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Posts Tagged ‘Feeding’

If you talk to 100 Great Dane owners, you’ll get 100 differing opinions on what and how you should feed your Great Dane.  The opinions differ greatly, and some people are very, very adamant that the way they do it is the only way to go about it… and they’re willing to call you all sorts of things on the interwebz if you disagree with them.  It’s funny – it’s almost like arguing with another set of parents about not spanking versus whoopin ’em for even looking at you wrong.  That’s the level of intensity that this debate escalates to. I’ve seen perfectly sweet people go into fits of rage if you disagree with what they think is correct.

Why?  Well, I think most of that is due to the fact that the leading killer of Great Danes is bloat.  Couple that with the fact that we’re not sure exactly what triggers bloat, and you’ve got a maelstrom of opinions being fired off by people that think what they do for their baby is the absolute best.  But here’s the thing – what THEY do for THEIR baby might not (and probably won’t be) what’s best for YOURS.

I’ve read and read and read on the subject of Great Danes and diet.  I’ve probably put more hours of reading into this subject than most people spend researching vehicles when they buy a car.  There are probably a lot of people that have or have had Great Danes and they just threw out whatever kibble was the cheapest, never giving it a moment’s thought, and their dogs grew to be healthy and have long lives.  However, I’m just not willing to take that risk.

So what exactly should you feed a Great Dane?  It’s not an easy answer.  You could go the BARF diet route, which is Bones And Raw Food.  The thought behind this is that you feed the dog what they would eat in the wild.  It’s an intriguing approach, but the cost, food prep time, and making sure your dog receives all the balanced nutrients is a BIG undertaking and I don’t know enough about it to feel like I could give my dogs the proper nutrition.

The other approach is a grain-free kibble.  This is VERY popular among Great Dane owners.  The rationale is a lot like the raw diet, but if offers the convenience of it being already prepared and the assurance that the proper nutrients are in there.  Most dog foods are full of corn as a filler, which is a cheap way for companies to give you 50 lbs. of dog food at a lower cost to them.  But you have to think – when is the last time you saw a dog leaping through a corn field chomping down on ears of corn?  Never?  Yeah me neither.  So you have to wonder why it’s in most of our dog foods.  Also, it’s believed that this grain filler is a contributing factor to bloat.

Then of course there’s the grain-laden kibble approach.  This is what the majority of pet owners do, and for the most part it works out fine for their dogs.  There may be times when a vet will put a dog on a special diet because of kidney stones, sensitive stomachs, etc. but as a whole, we pretty much buy whatever brand we think has the cutest dog on the package, or what we think is the healthiest from the shelves at Wal-Mart and go on about our business.

I really can’t blame anyone for this.  For instance, I went into our tiny Petsmart this weekend to look at the food options and if I didn’t know anything about dogs or how to feed one, I’d be overwhelmed.  Just take a look…

Are you kidding me?  That’s 4… count them, 4 aisles of dog food!  And not to mention, I didn’t see a single bag there from one of the 10 – 15 brands that are highly recommended on Great Dane forums.  Also, this isn’t a big store either – I’m sure the selection is even bigger in larger markets.  I tried to picture what it would be like to have never owned a dog before, buy one on a whim, then head into Petsmart to pick up some food.  I would think it would be incredibly overwhelming.

Almost every single bag says “Veterinarian Recommended!” on it, and all of them proclaim to be the best, most wonderful, super healthiest thing you’ve ever given to your dog and he/she is going to love you even more if you choose their food.  That’s where you have to put all of that aside and get to the boring, drab details of it.  The nutritional analysis and the ingredient list.  That’s all that matters.  Period.

Luckily, you don’t have to get out your kids’ Chemistry Set and start performing analysis tests in your basement (but if you do, call me because that could be fun).  We’ll talk more about feeding, what to look for, resources for information, and what we’re currently feeding as we revisit this topic from time to time.

Not the most entertaining of things to read about, but with all the love and joy that our pets bring us, we feel it’s important to invest that same sort of time and commitment into making sure they’re as healthy as we can possibly help them be.  They’re already with us far too short of a time, so we need to make sure the limited number of days we have them are the absolute best that they can be.

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Puppy Food?

I know you readers hate it when I get serious (the hate mails, the letters to Congressmen, the old ladies standing on their curb shaking their fists at me) but feeding a Great Dane is a serious undertaking so I’ll be visiting this topic from time to time.  I especially find it important because thanks to the great marketing engine of corporate America, we’re to believe that you can go pick up a bag of puppy food at the grocery store, slap it down in front of any puppy, and he’ll grow up to be a show dog.

I know this will come to a shock, but that’s not always true.  In fact in some cases like a Great Dane, it can be debilitating.  There are several bone diseases that are prevalent in giant breeds.  Of course the genetics of your puppy play a factor in this, but diet has a very large role.

Puppy foods are very high in protein for growth (around 30% if I’m not mistaken) and have supplements in them such as calcium.  Feeding a high-proten, calcium supplemented diet to your giant breed dog can cause them to grow TOO fast.

Now wait a minute – isn’t that what we want?  Don’t we want our puppies to grow up to be big, giant, strong, healthy dogs?  Well… yes we do.  However, we want them to do so in their own time.  A puppy food can accelerate their growth rate too fast and the result is a long laundry list of horrible bone diseases.

There’s a great (and short) article to read here about the various diseases that feeding a puppy food can contribute to here. I wouldn’t have known anything about regulating Duchess’ protein or calcium intake if I hadn’t researched this before we got her (remember, we pretty much rescued her from white trash ghetto-land where she was most likely being raised on a diet of pork skins and Pabst Blue Ribbon).

Oh, and don’t be fooled by “Large Breed” puppy foods either… the protein is still too high in those.  We’re looking for a protein percentage of 21% or so to promote a slow and steady growth.  So I know what you’re thinking right now.  It’s probably along the lines of “I don’t care.  I seriously don’t care.  I can’t believe I’ve even read this dribble this far.”  Am I right?

The rest of you that do care are probably freaking out because you’re either a) realizing that you have a dog that you probably shouldn’t have fed puppy food to, or b) wondering just what it is that you’re supposed to feed to a giant breed dog.  I mean, really… what are we supposed to do – strap on our loincloths, fashion primitive weapons out of things laying around the house, and go all caveman on some poor unsuspecting cattle just so our big doggies can get back to nature?

I guess you could go that route.  If you had your own cattle.  And lived really, really, really far away from other people.  And was certifiably batpoop crazy… but for the rest of us, there’s a simpler option.  But we’ll have to get to that another time because I have a big puppy that’s dying to eat and then crawl in my lap to go to sleep.

P.S. – please keep in mind that these opinions of mine included in this blog are my opinions about feeding GIANT BREED dogs.  So don’t go all crazy and throw your bag of puppy food out in the street, set it on fire, and put your dog on an intestinal cleansing product because you fed it to your Lhasa Apso.  It’s all cool.  Your little Swiffer dog will be just fine.  So just put the bag down and step away from the torch.

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