Large Breed Dog Nutrition
I finally decided that this subject alone was so critically important that I would write about it in greater detail. First of all you should know that grocery store dog foods are the leftover stuff on the floor after they make people foods. They cannot sell it to anyone else, but we feed it to our dogs? YUCK. Secondly, you should know that corn is not a natural canine food product. Not only is it a cheap filler ingredient, dogs stomach enzymes are not designed to digest it. So when you see it in a dog food as the top ingredient or in the top five ingredients, or frankly as an ingredient AT ALL, you should know that you are purchasing a product that is not food for your dog. Also, while we are on the subject of carbohydrates, think about what would happen if you took a toddler and fed it carbs all day? Would they sit calmly by you playing or bounce of the walls? Would it result in a lean muscular little child or would it result in a chubby little thing? This applies to dogs too! Though they do require good carbs for energy, they don't need mega doses of it. This is usually, again, cheap filler!
Go to this link for a lengthy discussion of what goes in to dog foods and why its a problem! food article here
Large Breed Formulas - There is a lot of information and misinformation about dog foods out there. Puppy food, adult food, large food, small food.....what is right to feed? You are getting a 'Large Breed' puppy. Therefore it is critical that you feed a large breed puppy formula until the puppy reaches one year of age. The 'Large Breed' aspect of dog foods was developed about ten years ago in response to research based upon the musculo-skeletal development of dogs. The 'old' conventional wisdom was that large breed dog, large doses of calcium to grow those bones - right? WRONG! What researchers discovered was that large breed animals in fact, need lesser amounts of calcium. Super fast growing of bones, driven by high calcium was putting the muscle/bone balance out of whack. You had super sized bones, but muscles couldn't keep up. Or, the phosphorous level would not be in harmony with the calcium. We now know these two minerals work in conjunction on the development of bone, but that is only HALF the growth system. The other half is the muscle structure - fed by protein sources. Just as bad as feeding too much calcium is the other side of the equation; feeding too much protein. It is critical that these systems grow in pace with each other.
In nature, dogs would not get the same food sources or balances every day. During the spring, hunting would be good, days lengthened, more calories were needed. In the winter, a layer of fat was needed to protect the animal, certain minerals were needed in greater quantity to grow coats. How do you get these varying balances in a dog food that has the same formula throughout the year? You don't. Now I know there are a lot of people supporting BARF diets (bones and raw food). And they may be well worth the effort. I cannot test the nutritional balance of a food I produce in my kitchen. While I could follow a recipe, who knows what you are really getting. Dog food companies employ a whole staff and independent labs to formulize and test what they are producing. So, we know we need something reliable, something easily available, something properly balanced for a large breed dog. How do we change up the formula to represent the changing needs of the dog's nutrition throughout the year?
Here is what I have come up with....though there are probably many plans that would work. I use Orijen Large Breed Puppy for puppies and Orijen Ocean 6 Fish for adults. To add variety of flavor I will buy Costco's Kirkland brand of Lamb or chicken. Neither contain corn and come from whole sources. That is actually a very high rated food. I WOULD NOT feed the in house brand of food from Sam's or any other grocery. I add things like Salmon oil when a big shed or big grow is going on. In the summer, my dogs help themselves to my cucumbers, cantelopes, apples so I can assume they either like or need them at those times. Not all foods are safe for dogs. Grapes would be an example of this. Here is a list of human products that are unsafe for dogs (though I disagree with the garlic cited in the list!) It is poison to dogs; raisins only multiplies this problem. Do not get overly creative with add ons. Dog poison list People food from the table is a really bad idea and a great way to insure that your dog does not eat the staple of basic foods that it needs - in fact, most will no longer eat the dog food if they've gotten a good taste for people scraps. I will utilize things like chicken liver, cottage cheese, or eggs at times, used very sparingly if a use for vitamins, extra calcium, or protein is needed.
OK, so why would I go on and on writing about the importance of food? (And why would I spend more than my family's grocery budget on dog food?) There are actually two good reasons. The first reason is Cancer. The plague of the American lines. Though there are many elements contributing to the staggering cancer statistic, food is probably the easiest factor to fix. Hormone fed animals, heavily antibioticed animals, animals that graze on pesticide laiden grasses are possibly one poor contributor. Food preservatives and chemicals would be another. Read an ingredient list on any bad of dog food at the grocery. Then read the ingredient list on a bag of Solid Gold or some other 'Natural' Super Premium. If you can't pronounce it, don't feed it! Also as a note on 'Super Premium' foods. There are many foods pretending to be Premium. Some of the first foods you will think of (won't mention them, but yes, those ones that came to mind that you always thought were the really good foods - those ones) aren't really premium foods. They almost all have corn, they almost all have preservatives, and their sources of ingredients are mass produced and not premium quality. A Super Premium food is not great because they mega dosed the protein, or whatever. Its Super Premium because it has whole foods in it. This is what helps to keep the chemicals and carcinogens out of your dog.
The other reason is osteoarthritic disease. Hip dysplasia. It used to be conventional wisdom that this was purely genetic. If mom and dad had it, junior would get it. While I cannot understate that there absolutely IS a genetic component, growing research shows that there is also a very high influence of environment on hip dysplasia. What is environment? Well, its the foods I mentioned earlier, its jogging with a puppy under one, its an injury to a ligament at an early age, its an overweight dog. All these things can also influence the development of hip dysplasia. In one study puppies were paired with equal parentage. One was overfed and one was fed 20% light of normal. The overfeds had a high statistic of dysplasia while the underfeds had no cases. Should you underfeed your puppy? Heavens no, but the lighter side of normal is better for health and for joint function. Another study by the German Shepherd club of Germany found conclusively that only 25% of hip dysplasia was genetic in cause. They put the remainder in the 'environmental' category. Does this end the debate on the subject? Probably not, but the cutting edge of research shows that this is a much bigger factor than once thought.
Large breed food formularies are a start. Keeping dogs lean throughout their lives is just good judgment. Even reasearch has shown that breeders play an important role in the growth of your baby during its first 8 weeks. Fat, rolly polly puppies are all the rage right? Wrong, as I have advocated for several years now, you want to see your puppies waistline when viewed from above. I have even added a new element in my program in 2009. It is purely my idea based on this research so we shall see how many people climb on this bandwagon and start quoting it. I used to feed puppies their first food at the age of 3 1/2 weeks. They would get 3 meals a day. Now we feed the 'Lucky Lady' method; the puppies start at the age of 4 weeks. They get one meal a day and the remainder of their needs are met by mother's milk - the perfect balance as God wanted. At five weeks they graduate to two meals a day, still lots of nursing. Finally at 6 weeks we go to the traditional three meals a day and still some nursing. As any puppy family will attest, those babies were not in the least skinny. They were still lovely, blocky, furry gorgeous things. They weren't rolly polly (well, Spud might have been, but I think Nature just designed him that way - we didn't overfeed him to get that way!) We shall see if this is good. The potential risk I pose is not on the puppies - they gain the benefit of slower growth and I can assure you that every puppy got the calories they needed one way or the other! The risk is on the Mom dog having to produce that many calories. So my job is to slowly grow the puppies, offering food and supplemental mother's milk, while maintaining and supporting the health of my Moms.
Feeding methods vary from breeder to breeder to be sure, but the where and the when of feeding are important considerations too. For PUPPIES I advocate two meals a day (you can do three if you prefer or if your baby is just ravenous! It just requires a bit more potty breaking.) A Breakfast at about 7:30, giving only what is consumed in about ten minutes and then removing the food. For dinner, they get another, slightly smaller meal at about 5:30 - consumed immediately. This will also help with the predictability of potty breaks and training. For ADULTS, I utilize free feeding. Some will agree with this method and some will not. For me it is the best way to insure that the dogs dictate their changing needs for caloric intake. Though with a less athletic dog, this can lead to weight problems and care should be given. Not all breeders can accomplish this method however, because if you have multiple animals - free feeding can result in fights, and they will have no choice but to feed individually. I have found in my program, with the temperament of my animals, that free feeding is fine as we never have fights over food or treats or crates. They have a pecking order which I acknowledge and allow to exist as long as they all acknowledge that I am at the top of that order!LOL