I have had many people email and phone me in regards to safe and healthy nutrition for their Miniature Schnauzers, so I thought it was time to add some nutrition info to the site. I have done extensive research into healthy nutrition for my dogs over the years, but even so, the info you find here is only a guide and is not meant to be the end all and be all of nutritional information. I will tell you what I look for and what I consider to be a good quality food, what I like and do not like and why, and what I have personally tried and what I find works best for my dogs. While I am a strong supporter of the *idea* of raw and/or home cooked feeding, the reason I do not use it myself or recommend it to most people is that I worry about any given person being able to prepare and serve a truly balanced diet for the long term. Some people may vey well say they are feeding raw and their dog may be wonderfully improved and heathy for the last 9 months, but that diet still may be unbalanced and not only be not nutritionally complete but in actuality may even cause long term health issues due to some deficiency. But safe and healthy raw and home cooked feeding can and is being done all over the world, the necessity is to have support from knowledgable people that have extensive experience in such feeding practices. There are online support groups as well as many books and recipes for healthy canine diets, so if time and due care are taken to ensure that you are dealing with reliable info then I do feel that it is probably the healthiest way to feed your dogs by far.
Having said that, I choose not to feed raw for various reasons. One, for convenience like most people. Secondly, I fear the unknown and of *screwing up* and hurting my dogs. Thirdly, having a number of dogs and not just one or two, the dynamics of preparing and storing home cooked or raw meals is thrown into a whole new perspective that would take not only extensive time and much careful thought and preparation, but indeed I do not have the space to store so much fresh and frozen foods to continuously feed a pack of dogs. I also worry about the competition factor, as well as the mess. To feed all my guys, who are all housepets, using raw chicken necks for instance would ensure not only some really messy floors, furniture and even beds, and require extra careful cleaning to avoid salmonella etc, but I am sure that the potential for fighting over food could be taken to a whole new level, were my dogs to all run off around the house with a chicken neck each, everyone looking for a safe and private corner to eat. I suppose crating during meal time would fix that problem but then I would have to be scrubbing crates after every meal due to the raw meat issues. Also, the need to eat quickly so that some other dog does not steal it would also enhance the chance of a dog choking on food in my opinion, most especially if I were to feed raw meat including bones.
One thing I wish to make note of, is that I detest most foods sold by Veterinarians, their inferior quality is shameful as can be seen simply by reading and understanding the ingredients lists. However, I do realize that some owners have dogs who have severe and sometimes life threatening health issues, that *may* require that their dog be fed a specific prescription food for a specific health issue such as kidney or liver issues or diabetes or whatever. Unfortunately there is not much that can be done in these cases but feed what you have to, or go to a holistic vet for possible alternatives. But for the normal healthy puppy or dog, you simply do not need to feed inferior foods sold by vets.
So now I will discuss what I primarily feed, in fact what most folks feed, and that is bags of dry (kibbled) dog food. First of all, no one individual food is going to work well for all dogs, and contrary to what some dog food companies would have you believe, no one food is 100% perfect balanced nutrition for the lifetime of the dog. For that reason, I choose to rotate every couple of months or so among various of my favorite formulas from several top quality brands, so that I know I am giving the very best in variety as well as overall complete balanced nutrition, over the longterm. I also buy various varieties of quality canned food, using basically the same requirements that I expect in my dry food, and I mix a couple of tablespoons of canned food in about a half cup of warm water and add a few tablespoons or so of this mixture to each dish of dry food before serving it to my guys. I have tried many many puppy foods over the years and my recent fave to start on is Now Fresh Small Breed Puppy food, It has super tiny kibble that is easy to pick up and eat whether presoaked for first weaning, or dry as they get more used to eating solids. When they are a bit older (7+ weeks) another great puppy food is Go Fit and Free Chicken Turkey Trout Recipe Puppy food. The puppies love both the Now and Go Puppy formulas and thrive on them. Pups stay in excellent condition, do not have to eat huge amounts of bulk to look chubby and stay healthy, and never have I had such glowing shiny coats, healthy skin with no flakiness whatsoever, and great firm stools. I cannot say enough about how I love these two puppy foods and how excellent my results have been using them for my litters! Despite its seemingly high cost at first glance, pound for pound they outperform any other puppy food that I have ever tried. And no I do not have anything to do with the Petcurean company that makes it, I have no friends or family that work there or own stock in the company...lmbo, I simply am an everyday responsible breeder trying to do the very best I can for the puppies I so lovingly raise, a breeder who has tried so many puppy foods over the years, and found these to be, hands down, the very best I have ever used in my 30+ years in dogs! I have also used Fromm Gold Puppy and Nutrition First Puppy, both being very good quality and very digestible as well. (More later on other really great tried and true foods, or excellent foods that are on my *wish* list.)
In order to choose a quality food, you simply have to learn to look at and understand the dog food labels; the list of ingredients, the guaranteed analysis, and any stamps of approval such as PFAC (Pet Food Association of Canada ) or AAFCO (Association Of American Feed Control Officials).
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Things To Avoid:
First of all, I will not even consider feeding any foods that contain any of the following: meat by-products, poultry by-products, any food with the actual words "meat meal" in the ingredient list (meat meal could potentially contain anything such as diseased or dead/dying animals, including the possibility of euthenised pets from shelters (yes with the euthenasia drugs still in their systems and sometimes even with collars still on), as well as a legal allowed % of plastic, chemicals and other unmentionables), soy, corn or any fragments thereof, wheat or any fragments thereof, any kind of gluten or gluten meals, sugar, artificial flavours, artificial colors, BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin
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Things To Look For:
Ingredients: High quality specific proteins are my first priority, with some kind of specific meat or "specific meat meal" (listed as salmon meal or lamb meal etc) being the first on the list, and not a by-product. In other words, I like to see lamb or lamb meal, salmon or salmon meal, chicken or chicken meal, duck or duck meal, etc. first, and there should preferably be at least two or more specific animal proteins in the first handful of ingredients on the list, the more the better! As stated above, seeing the words "meat meal" is a big red flag, it is way too generic and can include things that you just do not want to know, much less wish serve to your pets to eat! Also remember that whole meat (beef, chicken, duck, lamb etc) contains a lot of actual water by weight, so if the first ingredient is whole lamb or duck, and not lamb meal or duck meal, then you need to look for at least one or two other animal proteins high in the list, hopefully within the next half dozen ingredients, with at least one also preferably being a meal such as chicken meal or salmon meal or whatever.
While grain free foods are all the rage, as long as your dog does well on grains and has no food allergy symptoms (sloppy stools, upset stomach, itching, frequent ear issues etc) , foods containing whole grains and not grain fragments (brewers rice or oat hulls for instance) are the healthier choice. I look for oats, barley, or brown rice for instance. You do not want to see too many grains, or else they will far outweigh the protein and lower the quality of the food. I personally love the inclusion of foods that contain natural antioxidants and enzymes such as herbs, fresh fruits and vegetables, and also prebiotics and probiotics for enhanced digestibility and absorbtion (preferably added after cooking to be able to be utilized at their full potential). If the label says organic and or human grade ingredients, they are the very best, and though the word can be manipulated, if the food label says it is holistic that is a good place to start your search. For fat sources I prefer combos of salmon oil, flaxseed, flaxseed meal or flaxseed oil, coconut or canola oils, with vegetable oil and chicken fat being acceptable. I believe that I read somewhere a while back that sunflower oil has been shown to cause cancer in dogs. These days all foods should be naturally preserved, such as with rosemary, vitamin e or c , or listed as mixed trocopherols or citric/ascorbic acid. Never buy a food preserved with BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin as they can cause cancer in dogs.
Guaranteed analysis: What I look for in an everyday adult food is a moderate amount of quality animal protein, anywhere from 20-30% has worked for me, preferring it to be in the 22-26% range. I look for the fat content to be between 8% and 14%, preferring it to stay in the 10-12 % range for most of my food choices. I like the calorie content to be at least 340-360 calories per cup or more for normal active minis. If it gets to be much less than that I find I have to feed so much bulk food to keep a decent weight on my guys, that I get a lot more cleanup required in my yard. With 7 or 8 dogs around I sure do not need that! If being overweight is a problem then you can look for lower calorie foods , such as senior or weight management foods if necessary. Of course if your dog has specific health issues you will have to also take into consideration what your vet recommends.
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The myth that you should not feed your dog any people food is finally getting squashed as it should. The problem occurs, like with anything, if it is overdone or unbalanced. I personally feel strongly that as long as you do not do it to excess, regularly feeding small portions of a large variety of healthy people foods, in addition to/ as a supplement to dry and/or canned food, is the very best thing you can do for your dog for optimum nutrition. I do not have the time nor space to explain why certain foods are so beneficial, you can feel free to look things up individually on the internet if you wish to know how or why they can work so well in canine health.
At the very top of my list is low fat or non fat yogurt, preferably plain (no flavour), tiny bites of various cheeses, and whole eggs, and meat and fish. I have used both raw and cooked eggs myself, for my dogs. As long as not overfed, raw eggs are tolerated very well by most dogs, but too much raw egg white can hinder biotin usage by the body. But if worried go ahead and lightly scramble or boil them first. My guys enjoy about a tablespoon each of yogurt several times a week. I try and give everyone eggs (1 small or medium egg each per adult) at least a couple of times weekly, and a little bite of cheese as a treat once or twice a week also. Pumpkin is a doggy staple at our house; buy the cans of pure pumpkin or pumpkin/squash combo, but no sugar or spices added, or buy a pumpkin and cook and puree it yourself and freeze in ice cube trays for the exact amount needed each time. It is awesome at keeping digestive issues regular, and is used to help clear up both runny stools as well as constipation. I use it regularly, and very rarely is there ever a stool issue at our house. Lean meat and boneless fish can be fed raw but I prefer to feed it all cooked to be safe. I feed a little of whatever we are eating, chicken, turkey, salmon, beef or pork, or liver in very small treat size quantities. We happen not to be lamb eaters ourselves, but that would be fine too. When we BBQ, I always make a spice free and onion free hamburger patty or two that I then cut up and serve to the dogs. They know what it means when we fire up the BBQ :-)
Vegetables, raw or cooked, are thoroughly enjoyed and very healthy, such as small amounts of yellow or green beans, carrots, peas, brocolli, lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes, sweet potatoes. I am sure there are other good ones that I either am forgetting or simply have not tried. If feeding veggies raw, they are best cut up small for easier digestion, with the exception sometimes of carrots, I find that larger hunks of raw carrots can be a very good teething aid for puppies! So if we are having veggies with a meal, I divy up the leftovers for the dogs, or when I am preparing meals they sometimes get some raw veggies as a treat. Fresh fruits that my guys love are strawberies, blueberries, bananas, apples, watermelon and a slice of orange now and again. I always share when I am enjoying fresh fruit! There are lots of things that I do not use as I am just not sure, such as turnip and cauliflower (they may be too gassy so I don't bother). and red and green peppers (may upset them, don't know, never tried).
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People Food No No's!
Onions, raw potatoes, any kind of alcohol and caffeine, chocolate, and raisins and grapes are all no-nos, some more toxic than others but all are bad for your dog! If you wish to try any new food, first look it up on the internet to see if it is safe to feed or not, and if in doubt at all, simply do not feed it! My motto, better safe than sorry. :-)
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There are lots of commercial supplements out there, some beneficial and some not so. Always read carefully, do your research before using anything, and always start off slowly when introducing anything new to your pet. I have only tried a few over the years, and one that I love and find very beneficial is Solid Gold Seameal powder which also has Prozyme (digestive enzymes) added. I have used it for my dogs according to the package directions with great success, but find it hard to get so we have not used it for a while now. It is just full of great stuff, does help in the digestibility of even the very best dry commercial foods, making for healthier dogs and less *waste*! The supplements that I currently use daily are salmon oil fatty acid supplement, apple cider vinegar, and coconut oil, all of which aid in the very best healthy skin and coat, and digestive system, and they also help if your dog happens to have any inner or outer body inflamation as well as allergies. A new supplement I am now using as of 2015 is Nzymes Bac-Pak Plus, a direct fed digestive enzymes/microbials powder. It takes very very little to use per dog and is very beneficial especially for kibble fed dogs.
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What I Currently Feed:
At time of update in 2013, I was feeding Innova Adult Small bites. I also alternate with other Innova products such as their kangaroo formula and their senior formula. I also use Blue Buffalo Life Protection products on a regular basis (lamb, chicken and fish formulas), and have also used Acana Senior and Acana Light and Fit with success, and Nutrisource Grain Free Seafood and Grain Free Bison formulas occasionally for variety. The Nutrisource Grain Free Lamb and Grain Free Chicken formulas are both much too high in fat for minis. There is a large breed Grain Free Lamb formula that Nutrisource makes which would also be fine. Nutrisource can be bought direct in PEI from the supplier warehouse in Marshfield PEI, for the cheapest price on PEI, cut out the middle man foolishness - phone 314-7151. I find that the normal adult formulas of many premium brands are too high in fat for minis that could potentially be prone to pancreatitis (influenced by too high a fat content in the diet), so you can feed the senior or weight management or even large breed formulas of many premium brands to normal adults, as long as they suit the rest of your required criteria. I am also using various top quality canned foods, and because I only use a wee bit for each meal I do not worry about fat content of canned food at all. I use it as stated above, mixing some with warm water and adding a bit of that diluted mixture to each dog's dry food meal, and one can lasts about 3 days or so, so every few days they get a new canned flavour to add to their dry food, and this never causes any problems.
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Tried And True:
Other Foods I have tried and really like and use occasionally in rotation: Petcurean products - Go and Now products from Petcurean in Western Canada (Go Fit and Free Senior, Go Sensitivity and Shine Salmon or Duck formulas, Go Daily Defense Lamb or Chicken formulas) and any of the NOW products that have reasonable fat levels, always looking to keep the fat content reasonable for our minis.; various Fromm products, Nature's Variety Prairie: New Zealand Venison Meal & Millet Medley; various Wellness formulas (canned and dry); Merrick Senior Medley (dry) and various Merrick canned formulas; Innova: various formulas, I especially like Innova Adult Dry Large or Small Bites, Innova Senior Plus Dry, Innova Adult Dry Red Meat Large or Small Bites (have not tried puppy); California Natural products; Holistic Blend - Chicken and Lamb Formulas; Evo Weight management; Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul; and PC Nutrition First products, as well as their Nutrition First Small Breed puppy food which I have personally raised litters on, is first rate. Fromm Gold Puppy Formula is also wonderful, I raised my most recent litter on it and they did awesome. and A few of the mentioned foods on this page are 15% fat, so I use them only rarely as a rotational food source: but they are excellent foods if fat content is not a problem for your dog.
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Foods I have not tried but may at some point, dry and canned if available: more of the Blue Buffalo formulas such as the Blue Wilderness formulas, they are 15% fat so I would not use them back to back longterm for minis, but I would use them when switching from a lower fat food, and then after using one of these I would again go back to a lower fat food, but they are just too good a quality to just pass up as long as the fat level is ok for my guys now and again. I also like the look of Nature's Variety Prairie formulas- Chicken, Beef, Lamb, Duck, Venison, and Salmon Formulas; various Wellness Formulas (dry, whatever fits my critria particularly fat content since I know all their food is good quality); ; Fromm Four Star Whitefish and Potato formula; Fromm Reduced Activity/Senior Gold Holistic foods, never see either of them here but they both look great, so if I could I would like to try them. I am sure there are some new foods out there that I do not even know about yet, living in PEI we are the last to know about or get anything here.
Update: 2013: I tried Orijen Puppy a couple of years or so ago on one pup I bought (not on a litter) and did not like it at ALL for that pup, it made the stools very loose and the pup very gassy. On paper it looks good, but in actual use it may be way too rich or dense or something, and just will not suit many dogs. So you can still give it a try if you dare. If it suits your pup great, if like me it does not suit your pup, find something else. Runny stools and gas is NOT a sign of a high quality digestible dog food! After hearing from many people that used it (having worked in a pet store that sold it), it seems that runny stool and gas is an issue for many many breeds using ALL the Orijen products. What is good on paper may not be so good for YOUR dog. I have used Acana Puppy Small Breed and also found soft stools a problem, so I will not be using it again for any of my litters. Acana senior and Acana Light & Fit formulas are both really good, I have personally used both and been happy with them. Of course there are other good foods out there, but I myself am only interested in feeding foods that have a moderate fat content. The really top brands that I myself would feed to my dogs are limited to a reasonable number of what I consider to be the very best that I can get my hands on, that can be used and rotated so that variety is abundant but quality is never compromised!
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My guys get a dog cookie or two every night at beditme after they come inside from their last potty time before bed, as well as for occasional treats for training or just for being cute. :-) . I have used quite a few different kinds, and these are by far my (and their) favorites!
Northern Biscuit - I have used all their flavours but do prefer to stick with the wheat free ones most of the time.
Oven Baked Tradition - all flavours
NuHemp 2 Chomp Munchies mini size - I have used several flavours
Castore & Pollux Organix - all flavours
Actrium Holistic - all flavours(found at Walmart, these are high quality cookies for a very reasonable price!)
Darford - various holistic/all natural formulas (I use those with no corn, wheat etc)
Zukes Mini Bakes - various flavours
Mother Hubbard (I use occasionally, they do have wheat)
Medi Treats - our dear old Shi Tzu girl had recurring tummy issues before she went to Rainbvow Bridge, so while I did occasionally give her tiny bites of the rest of the mentioned treats, I usually gave her these as they are more vegetable based and pretty near unlikely to cause allergies or tummy upset and they were perfect for her. The minis of course love them as well, so since they do not contain anything from my offlimits list then I do use them for all the dogs as well!
*** This page last updated September 30, 2013 ***