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Feeding Tips for Dogs, From Will Draper, DVM

11/19/2010

  • Will Draper, DVM:

    OK, here is a really great question. And this is one of the most consistent and controversial questions we get. Canned vs. dry food -- what is best? The age-old question. Veterinarians for years have said canned food is taboo and the main reason is for dental disease. Canned food is going to build up on a dogs’ teeth more than dry food. But there are reasons to feed canned foods and reasons to feed dry foods. So my question to you guys is, what do you feed? Steven, what do you feed? I’m almost positive that she gets some canned food.

  • Steven Belew:

    Nope, just dry food. That’s what she eats.

  • Will:

    So just dry food now, just a good-quality dry food is great. OK, so how about you, Joe? What do you feed your dogs?

  • Joe Callahan:

    Primarily dry with a little bit of incorporated canned food -- for all three dogs. 

  • Will:

    Very, very good. Very good. And Renee?

  • Renee Genthner:

    Same thing: dry food. Every now and then they get bored. Especially this one, she gets bored with the food so I might put a little bit of canned in just to mix it in.

  • Will:

    Very nice. And again, all of those answers are correct. There’s nothing wrong with canned food, particularly a high-quality canned food. And as a matter of fact, canned food has 60%-70% more water than dry food, so it helps them a lot with hydration. Particularly with older dogs who need that extra hydration -- and puppies for that matter that need it -- it’s great.

  • Joe:

    What do you think about vegetarian diets in dogs?

  • Will:

    Great question, Joe. But the thing to remember is that dogs need meat. They’re omnivores, which means that they eat different things like meat, and grains, and some vegetables.

    Some of the things that you might see problems with are issues with anemia and things like that. So I always recommend to clients that dogs should have some sort of meat in their diet, or some meat-based diet.

  • Renee:

    Dr. Draper, I have a Wheaten terrier that’s 8, and he is getting a little chubby. He needs more exercise, I know. But what can I do diet-wise to slim him down?

  • Will:

    Excellent question. And the age is an important part of that because an older dog gaining weight, as opposed to Fenway -- who is 2 years old gaining weight -- it’s almost going to be diet and exercise all the time.

    Now an older dog, it could be something medical. A lot of older dogs will start to suffer from a thyroid condition, hypothyroidism, where their thyroid gland is producing less of the hormone that controls metabolism. So metabolism drops. And it’s hard for them to keep the weight off because their body is not helping them anymore.

    It’s a very easy blood test that your veterinarian can do. And it’s something that you can treat easily with a very inexpensive supplement.

    If that’s not the case, then again, it’s the same as it would be with younger dog. A lower-fat diet, there are lot of great high-quality, low-fat diets out there. Lower in fat, higher in fiber, and more exercise. Walking more, it will help the owner and pet.

  • Renee:

    The smaller dogs get a lot of exercise running around the house. But the Wheaten terrier, he likes to lie around. He’s kind of lazy. What can I do besides taking him for the big, long walk?

  • Will:

    I know Joe has a big run in his backyard that he allows his dogs to run in. And as long as your dogs are actually running in the run, then that's fine. You know, if your dog is sunning all day and enjoying the weather, then that's a bit different. So those dogs may need a little bit more help. And you want to try to encourage some type of exercise, you know. As far as shortcuts, it's difficult to do unless you can somehow encourage them to. … Maybe their food is upstairs and they’re downstairs, and you can somehow know that they are going upstairs and downstairs to do that. But you also want to make sure that they can handle that. Now to go back to Joe, Joe, you were talking about running your dog and your dog seeming to be a little winded afterwards.

  • Joe:

    I'm wondering, do you need to acclimate dogs to exercise like humans need to be acclimated?

  • Will:

    Exactly. You definitely want to acclimate them. And another important thing, particularly with larger dogs, is you want to go to your veterinarian and make sure they don't have hip or knee problems because that's something you want to know because it's going to help you better design an exercise program for them. Make sure they don't have any other issues like cardiac issues. If your pet has a cardiac issue, you need to know it. And then again, exercise is important, but it must be done in moderation.

Pet Health and Nutrition Advice

Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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