Sure, you know to look for the Statement of Nutritional Adequacy in small print on the packages of food you buy your dog so that you are assured it meets the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). But do you have a handle on some of the finer points of dog nutrition? Test your doggie diet acumen.
True or false? It is never a good idea to feed your dog table scraps because they are not nutritionally balanced for a dog’s dietary needs.
False. Healthy dogs who do not have special requirements for low sodium or fat or other dietary restrictions can easily have up to 10 percent of their calories as treats, so feeding them a very small piece of meat or other food from your own plate will not upend their otherwise good diet. The reason to think twice about table scraps is that dogs have a hard time with the concept of “sometimes.” Unless you are willing to give them some morsels from your meal every time you eat, you might want to forego the practice.
True or false? All other things being equal, your dog is better off with dry kibble than canned food.
False. Nutritionally speaking, dry versus canned is a wash. But nutrient profiles aside, dry food tends to be better for dogs’ teeth (although you still have to brush) and cheaper. On the other hand, canned food, with its high water content, makes food more dilute — a good thing if your dog is predisposed to bladder stones. But don’t stress too much either on the dental side or the bladder stone side. Feed your dog whichever you find most convenient. This is not a detail worth sweating.
The only wording you can count on to make sure a diet is right for your older dog is:
a. “For geriatric canines.”
b. “Senior diet.”
c. “Senior needs.”
d. “For older dogs with veterinarian’s approval.”
e. All of the above.
f. None of the above.
f. None of the above. While veterinary researchers have figured out the optimum diet for a growing puppy, it is not yet clear how an older dog’s nutrient needs are different from those of a middle-aged dog or young adult dog. Any wording you see on a label relating to “senior” dogs is a marketing ploy, not proven science.
True or false? Aggressive dogs, whether because of fear or for other reasons, should eat less protein.
True, it appears. Protein decreases the amount of a chemical called tryptophan, which crosses over from the blood to the brain. And tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, which is a calming, feel-good brain chemical. So, the less protein in the diet, the more tryptophan, and the more serotonin.
You don’t want to make the diet too low in protein — that’s just not healthful. But for an anxious dog who’s prone to lashing out, you want to keep the protein level on the lower end of the normal range. That translates to about 18 to 20 percent protein as dry matter.
Your dog is having a bout of vomiting or diarrhea. The best way to settle her tummy is to
a. Put her on baby food for a bit.
b. Give her a little milk to drink.
c. Get the dog to start eating again by introducing a bland diet of unflavored chicken and rice.
d. Ride it out until she feels better.
d. Despite lots of advice on the Internet, and even some from veterinarians, on what to feed a dog who is having some GI upset, the best way to help her get over a garden variety “tummy bug” is to let her decide when to eat her own food again. Baby food is pretty rich stuff for an upset stomach, and milk is more likely to further antagonize an “erupting” stomach than to calm it.
As for chicken and rice, it sounds good — and a lot of people start with bland foods once they have gotten over a GI disturbance themselves. But it will not bring a dog back to herself any faster. Just let her eat when she’s ready, and keep changing her water so that it remains cool and fresh.
Of course, if your pet throws up or has diarrhea more than a few times, take her to the vet. Days of vomiting and diarrhea can potentially lead to dangerous dehydration.