Food and Feeding

Choosing a Food

A structured feeding regimen works in concert with a well-thought-out housebreaking and training programme.

Do not feed grain free!!!

There are a number of factors to consider in choosing a food. More and more foods are being produced by pop-up companies who create their food with a formula and an enticing-sounding list of ingredients. They do not have veterinary nutritionists on staff, and they do not do extensive long-term feeding trials. Many of them outsource their production to companies like Diamond (yes, that Diamond, implicated in the widespread aflatoxin poisoning scandal). DO NOT rely on sites like DogFoodAdvisor to help you select a quality food. His rating system is completely based on unscientific assumptions about ingredients, rather than on sound science: the owner of the site is a dentist, not a nutritionist, and he gets financial kickbacks when people buy food by clicking through links on his site.

Some of the “boutique” brands are exorbitantly priced: there is no need to be paying over $90 for a 30lb bag of food. However, paying a little more for a quality, premium food saves money in terms of amount fed, and trips to the vet. There is no need to routinely feed a veterinary diet unless there is a health issue. Stick with a readily available quality brand and you should be able to find it wherever you might travel. Another recent fad is high protein-no/low carb foods/grain free. Many of these food have higher and higher inclusion of legumes (peas, chickpeas/garbanzo beans, lentils, soy, etc) and potatoes (white and sweet) to replace the grains as kibble requires a binder for extrusion. Recently an increasing number of cases of dogs with heart failure on these diets has been reported, due to DCM brought on by nutritionally mediated taurine deficiency. Stay clear of any foods with potatoes or legumes, especially in the top five ingredients, or multiple of these ingredients before the vitamins/minerals in the formula (ingredient splitting). This issue is serious enough that the FDA published a warning as well. Read labels!

For more information on TD-DCM and the link to grain-free foods check out this Facebook Group moderated by one of the cardiologists involved in the research at UC Davis, Dr. Joshua Stern:

This website is also chock full of excellent, SCIENCE-BASED information:

Dr. Stern's research, initial published findings:

Good stores at which you may find many quality foods are Rens Pets Depot or Global Pet Foods/Ryans and even at Petsmart or your local feed store if they carry Purina products--I get my ProPlan at a nearby Purina feed store for a much better price than I can find in normal commercial retail. Just be aware that many of these stores also carry a tempting array of foods that sound appealing to our human sensibilities and which not only have no science in their development, but may very well be causing real harm.

Below are some of my personal favourites, on which my dogs do well:

Active Working Dogs

Pro Plan Sport 27/17 Turkey and Barley

ProPlan Sport Perfomance 30/20 Salmon and Rice (I love this one and my dogs do super-well on it! I have only been able to find it at PetSmart or direct through Purina on my breeder plan, however.)

Royal Canin 4800 (This is a 30/28 food. I generally only use it during heavy hunting or training periods. It must be purchased through Royal Canin's Breeder club. If you are working/hunting your dog and want to feed this I can get it for you if you are reasonably local, or hook you up with the pro sales rep to get your own account.)

Eukanuba Premium Performance 30/20

Eukanuba Performance Premium Active Adult 28/18

*Note that the ProPlan Sport formulas are considered all-life-stages food so can be used with puppies as well.

Normally Active Adults and Seniors

Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin and Stomach

Pro Plan Selects Sensitive Skin and Stomach

ProPlan Bright Minds

ProPlan Savor Beef and Rice (not the shredded formula!)

Royal Canin Joint and Coat Care

Royal Canin Large Breed Adult

Eukanuba Lifestage Adult Maintenance

Puppy Foods(if you prefer to start on a puppy food)

ProPlan Selects Puppy

Royal Canin Puppy--Golden Retriever or Maxi (large breed)

Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy

Raw is also a great option if you can commit to the work it requires and will follow a balanced, nutritionist-developed formula. There are some wonderful premade, balanced raw foods available, such as Big Country Raw.

Test results submitted for dogs belonging to members of the Taurine Deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy group on Facebook as of December 2018 showed a couple of very heavily marketed "natural" foods have not tested well. The new standard for Goldens is to see a whole blood taurine level over 250; for any breed, a level under 200 is considered deficient. Goldens are not a known DCM breed (such as Dobermans who do have a genetically-mediated variation). The key in illustrating that the DCM is diet-mediated, rather than genetic, is that the condition improves when the dogs are taken off the problematic food. I know several breeders who have had dogs of their breeding affected, with a couple of deaths. I also had a friend lose a young strong Labrador to NM-DCM after feeding one of these boutique foods for several years.

Do not feed a food which contains legumes or potatoes in the first five ingredients. Do not feed a food which contains multiple legume or potato variants, as this ingredient splitting hides just how much problematic ingredients are included. You will note that the brands I have recommended above have zero incidence of DCM reported.

What About Supplements?

If you are feeding a high quality, balanced diet, supplements are unnecessary, and can sometimes do more harm than good. Once they leave puppyhood, the one supplement I will give, particularly during the winter months, is a fish oil capsule. A glucosamine-chondritin supplement can also be helpful in preventing wear and tear damage to joints for active working dogs. Most important though is not to allow your dog to get overweight.

How Much to Feed?

  • Initially you should be feeding your puppy three times per day (breakfast, lunch, supper) as their little bellies cannot hold enough in two meals to support their rapid growth
  • Divide the suggested daily ration into three equal portions, and soften it with warm water before feeding. You can gradually transition to dry food.
  • Note that the suggested feeding amount on the bag is just that, a suggestion. I find it is sometimes on the high side for many family pets, although with exceptionally active dogs such as hunting dogs or dogs in training and hunt competition may require more.
  • If the portion is correct, your puppy should be able to easily consume each meal within 5 minutes. Take food up after five minutes. This will help in preventing slow, picky eating habits.
  • Adjust the portion as your puppy grows. You want the pup to be lean, but not bony or scrawny. Excess weight is hard on growing bones and joints and could void your health guarantee. Beyond three months of age, that roly-poly puppy belly should disappear. If it has not started to disappear, decrease the food ration slightly. If the pup is otherwise lean, but has a potbelly, have a stool sample analyzed for worms.
  • Cease feeding the noon meal when the pup stops showing an interest in it. This is generally sometime close to when they reach 6 months of age. At this point, divide the daily ration into two equal portions.
  • If you are not feeding an all-life stages food, stay on large-breed puppy food Until 12 months old ( or 15 months if feeding Royal Canin puppy formula).
  • Once the rapid growth phase is over (usually by 10 months) you should notice your pup becoming less interesting in wolfing down that large serving, or if not, s/he may be becoming a bit pudgy. Once the rapid growth is over, cut the ration back as your pup does not need the high caloric intake any longer.
  • To satisfy chewing needs, I provide large knuckle bones from the butcher. (You usually have to ask at the butcher counter to get ones that are large enough.) These are raw, and I keep them in the freezer between uses. Nylabone Galileo chews are also sufficiently tough if you don’t like the notion of large bones hanging about! Another good option are Himilayan Chews. Other commercially made treats like Greenies and Dentabones do not have the substance to stand up to Golden jaws. The dogs are too able to break off and swallow large chunks which can cause gastro-intestinal obstructions.