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Canine Health: Extending Those Dog Days

Altadena veterinarian Bronwyn Dawson weighs in with expert advice on food, first aid, medical care, and more in a three-part series.

If it’s flying, fetch it; if you like it, lick it; if it looks fun, try it. And always, always protect the ones you love.

The canine philosophy is pretty simple.

As Altadena veterinarian Bronwyn Dawson of Vanderhoof’s Animal Hospital says, regardless of breed, most dogs have one thing in common, “They want to be happy. Dogs don’t brood and suffer with comparisons, they never wonder who their mother loved best or why another dog lives in a bigger house. They rarely agonize over past mistakes.

"Dogs don’t look back, they always look forward. We can learn a lot from them.”

In spite of all their sterling qualities, and let's not forget to add undying loyalty to the mix, dogs have a vice or two. They are, in most cases, unrepentant hedonists. When it comes to food, for example, most dogs will gobble up anything without once wondering, “Does my butt look big in this fur?”

We asked Dr. Dawson for advice on canine health, including maintenance, vaccines, first-aid, veterinary care and emergency medical situations.

Today, in the first of a three-part series, Dr. Dawson concentrates on the canine diet.

Canine obesity

About 60% of adult pets are overweight. And, since love is blind, sometimes the owners are the last to know.

Put your hands on either side of your dog's midsection. You should be able to feel the ribs without much problem. They shouldn’t be sticking out, just in evidence. Also, when feeling the dog from ribs to flank, there should be an indentation towards the flanks, rather than a straight line.  And you
should see a tuck-up on the underside, between the ribs and flank.

Choosing the Right Food

The right dog food depends on the dog – including his exercise level, age, and health problems if any.

Even for the normal healthy dog, most dog foods have more than is necessary – especially fat and protein. Read ingredients, labels, and compare.

You don’t have to choose the most expensive dog food on the market. I saw one product called something like Grandma’s Pot Pie; the picture on the package showed this delicious meal with steam wafting from the crust, and I thought, “Whoa, I’d eat this!” A dog doesn’t care what his food looks like, and expensive packaging can make for expensive food.

There are lots of good products on the market – Purina Beneful, as just one example, is fine for the average dog. But stay away from the inexpensive, low-end, low-quality generics. 

As for dry versus canned food, dry should be the standard unless there are dental or other health problems. Canned food tends to be higher in fat and can cause tartar and digestive problems. For a picky eater, mix in a little water or low fat, low sodium chicken broth.

Dogs with chronic health problems and senior dogs, however, often require specialized diets.

How Much to Feed

Be precise -- use a measuring cup. That way, you'll know how much your dog is eating and, if you need to make adjustments, you’ll know by how much . Don’t necessarily follow the feeding amounts listed on the bag; as with people, food intake should be in proportion to energy output.

Dog Snacks

Processed dog treats can be very high in fat; table scraps, as well. But some of the food we eat can be good for them. Vegetables such as carrots are a healthy snack that some dogs like. Make sure to cut the carrots up so they don’t choke.

When it comes to dog snacks, I’m a big believer in Rye Crisp and other low-fat high grain crackers. Also rice cakes and whole wheat pretzels. Dogs like things that go crunch. And break these snacks into pieces so that a dog gets many treats from a single cracker or rice cake.

Next: What's in your canine first-aid kit? Plus, a look at the preventables: Parvo, heartworm, fleas

Alison Johnson October 11, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Thanks for this article, Karin! I'm going to have my 9-year-old daughter read it. She has been wanting a dog since she could first speak (not sure if her first word was "doggie" or "daddy" since she used the same syllables for both). This will help motivate her to take on the responsibility.... just as soon as our yard is finished.
Karin Bugge October 11, 2012 at 08:24 PM
My (slightly plump) pooch has effortlessly made the transition to Rye Crisp snacks. Think we'll try the rice cakes next.
Ken Y October 11, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Thanks for this practical advice on how to feed your dog a healthy diet! Can't wait for the next article in this series!
yeahian October 12, 2012 at 07:02 AM
healthy dog is one that is walked frequently and fed I hear costco dog food is very good. We use canidae it is good but pricey. Also a tired dog doesn't sit and bark in your yard all day. It so annoying to walk around this neighborhood with all the dogs who have not had a walk in months yapping at you.
Ninja Girl October 12, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Thanks for this information. I agree w/ Yeahian, exercise is key. I walk or run my dogs daily. They've been on EVO since they were pups.
Petrea Burchard October 13, 2012 at 11:18 PM
My old pooch is grateful for the tips.

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