We’ve teamed up with Registered Dietitian Dr. Jennifer Adolphe, Senior Nutritionist at Petcurean Pet Nutrition, to answer some of your most popular questions about your dog’s diet!
Have a question for Dr. Adolphe? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll be sure to pass it along.
Dr. Jennifer Adolphe,
PhD, Companion Animal Nutrition, Registered Dietitian, Senior Nutritionist at Petcurean Pet Nutrition
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.
My dog has been vomiting, and I’ve been told it’s food allergies. How do I figure out what my dog is allergic to?
Just like many humans can be sensitive or allergic to certain foods, so can our pets. Proteins are a leading source of food sensitivities, but they’re also an important requirement in a healthy dog’s diet. When selecting food for a pet with food intolerance, owners need to consider: the number of proteins in the food, the protein source and whether the pet has been previously exposed to the protein.
A limited ingredient diet limits the number of ingredients in the food to minimize the chances of a reaction, while still providing proper nutrition. This type of diet can also help you identify the cause of the allergy by offering your dog a different source of protein that is not commonly used in pet foods – a novel ingredient. Some novel meat protein sources may be venison, bison, kangaroo, duck or rabbit. For carbohydrates, novel ingredient options include tapioca, peas, lentils and chickpeas.
Sometimes pets improve right away, but it’s recommended to stay on the limited ingredient diet for 8-12 weeks to ensure it’s the right choice. Oh, and don’t forget about doggy treats – those can be a major source of potential protein allergens, so while you are trying a limited ingredient diet to resolve your pet’s food sensitivities, it’s best not to feed anything else.
I’ve heard my dog’s breed is prone to developing joint problems – is there anything I can do to prevent this?
While it’s impossible to guarantee your dog won’t develop mobility problems, if you have a breed that is prone to joint disease, there are a few things you can do to support healthy joints. Here are a few examples:
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight, especially during the growth stages when bones are still soft and growing. It’s better for your dog to be light than overweight, because it will reduce pressure on their joints.
- While your puppy is still growing, avoid strenuous exercise for long periods. Don’t have them run with you for miles, and try to keep them from jumping off the furniture or running up and down the stairs too much.
- When your dog is older, make sure they stay in good physical condition. This will ensure they have the muscle mass to support their joints
- As a preventative, you can try supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin. However, the long term effects of these supplements are not known for puppies, so it’s best to reserve this therapy for adult dogs only.
My dog has started to limp – what can I do to help?
It can be sad when pets are older and show signs of aging, but there are a few things you can do to help them cope better if they start to limp or show stiffness. First, get your veterinarian to check your dog. There may be an injury that requires treatment. If there isn’t, then gentle exercise and controlling their diet will help keep them physically fit. There are also supplements that may help promote joint health. They include:
- New Zealand green lipped mussels
- Eggshell meal (contains eggshell membrane)
- Omega 3 from fish oil or krill
- Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements
There are dog foods that contain some of these ingredients, however the amounts found in food are meant as boosters and are not usually present at therapeutic levels, so additional supplementation is needed. You can find them in most natural health or supplement stores. Make sure to carefully read the labels to be sure you know exactly what you’re giving your pet and speak with your veterinarian if you have any questions.
The vet says our dog needs to lose weight. We’ve been taking more walks, but I’m not sure how to change her diet in a healthy and nutritionally balanced way? Can you help?
Just like when people need to lose weight, it’s important to control food intake. For some dogs, it can help to feed them just a little bit less. We recommend weighing your dog’s food so you can closely control the amount she receives. Instead of leaving her bowl out all day, you could try feeding her for limited periods of time (i.e., meal feeding instead of free feeding). If your dog pesters you because she’s hungry, there are also food options with reduced calories, but it’s important to look at the nutrition information to make sure you pick the right one. These foods are usually high in fiber and low in fat. To help your dog feel fuller, you could also try adding a little canned pumpkin or green beans to the reduced amount of food you feed them. These foods are high in fiber, but very low in calories.
Also, like people, dogs love to snack. Whether it’s a treat you’ve purchased or a scrap from the table, it’s important to consider the calories in the treat, and how often you give them. A great alternative snack could be low calorie raw carrots or some other vegetable with a crunch.
I need to change my dog’s food, but have heard it can be risky to change too often. What’s the best way to transition my dog to a new food?
Sudden changes in diet can cause tummy upset, so it is always better to err on the side of caution. Start by reducing the old food by about 10% and adding in 10% of the new food. Stay at this ratio for two days. Then reduce the old food by another 10% and increase the new to 20%. Stay at this level for two days. Carry on reducing the old food by 10% and adding 10% of the new every two days until the transition is complete. If there is tummy upset at any point, go back a step for a day or two and try again.
How do I make sure I’m feeding my pet the right amount for their weight?
Pet food manufacturers calculate feeding guidelines based on the nutrients contained in their products and the estimated energy requirements of pets. Use the feeding guidelines as a starting point for feeding your pet, but once you see how your pet’s body condition reacts to the amount you are feeding, you can adjust up or down.
One handy tool to use is a body score chart which are widely available online. Just like people, the energy requirements of dogs and cats are different, and obesity is one of the most prevalent health problems in domestic pets today. Approximately 40% of pets today are heavier than their ideal body weight. Obesity can lead to a host of health problems which can shorten the life span of your pet.
Feeding guidelines are not written in stone, so pet owners need to be vigilant and make sure the amounts you feed are correct. This will help maintain your pet’s optimum weight.
A friend told me they feed their pet on a rotation schedule. Is rotation feeding good for my pet?
Some people believe that feeding foods with different nutritional makeup will give their pet a more rounded diet or they like to provide their pet with a bit of variety. In addition, feeding a wet food in rotation or adding it on top of kibble can help with hydration.
If your pet has a sensitive tummy and is prone to digestive upset, rotation feeding is likely not ideal. Sudden changes in diet can sometimes cause gastrointestinal problems.
Most high quality pet foods are designed to be complete and balanced to provide all the nutrition your pet needs. Each ingredient has a unique nutritional profile and will provide various quantities of nutrients like amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.
If you do decide to try rotation feeding, a gradual change from one diet to the next is always recommended. Rotating foods that have a similar ‘base’ recipe, but only features different meat proteins, may be a little less stressful on your pet’s digestive system.
My dog is diabetic, what kind of food do you recommend?
Every dog is different, and this is a question which should be reserved for your veterinarian. Some people think a low carb food is appropriate, but most low carb foods are also high in fat. Diets high in fat can worsen problems in the pancreas. Since pancreatitis often runs concurrent with diabetes, a low carb, higher fat diet may not be the best option. We recommend speaking with your vet to develop a customized diabetes treatment plan for your dog.