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Choosing Food for your Puppy in Canada

Welcome to Part 3 of our series: Getting a Dog

Puppy Food

If you are like the many pet owners who purchase puppy food from the grocery store then you have two options, wet food or dry food.  Dry food, or ‘kibble’, is similar to wet food except that the moisture level is much lower.  As a result, dry food will last longer once it is opened and there will be more food nutrients per ounce relative to wet food (higher moisture level and therefore more diluted).  Dry puppy food tends to be less expensive than wet food and since it contains less water, your puppy does not have to eat as much of it to get the same amount of food as wet food.  Dry food, however, often is full of fillers such as grains and corn so it is not necessarily true that it is more nutritious, just more condensed.  Owners are encouraged to read labels to find out exactly what is used in their puppy food and how much is in it.

Reading Labels

It is important to take a look at the labels on the puppy chow you are purchasing.  Most puppy food manufacturers want to appear as if their product contains mostly meat and there are a few tricks they are able use when writing the label to achieve this.  Firstly, you must be aware that ingredients are listed in descending order starting with the highest quantity.  Some manufacturers use a technique called ‘splitting’ which essentially means that they have taken an undesirable ingredient and divided it into sub-ingredients to make it seem as if it is lower on the ingredient list.  For instance, if corn is not as desirable as beef in dog kibble then a manufacturer may write ingredients label as beef, then corn, corn meal and corn flour instead of simply ‘corn’.  When added all up corn may in fact represent a larger amount of the dog food relative to beef.

When reading labels for puppy food it is also notable that the ingredients are listed on the label by weight before being cooked and therefore may not represent the true descending order of ingredients.  Other terms often seen on packages of puppy food may also be misleading.  Although the use of “complete and balanced’ is regulated by the Association of American Feed Control Officials and therefore must meet specific guidelines and standards, others are not controlled the same way.   Terms such as “premium”, “ultra premium”, “holistic”, “natural”, or “human-grade food” are not specified in any legal way and are certainly not regulated by officials.  This means that no one can really stop a company from using these terms, even if they do not represent their product whatsoever.

Puppy Food Safety

Since wet puppy food is preserved and sometimes even cooked in the can it is considered to be more sterile than dry puppy food.  Like canned human food, wet puppy food is usually radiated to ensure that it is germ free. The same cannot be said about dry puppy food.  Typically the bits of kibble are manufactured in steps.  Since some ingredients in the dry food, like fats, oils and vitamins, cannot withstand the high temperatures that are used to cook the kibble dough, they are sprayed on afterward.  Sometimes heat can be generated in the product during transportation or storage and the oils sprayed on the surface of the kibble may begin to turn.  Owners are urged to check for rancidity of their puppy food by smelling the product.  If a musty smell is detected then the product should not be given to a puppy.

Best Puppy Food

Many owners want to know, “what is the best puppy food for my puppy?” or “where can I buy healthy puppy food?” and the answers are numerous and sometimes conflicting.  Veterinarians usually give good advice on the best puppy food to purchase but often the expense is an unavoidable consideration.  Pet food stores frequently have their ‘premium’ brand puppy food mixes that may or may not be the best choice, depending on how knowledgeable and reputable the pet store owner is. 

Generally, the best puppy food is one that contains all of the vital minerals and vitamins that are necessary for puppy growth as discussed in the section on puppy nutrition, as well as one that contains a goodly amount of protein and carbohydrates. 

Best Adult Dog Food

What is the best dog food?  Adult dogs have slightly different nutritional needs and activity levels than puppies and elderly dogs.  Generally adult dogs need fewer calories than puppies since they are no longer growing.  Although grocery stores and pet food stores will carry specialized dog food, ask your veterinarian for a dog food that is tailored to meet the needs of your adult or senior dog. 

Puppy Health

The health of your puppy is important.  When you adopt a new puppy there is a great deal to know and to teach that it is often hard to find time to read everything you should.  From what the best puppy food is to finding reputable puppy kennels, puppy training classes, and to learning how to keep your puppy safe can be quite a challenge if you are not given the proper resources.  Putting your puppy on the best puppy diet is a critical aspect of puppy health but equally important is also keeping up to date on vaccinations and visits to the vet as well as avoiding accidental consumption of ‘people’ foods that can be dangerous and even deadly. 

Poisonous Puppy Foods

There are a number of foods that are suitable for human consumption that are not healthy for puppies and even extremely toxic.  Many people enjoy giving their puppy human food and even feel as if they are depriving their pet if they don’t.  The problem with toxicities in food with dogs is that dogs will often eat large quantities of foods that they like without much consideration.  Therefore, if a food is poisonous to a dog but it tastes good they will often still eat as much of it as they can.  This creates a problem.

It has been suggested for years that chocolate is not good for puppies to eat and this is because it contains theobromine, an alkaloid that is also found in colas, acai berries, tea as well as some other foods.

Theobromine is especially dangerous for dogs and puppies because they cannot metabolize it as fast as humans can and compared to other animals, dogs are more likely to ingest the amount of chocolate that can become fatal.  Signs of theobromine poisoning are if your puppy is throwing up, looking dizzy, and urinating more than usual.  This can become more serious with signs of seizures, heart arrhythmias, bleeding internally, heart attacks and then finally death.

Garlic and onions are considered to be poisonous to dogs because they contain disulfides or thiosulphate.  Onions are especially bad and should be avoided, even if cooked or dehydrated.  Thiosulphate may cause the red blood cells to rupture (hemolytic bleeding) and the puppy will exhibit a number of symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, liver problems, and have urine that is an odd colour. This toxic condition may result in death, depending on the quantity.  It is important to know that onions or onion powder may be included in a number of other products such as baby food, crackers, pizzas, etc. and should be avoided at all times. 

Raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts and other nuts can have a toxic effect on your puppy and make him feel quite sick for a while.  Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and dizziness are common symptoms of this type of poisoning. 

Certain types of mushrooms can be toxic to puppies.  Green tomatoes (but not ripe, red tomatoes) are also considered to be toxic because they have tomatine, so they should not be included in a puppy’s diet. 

Other foods may be harmful to your puppy even if they are not directly fatal.  It is generally not a good idea to feed your puppy bones from fish, poultry, or other meats because they can splinter and small, sharp pieces of the bone can be swallowed.  Acting like a razor, these shards of bone can cut the intestines of your puppy and cause internal bleeding.

Giving your puppy large amounts of fat is not a good idea either.  Just like a human diet, high amounts of fat consumed by dogs can lead to heart problems and inflammation of the pancreas.


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