This week, we had a special lecture on nutrition for large breed dogs when they are puppies. The lecture was given by two veterinary nutritionists that work in our clinic here at Cornell.
I figured I would share a bit about what I learned and why it is important.
The lecture focused on feeding the proper amount of food to puppies. More so, it focused on getting the correct balance of calcium, which is essential for bone growth of all puppies but large breed dogs in particular since their bones grow so much during their younger years. Anybody who has had a large breed puppy knows exactly what I mean – they shoot right up and load on the weight right before your eyes!
We learned that some problems arise when food is fed in incorrect amounts. Sometimes this can be due to a lack of knowledge about portion size, or it can be due to incorrect information on the bag. We saw examples of many pet food bags that had portion information that was almost correct, and sometimes information that was not very correct at all. How do we know this? Because the nutritionists actually sent samples of the food to a lab to have it analyzed. Some foods had a ton of calories in them compared to what they claimed. Some had varying levels of calcium. The point is that some foods would have to be fed in very large amounts to get the proper levels of calcium into the puppy.
How do we get by this problem? I can assure you that it is not the pet food company’s fault all of the time. Food mixing varies in the factory, and it is unavoidable. I think that the best thing to do is to explicitly ask your veterinarian to help you analyze a food before you get a puppy. Make sure that the food is properly balanced for your puppy. If the veterinarian has suspicions, you can either look for another food or send a sample to a lab to get the real scoop on what is in the food. If your veterinarian cannot help you analyze the food properly, find another veterinarian who can.
My classmates and I are being trained more and more on how to analyze pet foods. Some of us, myself included, are taking yet another nutrition class next semester that will provide us with an in-depth look into how to analyze the nutrients in different pet foods. I know that our school is not the only one offering these classes. Lots of new vets will be interested in nutrition, so seek them out. We will be ready to help you make sure that your dogs (and cats!) get the nutrition they need.
Remember what Thomas Edison said. “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” I think that giving medicine is important too, but I like the focus on nutrition!