problems would probably be more beneficial. The rule of thumb here is if in doubt, ask your vet.

The main benefits of senior food for your dog include

Lower calorie levels

Extra support for ageing joints

Presence of vitamins C and E to support the immune system

Making the Change Gradually

If, after consulting with your vet, it is decided to put your dog onto senior food, do not to be tempted to make the change all in one go. It is much more beneficial to your dog to make the change gradually, mixing in just small amounts of the senior food with their normal meal at first, increasing the amounts day by day. This ensures that your dog will become used to their new food over a number of sittings and lessen the chance of them turning their nose up at it completely.

Of course, not all older dogs necessarily need to be on a regular diet of senior food. If they are still healthy at an advanced age, then your vet may advise to keep your dog on the regular food that it is used to. Many of the supplements that are contained in senior food can be purchased separately anyway. This includes supplements for ageing joints and arthritis, in addition to supplements for kidney or digestive problems.

As with all matters relating to an animal’s health, always consult with a veterinary expert before taking the decision to completely change your dog’s diet. After all, their health and well-being is of paramount importance.

Jennifer has written many articles on looking after your pets for a range of animal websites and blogs. For the best value pet food, she recommends purchasing online from reputable companies such as

Recent studies, and common sense, suggest that nutrition does have an important effect on a dog’s behavior. Many dog food companies are adding more micronutrients, anti-oxidants, and vitamins and minerals to foods today in the belief that behavior can be affected. But not every dog has a good diet. It has even been suggested that many dogs have bad behavior due to bad diets, which leads their owners to turning them in to animal shelters. Improving a dog’s diet could be a way to improve his overall behavior.


Good nutrition

Dogs who eat a healthy diet are able to grow and learn under optimal conditions. They have enough calories in their diet for healthy bones, skin and coat, and for their brains to develop. Dogs who are fed a quality diet typically have fewer problems with stress and anxiety which means they have better coping skills. They may also seem more intelligent and easier to train. They are less likely to exhibit behavior problems in the home.


Dogs who do not get enough good nutrition, or who are fed a poor quality food, can show physical signs such as an oily, dull, or patchy coat. They may seem lethargic or sluggish and lack energy. They They may seem to lack focus or concentration and it is harder for them to learn. They can become unhappy or aggressive. They can even become hyperactive and act out, showing behavior problems at home.


Choosing foods with good nutrition

You can choose a dog food that contains good nutrition for your dog by looking for several qualities in the food. Choose a dog food that has good quality protein, preferably one that has two or three meat proteins in the first five ingredients. Meat protein is easier for dogs to digest and has more bioavailability than other kinds of protein. Avoid foods that contain too much cereal or grain content. Cereals and grains are often harder for dogs to digest, although they do contain protein. Avoid foods with artificial preservatives such as ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT. Avoid foods with sugar, artificial sweeteners and artificial coloring. And look for foods that have taurine added for healthy heart function.


There are other things you can look for in quality dog foods but if you follow these basics, you should be able to select a good food that provide good nutrition. Some people like to buy organic, human grade, or free range food for their dogs, but these food options are very expensive and not everyone can afford them. They may provide some slight additional nutritional value but if you follow the suggestions above, your dog should be eating a healthy diet.


Some people like to add additional supplements to their dog’s diet such as fish oil. If you are feeding your dog a good quality diet, there is probably no need to add supplements. However, adding a small amount of additional supplementation will not hurt your dog if it makes you feel better, as long as you don’t add so many supplements that it alters the nutritional balance of the food.


Article by Nancy Cope, owner of where you will find items to spoil you pooch.  Gourmet treats, gift baskets, fancy collars and more.