Updated: Feb 29, 2020
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We cycle the food of our dogs and recommend that most families do the same, providing there’s no veterinary reason not to. Food rotation provides them with variety, which is important not just for appetite, but for health. Just like with humans, a varied diet is healthy for dogs. It keeps them interested in their food. It enhances the diversity of their microbiome. It reduces the risk of allergies and food intolerances, as well as helping to avoid potential issues, such as the nutritionally associated dilated cardiomyopathy that has been in pet health news recently. Please see my post about digestion, gut microbial diversity, and poop for more information.
Food rotation can be done on any schedule, from daily to quarterly (every few months), depending on your lifestyle. All this means is that instead of feeding a single flavor for the life of you dog, you should change flavors. You can change food flavors daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or on another schedule that is convenient for you.
Depending on your dog's individual digestive system and the robustness of their microbiome, the only consideration is to avoid digestive upset in food changes.
Rotate with care
We rotate food on an almost daily basis. Because of that, our dogs have a robust digestive system and don't get tummy upsets from food changes. We recommend food rotation starting at about 16 weeks of age. When you start rotating food, you need to change over slowly: begin by changing over the course of a week. If your dog experiences gas or loose stool, you are likely changing too quickly. We recommend a good Pre/probiotic as a daily supplement when starting a food rotation program. Thereafter, it can continue to be used daily or on an as-needed basis.
Not all dogs can tolerate food rotation. If you have any questions about feeding or are experiencing any challenges, please contact us for assistance.
How to increase food
We recommend use of the Body Condition Score chart to determine when to increase your puppy’s food. Puppies can have voracious appetites and can act like they are starving. This is an evolutionary advantage to help ensure their survival by giving them a strong drive to seek out food as they develop. However, in the modern world we have very nutritious food that has dense calories and is readily available—they don’t have to work or fight anyone for it. This means that using their appetite isn’t a good gauge of proper and healthy amount.
When your dog starts to feel like her body condition score is going down, it’s time to increase food. Food increase can cause digestive upset, including gas or loose stool. So increase slower rather than faster (over 2-3 days), and if she has tummy upset, back off a little.
Most of our puppies go home eating three times a day. Many will naturally start to “back off” or not finish one of those meals at about 3-6 months of age. This is fine, and this is a good time to go down to 2 meals a day, just distribute the same amount you fed as 3 meals into 2 meals.
A similar thing can happen at about 8 months to a year when many puppies naturally go down to 1 meal. By the time your dog is a year old, unless there’s a veterinary reason not to, it’s best to bring your dog down to 1 meal a day. You can start this schedule as early as 8 months.
It’s also important to pay attention to how you feed, not just what you feed.
Your dog should be fed on a schedule, and never given constant access to food. Free feeding has been associated with obesity, orthopedic problems, and has been shown to decrease the lifespan of dogs.
Give your dog 15 minutes to eat. If she doesn’t finish her food in 15 minutes pick up her dish and don’t give her food until her next scheduled meal.
Please call us if you have food/feeding questions!
Using the Body Condition Score Chart
Too much food isn’t good for a dog, and puppies are very active and it can be hard to keep weight on sometimes. Please call us if you need help maintaining a healthy weight for your dog.
The Body Condition Score chart was developed to give us a system of determining ideal body condition for a dog. Because Goldendoodles have a thick coat, the visual evaluation isn’t useful to us—even a skinny Goldendoodle can look plump because of their coat.
To find your puppy’s body condition score, you’ll want to run your hands down her ribs. You want to feel the puppy’s ribs with a thin layer of fat over them. Any more than a thin layer and your dog is starting to get too fat. If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs, then your dog is obese.
There are a few ways to describe how the ribs should feel. Here are the two that most people seem to relate to
Adding fresh food
Fresh food is good for everyone including your dog! You can feed a little every day or have a special fresh meal one day over the weekend.
We do not recommend feeding more than 10% of your dog’s weekly ration as fresh food. While fresh foods are incredibly healthy for your dog, and all-fresh diet takes care and expertise to construct and maintain and we wouldn’t want you to risk the real possibility of inadvertently causing a nutritional deficiency.
Meat. We suggest that at least once a week you give your dog an egg or some chicken breast.
Eggs. Whole eggs can be fed cooked any way, such as scrambled or microwaved. Your dog can be fed raw egg yolks but NOT raw egg whites. Egg whites should be cooked. Egg whites contain a protein called avidin, which can bind to biotin and over time cause a nutritional deficiency.
Chicken. Chicken can be fed raw or cooked. Safe handling and good quality meat is always recommended.
Chicken bones can be fed IF RAW. Do NOT feed cooked chicken bones. While anything that goes in your dog’s mouth can potentially be a choking hazard, cooked chicken bones splinter and are a greater hazard than we recommend risking. Some dogs will eat meat very quickly. If yours is one of these, feed the meat to them while still frozen. This will cause them to eat it much more slowly and chew more.
Beefand pork are also good meats. However, avoid sausages since the spices in sausage can upset some tummies.
Organ meat is healthy in small quantities, never more than 10% of your dog’s caloric intake
Veggies. We also suggest that you share some fresh fruits and vegetables with your dog. Dogs love fruits and veggies that are frozen, frozen carrots in particular are a favorite of puppies that are teething. Some foods are toxic to dogs, so when in doubt, don’t give it to them or call your vet for advice. Berries in particular are healthy for your dog. Five or 6 berries a day are a great addition.
Start slowly because some of these can cause gas or loose stool! When in doubt, check it out* or just don’t feed it. Avoid pits, seeds, and rinds.
Need more help?
You are not alone! Please reach out to us and we will be happy to work with you. Book with Ji or Hariamrit
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