Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Is your Dog a Picky Eater?

Do you have a dog that doesn’t eat his/her dog food? If so – you may need to look at what have you done to contribute to this problem.
Do you give your dog a lot of table scraps, treats, or rewards? He is likely to turn up his nose at his dinner of just regular food if that is the case.  Imagine asking your child would they prefer grilled chicken and broccoli or ice cream – the answer will undoubtedly be ice cream.

If your dog is a picky eater – there are ways to encourage healthier eating.

Before you bring your dog home, have a feeding plan in place. Everyone in the family should be following the same rules all the time or else it won’t work. Decide what food to feed, how much they need per day, time of day for meals, and when treats or snacks will be used and for what purpose (i.e.: training).

Changing diets frequently for flavour, or to give your dog variety is not helpful. The best thing to do is provide your dog with the best quality of dog food you can, and maintain consistency. Too much change only teaches the dog to hold out for something better until you have exhausted most options and nothing is ever good enough. When you do transition your dog’s food – do so slowly over a period of 7-10 days – start with about 20% new food added to 80% of the old food for a couple of days and then gradually increase the new food and decrease the old food in small increments until you are feeding the new diet exclusively. This will help prevent any diet change related diarrhea or intolerance.

Do not feed from the table or offer table scraps. This will cause your dog to hold out for tastier (and less healthy) options other than his own dog food. This will also reinforce begging behaviours, and increase him to health concerns such as diarrhea and pancreatitis.

Do not let the dog associate your food with theirs. Avoid “top dressing” with pieces of your food to encourage them to eat. This will give the dog the belief that there is tastier food they could be getting and thus they will hold out for that instead. Dogs should never see food as coming from your plate.

Schedule your dog’s meals. Have specific meal times and divide the daily amount to be fed amongst these meals. Portion control is very important when feeding your dog to ensure they get the correct amount of nutrition per day, without over or under feeding. Multiple meals per day instead of just one all day helps to keep them fuller longer, and less likely to beg for food later. Measure out each meal using an appropriate measuring cup specifically for your dog’s food – coffee cups, yogurt containers, and other tools should not be used.

TIME THE MEALS: Do not leave food out all day for your dog to graze on. Instead, time the meals. Give your dog 5-10 minutes to eat that meal’s portion and if your dog leaves any behind – remove the remainder after the time is up. Do not add what is left behind to the next meal. Continue to do this for 2 -3 days for every meal (without giving any treats or snacks in this time frame) and your dog will learn very quickly to eat the meal he/she is given – when it is given to them. If you cave in and offer a training treat or a snack, the dog learns that if they don’t eat their food, you will offer something tastier.

If your dog refuses to eat, he is likely just holding out for people food, but it is very important to hold firm. Just because he skips a few meals, do not give in and give him what he wants. He will eventually choose dog food over no food at all.

Occasionally a picky eater may only be picky because there is something medically wrong. It is important to pay attention to your dog and know some of the signs.
If a dog maintains a healthy weight, is bright, alert, active, and has a shiny coat; it is much less worrisome than one who has dropped some weight suddenly, has a dull appearance and is less energetic than normal. If you have a dog that is good and regular eater, but suddenly stops – this could be a sign something is wrong. Know your dog’s habits and recognize the changes in behaviour.

Many illnesses could be the cause for your dog refusing to eat such as age related illnesses, joint pain, dental disease,  kidney and liver disease, and many more.
If your dog has always been a good healthy eater and now is becoming more of a picky eater over the past 48 hours – discuss this with your veterinarian. Puppies that are not eating should be seen within 24 hours. 

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