IT'S "THE AGE" OF NUTRITION
Ages and stages have everything to do with feeding puppies for healthy growth and why senior dogs have "food" allergies and weight gain.
Barbara J. Andrews, AKC Hall Of Fame Breeder, Publisher -TheDogPlace.org
Do you buy into "high in calcium" for the puppy stage and "lower protein" for aging dogs? Different food for different ages and stages?
Who are we kidding? When did wolves read labels or listen to nutritionists? Meat is right for dogs of any age and every stage of development. When puppies are weaned onto raw meat, they are never "picky eaters". By the time milk teeth come in, puppies are ready for eggs, cottage cheese, and veggies.
I ask new puppy owners one simple question as a preface to nutritional advice. Would you feed your child cereal and nothing else? Even if the box says it is total nutrition? The answer is always "Of course not!" and the light comes on. They begin to understand that "right for any age" and "complete nutrition" are just sales gimmicks which have little to do with facts or common sense. At that stage, we can discuss kibble (dry dog food) as a handy substitute when there's no meat, vegetables, or fresh fruit on hand. Meat-based kibble is convenient, especially when traveling or if your dog has to be boarded. All dogs should accept top quality dry dog food and enjoy the crunch.
At All Ages, Dogs Are Hooked On Meat!
Dog are genetically programmed meat eaters even though they eat grass, vegetables, enjoy most fruits. Dogs taste with their nose and will therefore reject chemical-laden, grain-based dry dog food that contains no real meat. You may be fooled by the label but your dog reads it as snouts, tails, feet, feathers, and other "meat meal" which is slaughter house waste, not meat. That's why some commercial dog food is spiced with chemical flavoring to which your dog becomes addicted.
Trust your dog to know what food will best nourish him from puppy stage to old age. Okay, so he loves ice cream. Who doesn't? But when it comes to junk food you will be smarter and limit sweet treats because you can read and he can't.
Bare Bones Logic And Calcium
Over-nutrition in puppies is common. Too much calcium at any age can be harmful. Forcing too rapid a growth rate causes joint problems. Bowed legs occur when bone development outpaces muscle and tendon growth, especially in large breeds. Give puppies raw bones, yogurt and cottage cheese along with meat-based adult dog food to get through the growth stage with no crooked bones.
Never give cooked bones or raw fish bones. All bones become brittle when cooked. Do give raw beef bones, chicken wings and legs. Deer leg bones sawed into one or two inch "donuts" are an unsurpassed canine treat! Even toy breeds recognize "game" meat. Seek out an abattoir where hunters take their deer to be cut and wrapped, Make a deal with the butcher.
Allergies Are About Exposure, Not Age
Dogs can develop allergies at any age, just like you can suddenly become allergic to something. When the vet says "food allergy" it is likely the chemicals and preservatives to which a dog has become sensitized. An older dog's immune system isn't as strong as in years past and his tolerance for processed foods may therefore be lower.
If food allergies develop, the wise owner knows how to correct the problem - remove commercial food for at least twenty-one days. If there is no improvement within 10 days, try a different protein source. Switch from beef to chicken, from chicken to turkey or mutton, or ground lamb. Although it is expensive, lamb, being shorter-lived, may not be as contaminated with antibiotics and other "stuff" that precipitates allergic reactions in dogs of any age. Try free-range eggs with the knowledge that dogs are not allergic to their natural diet. Eggs are a staple for wolves, foxes, coyotes - and dogs.
"Age Appropriate" Diets?
There is a commonly held belief that older dogs need less protein but what they actually need is densely nutritious food, more exercise and a fewer treats. You spoiled him when he was in that darling puppy stage and now your heart goes out to your aging friend. He will tend to weight gain from a slower metabolism so limit his treats to a tidbit of raw beef, cheese, stewed chicken, (well washed) grapes, apples, and other fruits. As teeth wear down, bones may become a bit more difficult but even the very elderly dog will treasure a fresh beef knuckle bone and it will clean his teeth naturally. You don't want to risk anesthesia to clean an aging dog's teeth.
Most elderly dogs are overweight because they're indulged by doting owners who unknowingly give them "food" no canine should ever eat! Dogs of any age have low tolerance for low quality foods, especially those which are mostly corn. See why corn is for cows (1). Obesity stresses aging joints and slows the dog down just when he needs to remain active. Rather than advise owners to reduce treats and feed more meat and veggies, vets usually suggest a “senior dog” diet. They just happen to sell it. It is low fat but high priced. You will come out better buying a cheap cut of meat, a $100 meat grinder and grinding your own hamburger. In fact, do it for your old dog and for yourself.
Food Needs Do Change With Age
A true example is a doctor who kept his pet tortoise throughout medical school. It was a quiet, trouble-free pet that could be hidden away on campus. Years later, the tortoise became ill so he took it to the vet. Nothing seemed to help and just when it appeared he might loose his long-time friend, he located a zoo specialist who agreed to see them. The solution was so simple it astounded the doctor and changed his dietary advice to patients! The zoo vet told the doctor to change the tortoise's diet and with lifted eyebrow and a glance at the doctor’s waistline, suggested he heed the same advice. He said to offer his aging friend more fresh leafy vegetation like GRASS (2) and fruits and cut back on the mealworms and packaged insects (meat protein). It worked so well that the doctor did a paper on the Elder Diet which came to my attention.
As the body ages, dietary needs and preferences change. Whereas we could once eat a whole pie and sack out, then get up rarin’ to go, as adults we would feel like a slug. Children, like puppies, need huge energy reserves obtained from large portions of calorie-rich and fatty foods but as adults, our energy requirements decline so if we continue to eat like children, we become obese.
Humans and dogs eat varying quantities of meat and vegetation but as we age, our digestive system appreciates easier to digest and quicker to eliminate foods. Dogs are driven by instinct just like the tortoise. Dogs can only eat what we give them but it is NOT less protein (3) Your dog may also develop digestive upset as he ages. Gas, loose stools, or constipation are signs of a weakening digestive system. At this stage you must stop feeding commercially prepared foods. Imagine setting another place at the table. Prepare more food and add table scraps such as meat (not fat) and vegetables. If you've never before blessed your dog with raw meat you may have to warm it to "baby bottle" temperature.
Some of the healthiest foods can be the least expensive; canned mackerel, pork liver, or goat meat are appreciated at any age. Shop around. You would be surprised how easy it is to buy direct from a butcher or rancher who raises stock naturally. Even giant breeds will be fairly easy to feed naturally. Buy "sell by" chicken or beef and stock the freezer. When preparing broccoli, celery, carrots, fresh greens, etc. don’t throw out the stem or big end. Save the best parts for your own gourmet palette and throw the trimmings into a stock pot for the dogs. Dump in a can of turnip greens or green beans, some brown rice or sweet potatoes, and let it stew all day (the bones will soften) and viola! a doggy health stew. "Health food" is suddenly of interest to people who have been too busy to prepare wholesome food. We've been brain-washed into believing that chemically preserved food with a five year shelf life can sustain a healthy life.
Do your dog and yourself a favor. Shop wisely, buy fresh, local meat and veggies. Learn to like brown rice, cook in big batches, save on doctor and vet bills and age with good health!
For a broader view of why the frequency and seriousness of veterinary visits have increased today, see the display information, Anesthesia and Tooth Cleaning and Ageless Canine Nutrition. Also, it's important to keep you dog's teeth clean and healthy. There is much to learn and Video Theater makes it easy! Learn about teeth cleaning without anesthesia, the importance of bones and American-made raw-hide, scaling and polishing those pearly whites and more.