Focus On Pets

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My sister has a new puppy and, naturally, the subject of pet food came up. She was told that it was not necessary to feed puppy food to this large breed, 5-month-old pup. She was also told that her 11-year-old medium size dog and this puppy could eat the same food. This discussion led me to pull out my numerous files on pet nutrition. After seeing the facts, she agreed to provide her pup with a high quality puppy food and keep the older dog on the maintenance formula.

The basic pet food formulas are puppy, maintenance, low calorie and senior. There are also diets for large breed dogs and very small dogs, and there are many special formulas designed for dogs with specific health conditions.

Puppies require extra nutrients for proper growth and development. Puppies go through periods of fast growth followed by slower growth. During growth spurts, a puppy can eat significantly more than an adult dog. It is important to monitor the puppy's condition constantly by checking the ribs. If you are feeling too much rib, increase the amount of food. If the ribs seem to have disappeared, cut back. Plump puppies, just like plump babies, are not desirable.

All puppies do not mature at the same time. A large breed puppy will mature much more slowly than a small breed dog. A puppy should stay on puppy food throughout his growth period. This might be until he is 8 months old or until he is a year and a half.

Once the dog is through growing, he should be switched to a high quality maintenance or adult formula. If he is of good weight and condition and gets a fair amount of exercise, he can stay on this for the rest of his life. If he gets too heavy, cut back. It is much better to control his weight by the quantity you feed than by switching to a diet formula. Diet foods contain fillers to help the dog feel full and these fillers have basically no food value. Read the label.

Peanut hulls are an example of filler used in senior and diet pet food formulas. Senior diets are designed for old dogs who do not get much exercise and are not in good condition. They contain less fat and protein.

Obesity is a major problem with dogs today. It leads to all sorts of health problems. It puts a strain on all the organs of the body, particularly the heart, but also it stresses the hips and joints. It is sad to see a dog with hip problems hardly able to get around because of the excess weight. Check your dog's ribs. If you cannot feel them easily, your dog is too heavy. Cut back on the amount of food but also, check out the amount of treats the dog is getting in a day.

Buy the best food you can afford. If you cannot afford a premium food, you can supplement with some home cooking. Whenever you change a dog's food, make the change over several days to eliminate stomach upset.

Make mealtime special. Feed twice a day, except for puppies who need three to four meals a day. Let the dogs and cats watch you prepare their meals. Feed each pet in his own clean bowl. Allow 15 minutes to eat and if they do not clean their dish, feed less for the next meal. Mealtime is a great opportunity for bonding with your dog. Dogs look to their pack leader for their food. You want to be the pack leader, the most important being in their life.

Watch the waistline and adjust the quantity of food accordingly. Limit the treats. Feed healthy treats such as carrots and apples. Make sure the dog gets daily exercise. Watch for more information about pet nutrition in future columns.

The Wednesday night dog gathering at Green Valley Park is growing. There have been from 8 to 15 people and their dogs getting together and working on whatever needs working on. Recently, they have just been walking back and forth around each other as many dogs are not comfortable with other dogs walking close by. This is great practice for any dog. They are now gathering at 6 p.m. every Wednesday near the Veteran's Memorial and the children's playground.

There are occasionally dogs running loose in the park and this group is learning how to protect themselves and their dogs if an aggressive dog approaches. A loose dog is always a worry when you are out walking with your dog. Come join the group and they will work with you on your issues and concerns. Or just come and meet other dog people.

-- Christy Powers can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry AZ 85544.

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