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Ask a Vet: What type of dog food and supplements should I feed my dog for optimum health?

December 8, 2009 |  4:43 pm

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health?  Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help!  In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford offers some helpful canine-nutrition advice to reader Vicki.

Pumpkin dog Vicki's question: What supplement and feeding regimen should we follow to keep our German shepherd/greyhound mix healthy and free from joint issues? The only conditions she currently has are horrible shedding all year long and recurrent anal gland issues.

Heather Oxford, DVM:  Starting with the food, one of the most important things to remember is to read the ingredient list and don't trust that it's good quality just because the bag says "Veterinarian Recommended" or because it's sold in veterinarian clinics.  Dog food companies utilize advertising strategies like this to attract consumer attention to the bag, but the ingredient list doesn't lie.  Since ingredients are listed in decreasing order by weight, you should always look for the meats to be the first ingredients.

Never buy a food that lists corn, byproducts, meat flavor, or other poor-quality ingredients within the first three items (or at all, ideally!).  You should also look on the label to confirm that the food meets Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards for being complete and balanced, in addition to successfully passing feeding trials.

Since your dog has anal gland issues, increased fiber in the diet will be of benefit.  Plain canned pumpkin is one of the best sources of fiber and it's easy to supplement by adding one tablespoon with each meal for a large-breed dog.

Any dog with shedding problems needs to be on a good-quality fish oil as well, but not all are created equal!  Fish oils provide omega fatty acids that are beneficial to the skin and coat in addition to other tissues inside the body, including the joints.  A good product is one that has been tested for mercury, heavy metals and other contaminants for safety.  Also, it should provide at least 1000 mg of omegas per serving for efficacy.  The FDA does not regulate these or other nutraceuticals, so it's up to us to not just rely on the product advertising or the fact that it's sold at a veterinarian's office to assure quality.  The above also applies to joint products for management or prevention of arthritis.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are the two most important ingredients for the product to contain.

You can find more information on nutrition, prevention of injuries, and others at www.CalAnimalRehab.com, in the articles section.

To submit your question for Dr. Oxford, just leave a comment on this post and look for her answer in an upcoming installment of Ask a Vet!

About our vet: Dr. Oxford received her bachelor of science degree at Bowling Green State University, Ohio.  She also received a master's of public health degree in epidemiology from Emory University and went on to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She then went to the University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine, where she received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree.  She practices at California Animal Rehabilitation and is also certified in veterinary rehabilitation and acupuncture. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Wade, and German shepherd, Tess.

Photo: Don't worry, Labrador puppy Lily!  You can get some extra fiber from canned pumpkin, Dr. Oxford says -- no need to eat the jack-o-lantern.  Credit: malachi / Your Scene

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