She Depends On You!
What brand dog food do you feed your dog? How much do you feed your dog? What is poisonous to dogs?
I have 3 Italian Greyhounds (I.G.'s or Iggies) and 2 Miniature Pinschers (Min Pins or Pinheads) and I have had 4 Cocker Spaniels, a German Shepherd and a mutt. I've been involved in dog rescue. So I have some experience, but I AM NOT AN EXPERT OR A VETERINARIAN! I can make some suggestions and share what I've learned.
First, be sure you are feeding them a good quality dog food. Cheap, or what I call "grocery store" dog food, is like feeding your children on a Twinky diet. It's not very good for them. The company's goal is to sell lots of dog food so they make sure it appeals to the dog's taste and they don't "waste" profit money on scientifically developing a nutritional dog food (in my humble opinion). It may be full of fish guts and chicken eyes, sugar, sodium and filler (filler is cheap and the dog food may be more filler than anything else). And what kind of "meat by-products" are in there? It could be diseased animals and it could be any kind of animal (zoo animals, euthanized cats/dogs, horses, etc). "Chicken By-Product Meal" contains no muscle meat and is an inferior source of protein that contains many parts of the chicken including the head, intestines and feet, but law prohibits feathers. And you thought I was kidding didn't you!?! Your dog could have allergies to wheat, corn, etc and those are usually the "fillers". Dogs can have food allergies just like people do. And then there are the preservatives and chemicals. Check your dog food labels just like you check your food labels. Pet food ingredients must be listed on the label in descending order by weight. However, the weight includes the moisture in the ingredient. A good rule of thumb to distinguish the major components of a food is to look for the first named source of fat in the ingredient list. Anything listed before that, and including it, make up the main portion of the food. Other items are present in much smaller amounts to add flavor, function as preservatives or because of their dietary benefits (like probiotics, vitamins and minerals).
Food A has the following ingredient list:
Ground yellow corn, meat meal, chicken fat, ground wheat, chicken byproduct meal, dried beet pulp, flaxseed, salt, vitamins, minerals...
Food B has the following ingredient list:
Turkey, chicken, chicken meal, ground barley, ground brown rice, potatoes, ground white rice, chicken fat, herring, apples, carrots, cottage cheese, sunflower oil, alfalfa sprouts, egg, garlic, probiotics, vitamins, minerals...
Ingredient lists can be manipulated to make a product look more attractive unless you know what you are looking for.
Food A has the following ingredient list:
Lamb, brewers rice, brown rice, poultry fat, rice flour, beet pulp, rice bran...
Food B has the following ingredient list:
Brown rice, chicken meal, chicken fat, fish meal, flax seed meal...
Product A lists lamb as the first ingredient, but the meat still includes about 75% water. Once the moisture is removed (dehydrated), the lamb meat will have shrunk to 1/4 of the original amount, while the dry ingredients like the rice components, will not change. Product B lists rice as the first ingredient, but since chicken is added in dehydrated meal form, the amount will not shrink any further. Together with the fish meal the product may contain an equal amount of animal protein and rice and is pretty much guaranteed to contain more meat than product A.
Reversing this technique:
Food C has the following ingredient list:
Chicken, chicken byproduct meal, brown rice, oatmeal, corn meal, chicken fat...
Food D has the following ingredient list:
Chicken meal, chicken byproducts, brown rice, oatmeal, corn meal, chicken fat...
Product C lists chicken as first ingredient (again, this still includes about 75% water) but the much less desirable chicken byproducts in dehydrated meal form - the finished product will contain much less "real" chicken than byproducts. Product D has chicken meal as first ingredient, and the byproducts as second, which will lose 3/4 of their moisture weight by the time the food is dehydrated. Product D contains a larger amount of better digestible animal protein.
To recognize whether a food even includes any real meat, you need to know the ingredient definitions. Some animal proteins in "meal" form are of high quality, including for example the whole carcasses of slaughtered chickens minus feathers, heads, feet, or entrails; while ones like "beef & bone meal" are made from any leftovers after the quality cuts of meat have been removed for human consumption.
Here are two example ingredient lists of foods that do not contain a quality meat source whatsoever, despite the pretty images on the bag:
Food E has the following ingredient list (animal protein sources marked bold):
Ground yellow corn, wheat middlings, meat & bone meal, soybean meal, digest of poultry by-products & beef, poultry fat, brewers yeast, yeast culture, salt, vitamins, minerals...
Food F has the following ingredient list (animal protein sources in bold):
Ground yellow corn, beef & bone meal, soybean meal, digest of chicken by-products, animal fat, poultry by-product meal, brewers rice, salt, vitamins, minerals.
Dogs are meat eaters so they need meat. But fruits and vegetables should be included in your dog's food just like it should be in your food. Most commercial dog food will have it in a dried, powdered form and that is OK.
Do some Google searches on "compare quality dog food" and do some reading. There is a ton of info out there and you can learn a lot. Don't take one person's (or company's) word for it. Check it out with other websites.
I go to Petco and get a couple of different brands and mix them so that it's got bits of different tastes. Every dog is different and may need or like a different brand or mix. I have one Iggy that is very tiny and she has the crystals in her urine so she has to have Science Diet prescription dog food for that and will for the rest of her life. The other 4 dogs get Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Organic Formula and Science Diet Sensitive Stomachs. Sometimes I get the Science Diet Dental and mix it in too.
Read the bags and feed them the recommended amounts for your dog's normal size. My bigger Iggies are suppose to have 1 1/2 cups per day and my Min Pins are suppose to have 1 cup and my little tiny Iggy should only have 3/4 cup per day. It may look like awfully small amounts to us and we are tempted to give them more. But don't! If you can, feed your dog twice a day so they don't get so hungry before the next feeding. So if the dog food bag suggests to feed your dog 2 cups then that is 1 cup in the morning and 1 cup at night. NOT 2 cups in the morning and 2 cups at night. But keep in mind that the dog food company loves to sell dog food so you have to keep a watch on your dogs. If they look like they are putting on weight, adjust it down. If it looks like they are losing weight, adjust it up. Ounces matter on small dogs so pay attention. You don't want overweight dogs. In my case, my Iggies have pencil thin legs and having too much weight on those legs can result in breaks. And that is an expensive fix!!!! I've had 3 broken legs with my Iggies, despite my careful attention. It's very common with the breed. And it costs a minimum of $2,000 to fix a normal broken leg. Those skinny legs don't have enough meat on them to promote normal healing (I was told) so they have to have surgery to have a plate and screws.
And their skin is delicate, like peach skin, so the rubbing of a cast can create sores very quickly and the sores are to the bone because there is no meat on the legs. Those sores can be harder to heal than the legs. So I watch my guys weight carefully.
If you have more than one dog, it is probably best to feed them separately so they can eat at their leisure and not gobble it down to keep the other dogs from stealing their food. I feed my female Min Pin in the bathroom with the door closed and she still inhales her food because she wants out to go around and try to steal the other dogs' food. Little piggy! You can separate them by room like that or put them in their crates.
How do you know if your dog food is working? Pay attention to your dog. Are they the right weight? Is your dog eating the food or turning up their nose at it? If they throw up or have diarrhea or a mucousy stool then you need to pay attention to it. A toy dog can dehydrate very fast. I give mine a little Kaopectate in a syringe down their throat and a little Pedialyte (yes, children's Pedialyte) with a syringe down their throat and watch them. If that takes care of it then you've saved yourself a Vet visit. But if they can't keep it down or have the problem again, take them to the Vet ASAP. Then look for a different brand of dog food. I'm not saying the brand you fed them made them sick, only that YOUR dog couldn't tolerate it for whatever reason. Thankfully we have a lot of high quality dog food brands to choose from so buy in small bags and when you think they like it and their systems tolerate it, then you can stick to it.
Another good way to tell if your dog is doing well on their diet is to keep an eye on their skin and fur. If they have too much dandruff, sores, excessive itching and scratching, bad smell or dull fur then it can be a bad diet. They're going to have some dandruff, especially if stressed (they will shed dry skin like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree sheds needles), but it shouldn't be problem dandruff. And their fur should be glossy looking and soft.
DO NOT FEED YOUR DOG TABLE SCRAPS! Spices, high fat, high sugar, poisonous things like onions, etc are bad for them. They shouldn't have ham/pork/sausage/bacon, spaghetti sauce, chili beans, potato chips, etc. Believe me, pancreatitis isn't a cheap fix either! I've had to rush a Cocker Spaniel to the emergency Vet on a weekend when she got into the garbage and had bloody diarrhea so bad that she was dehydrated, weak, sick. It happened so fast. She had to have a bag of fluid and an expensive run of meds. Don't put yourself and your dogs through that. Don't feed table scraps! Don't "reward" or "treat" them with human food!
If you know what you are doing, you can fix them a delicious, nutritious meal from people food but be sure you know what you are doing because some things aren't poisonous for people but are for dogs (like onions). And be sure that you aren't overfeeding. When we went through the dog food scare last year I made up my dog's food. I would put a meat like canned salmon/canned tuna/cooked, rinsed, drained hamburger meat/hot dog cubes/boiled skinless chicken breast in a big bowl. This is their protein. Then I would add some raw oatmeal (good ruffage and good for their skin and coats), plain yogurt (good for digestive tract), canned green beans, peas or canned carrots (their veggies), a couple of capsules of Vitamin E squeezed in, a little cottage cheese (for calcium), some cooked rice. I would stir it up (I would even puree it in my Vitamix mixer sometimes) and ladle it out per dog. Put a lid on the bowl and store it in the refrigerator. It would feed them for several days, if not for a week. Supplement with a slice of banana, a cube or two of apple and they even have their fruit! But quality dog food has a lot of science behind it and should be nutritional for your dog and it's much more convenient and not messy so if you find a good one leave it at that.
If you want to fix your dog's food, do a Google search for dog recipes.
Do you know what is poisonous to dogs?
KEEP THIS NUMBER National Animal Poison Control Center ( 1-900-680-0000)
Here is a list:
Coffee/Cocoa/Tea/Cola/Caffeine (Common signs include vomiting, diarrhea, panting or laboured breathing, bloating, increased drinking, hyperactivity, restlessness, ataxia or staggering, muscle tremors, increased or decreased heart rate, irregular heart rhythm, and increased body temperature. Signs usually occur 6-12 hours after ingestion. Seizures, coma, or death may occur. Less frequent symptoms include abdominal pain and blood in the urine. Induce vomiting and seek veterinary attention.)
Chocolate (Milk chocolate contains a lot of milk fat and can cause enteritis or pancreatitis. Dark chocolate is worse for them. Depending on how much is ingested, symptoms are staggering, laboured breathing, vomiting, diarhea, abdominal pain, tremours, fever, heart rate increase, arrythmia, seizures, coma, death. Toxic amounts are 1 oz per pound of body weight (2 ounces per kg of body weight) for milk chocolate, 1 oz per 3 pounds of body weight ( 1 ounce per 1.5 kg body weight) for semi-sweet chocolate or, 1 oz per 9 pounds of body weight ( 1 ounce per 4 kg) for baker's chocolate.)
Xylitol (A sugar substitute found in many types of candy, chewable vitamins, sugarless baked goods, and in sugarless gums like Trident™ and Orbit™. As little as three grams (e.g. about five pieces of gum) can kill a 65 pound dog, with smaller dogs succumbing to just one or two sticks. Within 15-30 minutes of ingesting xylitol a dog's insulin levels will surge and blood sugar levels will drop, resulting in lethargy and loss of balance. Permanent brain damage can occur and without treatment liver failure will result in death within 24 hours. Diabetics that might have sugarless baked goods or other sugarless products in the home should be especially careful to read all ingredients before sharing food. If your dog ingests something with Xylitol in it take them to the Vet ASAP!)
Onions/Garlic, fresh, cooked, or powdered (Contain sulfoxides and disulfides, which can damage red blood cells and cause anemia. Symptoms are Hemolytic Anemia, laboured breathing, liver damage, upset stomach, vomiting, diarhea, discoloured urine)
Mushrooms (Can contain toxins, which may affect multiple systems in the body, cause shock, and result in death. Symptoms are abdominal pain, drooling, liver damage, kidney damage, vomiting diarhea, convulsions, coma, death)
Grapes/Raisins (Can damage the kidneys. Symptoms are vomiting, diarhea, abdominal pain, lethargy.)
Raw eggs (Contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin, a B vitamin. This can lead to skin and hair coat problems.)
Persimmons (Seeds can cause intestinal obstruction and enteritis or inflammation of small intestine)
Alcoholic beverages (Cause intoxication, coma, and death)
Baby Food (Can contain onion powder which is toxic)
Macadamia Nuts (Contain an unknown toxin, which can affect the digestive and nervous systems and muscle)
Tobacco (Contains nicotine, which affects the digestive and nervous systems. Can result in rapid heart beat, collapse, coma, and death.)
Milk and other dairy products (Some adult dogs do not have sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk. This can result in diarrhea. Lactose-free milk products are available for pets. So some dogs can take it and some dogs can't but none should have too much.)
Raw fish (Can result in a thiamine (a B vitamin) deficiency leading to loss of appetite, seizures, and in severe cases, death.)
Raw potatoes, especially if they have green spots
Cat food (Too high in protein and fats)
Human vitamin supplements that have iron (Iron can damage the lining of the digestive system and be toxic to the other organs including the liver and kidneys.)
Too much liver (Can cause Vitamin A toxicity, which affects muscles and bones.)
Too much salt (Can cause electrolyte imbalances.)
Remember, they depend on YOU!