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    Extracts from Apex Boxers Puppy Manual

    The text below is adapted from the manual I provide to my puppy parents. It is purely my opinions. Corrections and comments welcome. Please note that this is my work and is not to be copied or reused in any form without my permission. If you see this text elsewhere, please let me know so I can deal with the plagiarism appropriately.

    FEEDING

    What type of food should you choose?

    You should select a diet that’s designed for the specific nutritional needs of your dog. Eg, adult dog foods do not have high enough protein, fat, or calcium levels for a growing puppy; and senior dogs need less protein and fat than active youngsters. The type of diet you choose depends on your level of expertise, time available, and the range of products accessible in your areas. Dog owners may choose to feed only 'natural' ingredients that are prepared at home, right through to a diet that is only processed food. How do you decide how to feed your dog? Compare it to how you feed yourself - do you only eat processed pre-prepared food? Is all your food out of a can? Is all your food in concentrated dry pellet form? My personal choice is to provide a varied diet with plenty of unprocessed ingredients. I do use (very high quality) commercial foods, especially with puppies, as it is a convenient way to be sure the dog is getting a full range of nutrients, but I always combine that with more natural foods.

    How do you identify a good brand of food?

    If you choose to feed commercial dog foods, look for a food that indicates on the label that it has been tested in AAFCO feeding trials. This means that the food has been fed to a large number of pets over a long period of time, and did not result in any nutritional problems. It is not however, a sign that the food is particularly good - they are only basic tests.

    While most commercial foods are complete and balanced, the better ones use higher quality proteins. Since the premium brands are made with less fillers, your dog can actually eat far smaller quantities, and still receive all the nutrients it needs. Better yet, with less filler, there's less for you to pick up in the back yard.

    To choose the best commercial dog foods, this site can help: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/ (but doesn’t cover local brands). My current favourite processed food is one from that site: Earthborn Holistic. For foods that are not reviewed by experts, you need to become 'label wise'. Reading a few of the reviews on the advisor site mentioned above, will help you to learn which ingredients are not so good. If the label of the dog food you choose shows only low levels of protein, and has large percentages unaccounted for, then your pup is eating a large quantity of food with little nutritional value. In the table below you can see that the kind of tinned ‘puppy’ food available in a supermarket contains a lot of ‘fillers’ and not a lot of the nutrients that your pup needs. It is worth investing in quality food!

    Comparison of puppy foods from 2006

    Examples of poor quality food

    Examples of better quality food

    Champ puppy (tin)

    Pedigree puppy (tin)

    Bosch Puppy Junior

    Hills Puppy Original

    Eukanuba

    Protein

    8%min

    8.5%

    29%

    25.5%min

    26%min

    Fat

    7%max

    10%

    12%

    16.5%min

    14%min

    Fibre

    0.5%max

    3% max

    2.5%

    3%max

    5%max

    Calcium

    0.3%min

    Info not avail.

    1.5%

    1.0%min

    0.65%min

    KCalories/kg

    1000

    Info not avail.

    Info not avail.

    3801

    4138

    Changing foods

    If you decide to change your dog's food, it's best to do it gradually. Sudden changes in diet in young pups in particular can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea. To change diets, simply mix progressively smaller portions of current food with progressively larger portions of the new food, until your pup is eating only the new food.

    Overfeeding

    Care should be taken not to overfeed your boxer. Obesity, especially early in life can lead to musculoskeletal, circulatory, liver and pancreas disorders later in life. Note that many people (even professionals) give bad advice about how fat your dog is. If people are used to looking at an adult boxer or at broad breeds such as Labradors they can have false expectations of a young boxer. Remember that boxers are very slow maturers too.

    Ideal weight will depend on the size of the dog. In general you can tell if a dog is overweight by simply looking at it: a clear waist indent behind the rib cage should be visible when looking down at the dog, from the side a distinct tuck-up should be visible behind the ribcage with the abdomen area much higher than the bottom of the ribs, and the ribs should show when the dog inhales. (Some sample weights: 3 yr old bitch 22" at withers, ideal weight 25kg, 3 yr old dog 24" at withers, ideal weight 30kg. Also see photos below). The image at right provides help with assessing weight (Image source: http://petfoodreport.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/how-do-i-know-my-dog-is-fat-and-what-do.html)


    Problem eaters / Skinny Boxers

    Is your dog actually skinny?

    Boxers can go through stages where they look skinny. I have heard far too often of people (even vets) telling boxer owners that their dog is skinny when in fact it is simply immature. Sometimes people expect a teenage boxer to be broader than they often are. Your pup will reach its full height at about 10 months old but may wait a lot longer to become a ‘solid’ adult boxer. Boxers get the breadth of chest only when they are mature (sometimes as late as 4 or 5 years old). That means that your dog may look lanky for years. (Just think of how lanky teenage boys are as they grow!)

    It’s important for you to be able to recognise whether your dog is simply ‘growing’ or is genuinely too skinny. The photo of ‘Storm’ (Apex Red Rascal) at right is age 10 months and he’s in superb condition with defined muscles, shiny coat, clear tuck up of tummy, ribs only just visible, and hips and spine bones do not protrude. While it would be nice if he carried a little more weight, he is not too skinny, just a normal healthy lanky teenager.

    Even if your pup is healthy it can still be worrying if they are fussy eaters. Don’t panic! The more fuss you make, the more your pup will get used to special treatment at meal times and the longer the problem will continue.

    The first step in solving the fussy eating problems is to consider the cause.

    Causes of fussy eaters:

    1. Psychological/Behavioural - Is there some negative association with eating from a bowl? Or distractions? Eg:
      • Do you make a big deal out of them not eating – sighing and fussing? (Will upset the puppy and make meal time stressful).
      • Do you feed the pup somewhere it is not comfortable, like a room they get locked away in or one they’re not usually allowed in? (You want meal time to be relaxing for a problem eater).
      • Have other pets told the pup off for trying to eat from their bowls, making the pup wary of approaching a food bowl? (Don’t put the pup in that situation, feed separately).
      • Does your pup have an audience of other pets when it is eating? (May distract them and/or think they need to leave that food for the others – feed separately).
      • Is your pup used to a certain type of food and you’ve changed too rapidly?
    2. Physiological – Is there a physical reason for them to be reluctant to eat their meals? Eg:
      • Is the dog in fact well enough fed it doesn’t need to eat the quantity you’re offering? (See notes above) Offering too much and then fussing will put your dog off finishing their meals.
      • If your dog’s throat, stomach or bowels are irritated, they can be reluctant to eat. Irritation can be due to a food allergy. See tips for stopping fussy eating below.
      • Is your pup teething? Sore teeth can put them off eating.
      • Does your dog have anything in their mouth that may make eating uncomfortable? Eg Epulis are common in aging boxers (see http://www.vethelpdirect.com/vetblog/2009/11/13/epulis-a-gum-problem-seen-mainly-in-boxers/ )
      • Are you feeding the wrong type of food for your dog? Eg a young pup copes better with wet than dry food.

    Strategies for fussy eaters:

    If you are concerned about your dog being a fussy eater, here are some different ideas to try (all assume that you have ruled out any serious physiological reason for the eating problems):

    • Offer only quality food - make sure that you’re using quality food so that when the pup eats it is getting the highest possible nutrient intake – if you start using rubbishy food they happen to like to eat you’re just reducing the intake of what a pup really needs. This site can help: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/ (but doesn’t cover local brands).
    • Reduce the quantity of treats offered through the day (eg can you use toy rewards in training instead? Or use smaller pieces of treat?). If their tummy is full of treats, they are less likely to develop good meal time eating behaviours. Also make sure the treats are nutritious – home made liver treats are better than commercial treats like ‘Smackos’.
    • Establish a feeding routine - Put the feed bowl down at very regular eating times, remove distractions (if necessary, feed in a crate), make sure the dog knows the food is there, and wait. If the dog doesn’t eat after 5 minutes, pick up the bowl and try at the next meal time. (Don't leave food out as this just teaches the dog that it doesn't have to eat at meal times, making life more complicated in the long run.) Your dog will not starve!
    • Try different foods in a scientific way – Don’t just swap from one type of food to another, mixing them up – that means you can’t figure out what works. If they have an irritated tummy/bowel, it takes a while for that to recover so you won’t see a change in eating behaviour straight away. Also, I sometimes think the smart dogs realise if they turn their nose up at something one meal, you’ll offer them something better at the next! Don’t forget to gradually change food to let them adjust, but then give the new food a chance: I’ve had a pup turn their nose up at something one day, then scoff it down the next. Vets usually recommend trying something for as long as 6 weeks!
    • Explore whether there’s an ingredient causing problems – sometimes the fussiness is because their digestive system is irritated. If this is that case, all those tempting treats and varied foods you keep trying are probably aggravating not solving the problem! Food allergies are not uncommon – you may be surprised to learn that many dogs are allergic to beef. Figuring out if your dog has a food allergy needs patience. Ideally use a bland food for a few weeks (eg home cooked rice and chicken) to give irritation a chance to settle (chicken seems to irritate less dogs). Then introduce another ingredient, and look out for reactions for a few weeks, then add another, and so on. For those owners unable to deal with this kind of approach you can at least do something similar – look at labels and try avoiding some ingredients for a while (but don’t forget that it takes weeks for the change to be noticeable so you need to give each food a long trial – worth it in the end).
    • Tempting foods - If you are very concerned and can’t be patient about waiting for your dog to eat, you can use ‘tempting’ but good quality items to lure your dog into eating. The idea is not the REPLACE their dog food with these extra tasty foods, but rather to use the tempting food to help them to start eating more of their dog food. Put some of the yummy stuff on top of their food, and some mixed in with it. NOTE: don’t forget the risk of one of these ingredients being something that irritates your dog’s digestive system – see notes above. Some ideas in the table below.

    Tasty tempters:

    Good tempting foods

    Bad tempting food

    • Scrambled eggs
    • A little vegemite (not much, it’s too salty). The tubes are handy for squeezing a little into a dog bowl.
    • Cooked offal (liver, kidneys, heart) – note that the bloody liquid from cooking these meats can be used to soak the dog’s normal food to make it extra yummy too.
    • Cheese, cottage cheese, cream (but some dogs can’t tolerate dairy food so be careful)
    • Raw beef or lamb (one of my fussy dogs decided she loved lambs’ tongues – very cheap and I simply diced them and mixed them into her food.)
    • Fish – eg tinned salmon (the supermarket brands are cheap). Don’t overfeed fish, not good for dogs.
    • A drizzle of cooking oil. If I’ve cooked something yummy, eg steak, I may put a little of the oil in with the fussy eaters food – but not if the oil has herbs and spices in it. Be very careful not to give too much.
    • Cat food
    • Your left overs
    • Human treats
    • Commercial pet treats – eg smackos
    • Low quality dog foods

    Here’s a good site on what not to feed your dog and why: http://www.caninejournal.com/foods-not-to-feed-dog

     

    • Placebo for the owner - If you get anxious while dealing with a fussy eater, your vet will have some concentrated supplements (eg "Nutrigel") that provide reassurance that your pup is at least getting vital nutrients. NOTE: this is more for your benefit than the dog!!! By using a supplement paste, at least your pup’s tummy is not getting filled up - perpetuating the eating problems. But be careful – over-supplementation is as bad as malnutrition.


    Photos of boxers in ideal physical condition – good muscle tone and at the right weight for their size

    Wilma age 9 years

    ABOVE: Wilma 24.5" at withers. On left: age 9years, weight 29kg. On right: age 4years, weight. 28kg.

    Freddy age 11 years Freddy age 2 years

    ABOVE: Freddy 22" at withers. On left: age 11years, weight 24.5kg. On right: age 3years, weight. 25kg.

    Rosie November 2005Rosie standing at 18 months old

    ABOVE: Rosie 21.5" at withers. On left: age 4 years, weight 25kg. On right: age 18months, weight. 24kg.