9 Answers to Your Dog Nutrition & Wellness Questions
These dog nutrition tips and wellness advice come from our dog food expert and veterinarian, Dr. Taylor.
Your Dog Food Questions, Answered
- How much of an impact does the food you feed your dog really have when it comes to things like their skin & coat, energy level, long term health, etc.?
Great nutrition provides the building blocks for your dog’s wellness, so picking the right dog food for your dog can have a huge impact on their wellbeing. This is why it’s so important to feed a diet that’s complete and balanced, offers appropriate feeding instructions, and focuses on support areas that match their individual nutritional needs – like a Just Right dog food blend.
- What are some signs that the dog food you currently feed may not be the best option for them & it’s time for a change?
If you’re happy with your dog’s current food and it’s working for them – activity level is up, stool quality is good, their eyes are bright, their skin and coat are healthy, their body condition is ideal, and their food is appropriate for their life stage – then there probably isn’t a need for a change in nutrition.
If your dog is experiencing greater problems such as vomiting (acute onset or chronic), diarrhea (acute onset or chronic), poor stool quality, weight loss, excessive flatulence, abdominal pain, dull coat, excessive shedding, or dental health issues …it’s time for a trip to the veterinarian. Some of these symptoms may be addressed by a change in diet, but many non-food-related reasons may be the cause instead.
At the end of the day, it’s important to make sure your dog is eating an appropriate diet for their life stage and lifestyle. If you are considering changing your dog’s food, learn how to transition your dog’s food properly to avoid stomach upset.
- My dog struggles with weight control – how can dog food help manage their weight?
There isn’t a magical solution for helping your dog manage their weight – it simply comes down to your dog using calories more than they take in. Dog food formulas geared towards weight management can be a good start since they can be less calorically dense. But nothing beats high-quality nutrition fed in the appropriate amounts, combined with a regular exercise program. Get more weight loss tips for your dog here.
- Why do dogs stop eating or don’t finish their food once in a while?
There are a variety of reasons why a pet might eat less or stop eating their food, but not all of them are cause for alarm. Every dog is unique, and some dogs don’t gobble down their food as quickly or readily as others. It may also come down to your dog’s age and size – a young dog who’s maturing may suddenly start eating less of their food, while small or toy breeds tend to nibble on their food throughout the day. Some other behavioral and environmental factors that may affect your dog’s appetite include:
- Your dog’s food may not be very palatable
- Your dog may be surprised by a sudden change in their diet
- Your dog learned that you’ll give them new food or add something to it when they act picky
- Something in your dog’s environment may have affected their interest to eat. Did they eat too many treats throughout the day? Are other people feeding them too? It’s important to know how your dog could be getting extra calories.
If your dog refuses to eat for more than a day or two, the best thing to do is to take a trip to your veterinarian to investigate any potential health issues. When you go, make sure to know what your dog’s been eating over the last several weeks, and bring your dog’s food with you (or at least a picture of the bag) so that your veterinarian can check for any pet food recalls. Your veterinarian will examine your dog to make sure that nothing serious is causing a decreased appetite. Some of the medical factors your veterinarian will look for when examining your dog:
- Oral pain such as a bad tooth
- Systemic illnesses
- Gastrointestinal upset
Dog Behavior Tips and Answers
- How often should my dog go to the veterinarian?
Your dog should go to their veterinarian every 6 months. Pets age much quicker than people; therefore, biannual visits help to identify any potential health problems. Of course, your pet should also go to the veterinarian when they are sick or injured, but it’s important not to wait until it’s too late – preventative care is effective care.
- How much exercise does a dog need per day? What are some of the most effective activities to keep dogs active?
Physical exercise is a very individual recommendation for dogs due to the variety in dog size and athletic ability. The average dog benefits from at least 30 minutes of daily exercise and can be accomplished simply by taking your dog for a walk. Walking is a low-impact exercise that most dogs thoroughly enjoy. If your dog has orthopedic problems, swimming might be a better option.
A sporting breed might require several hours of intense exercise per day, while a toy breed dog might require shorter bouts of activity. Make sure to consult with your veterinarian if you have specific questions about exercising your pet. And don’t forget that dogs need mental exercise as well! Take them to new places with new smells or play a game of hide and seek, tug-o-war, or treat puzzles.
- How and how often do I need to brush my dog’s teeth?
In a perfect world, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily or even twice daily. (It’s not as hard as you might think – read How To Brush Your Dog’s Teeth for tips.) Dogs can develop plaque and tartar on their teeth just like us. Certain breeds, such as small breed dogs, tend to develop tartar more quickly, which can lead to periodontal disease. Did you know that 80% of dogs have some sort of periodontal disease by the age of 2 years? The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to brush daily and to have a dental assessment by your veterinarian 1-2 times per year. Most dogs will require a prophylactic cleaning under anesthesia several times throughout their lives. Regular dental cleanings help to identify underlying dental disease and minimize the risk of tooth and bone loss.
- What is the best way to help a dog with anxiety?
If your dog is already anxious, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian, a certified animal behaviorist, or a certified dog trainer to see if they can help. If it’s not possible to simply avoid the stimulus that triggers the anxious behavior, the experts can work with you to develop a behavioral plan that helps alleviate your dog’s fears. However, even with the best behavioral intervention, sometimes dogs require special medications or supplements known as anxiolytics to control their anxiety. These work best in tandem with a behavioral modification plan.
To help prevent anxiety, it’s important to provide a structured and consistent routine for your dog that includes socialization, exercise, and feeding habits.
- How do dogs develop picky habits & what can owners do?
Changing a dog’s diet often can cause dogs to develop picky eating habits and they will sometimes “hold out” waiting to see if they’ll get something better. Giving your dog table food can also cause them to stop eating dog food and contribute to excess weight gain. To help prevent this, stick to a diet that’s suitable for your dog’s needs, introduce them to a regular feeding schedule, and do not switch dog food too often. You can also reform your picky eater with a regular feeding schedule and adjustment to their snacking habits.
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There’s a lot to consider and keep up with as a dog owner. Our team is here for you and your dog! Start your dog’s unique blend with us today for a lifetime of support and wellness.
Periodontal disease: McFadden, T., & Marretta, S. M. (2013). Consequences of untreated periodontal disease in dogs and cats. Journal of Veterinary Dentistry 30.4: 266.
Breeds prone to allergies: Roosje P. (2005). Canine atopic dermatitis: new concepts. Eur J Comp Anim Pract 15.2: 189-95.