In This Chapter
- Realizing the challenges of feeding toy dogs
- Understanding nutrients and ingredients
- Deciphering dog food labels
- Taking the fat off or putting it on
- Feeding dogs with food-sensitive disorders
Your Pomeranian thinks you must be the greatest hunter on earth as you return from the grocery store with bag after bag loaded with food. Eating is one of a dog’s great joys in life. Help him be happy and healthy by hunting down the best and tastiest foods.
Avoiding Toy Dog Food Follies
Feeding bite-sized bits
Too many dog treats and kibbles are actually choking size for a Pom. In fact, many popular training treats (which are purposefully small — about 1⁄2 inch in diameter — for larger dogs) are the perfect choking size for a Pomeranian.
– Squish some dog-training treats to make them flatter.
– Try human donut-shaped cereals.
– Tear off bits of flat string cheese.
– Give her small pieces of thin deli meats.
Watching out for low blood sugar
Pomeranian puppies and some adults can’t store enough readily available glycogen (the form of glucose that their bodies keep in the muscles and liver for energy). When the glycogen runs out, the body starts breaking down fat for energy. But because puppies have very little fat on their bodies, they quickly deplete this energy store. And when that store is empty, the brain (which depends on glucose to function) starts having problems. The puppy may start to get weak and sleepy, perhaps wobbling and stumbling if she has to move. If she doesn’t get glucose soon, she can have seizures, lose consciousness, and die.
Keeping blood sugar at a healthy level
– Don’t let your Pom puppy go more than four hours without eating. If that’s not possible (like in the middle of the night), make sure he’s warm, confined, and quiet so he doesn’t use much energy.
– Make sure his foods are fairly high in protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs slow the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugars. This steady breakdown leads to more efficient use of the carbs rather than a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows.
Complex carbohydrates are mostly from the whole-grain groups, such as corn, rice, and wheat. Although you can’t just feed your Pom a loaf of bread, you can feed him a good-quality commercial dog food that contains some grain-based ingredients.
– Avoid simple sugars, such as sweets and semimoist foods. However, keep those foods on hand in case your Pom starts having signs of hypoglycemia.
Reacting quickly to a blood-sugar deficiency
If you suspect your Pom is becoming hypoglycemic, you need to get some simple sugars into her. Follow these steps to perk her up quickly:
1. Try to give her corn syrup (a good choice for quick energy), but if she won’t swallow it, rub it on her gums and the roof of her mouth.
2. Feed her semimoist foods (the kind that look like fake meat and come in a clear pouch) if she’ll take them. But don’t put anything in her mouth that can choke her!
3. Keep her warm and call your veterinarian.
If you’ve gotten enough sugar in her, she should start showing signs of improvement while you’re on the phone — within a couple of minutes. However, she still may need to go to the clinic for intravenous glucose.
4. Give her a small, high-protein meal like meat baby food when she’s feeling better and can eat.
Avoiding toxic table scraps
Strangely, people are able to eat certain foods that appear to have toxic effects on dogs. This effect is magnified in small dogs. Avoid these human foods:
– Alcohol: Can get a small dog drunk with just small amounts and can be deadly in larger amounts.
– Chocolate: Contains theobromine (a mild stimulant related to caffeine), which can cause death in dogs because they metabolize it more slowly than humans do. Baking chocolate is especially toxic. As little as half an ounce can be life-threatening to a 4-pound Pom.
– Macadamia nuts: Cause some dogs to get very ill; scientists don’t understand the cause. (The choking hazard is also an obvious warning sign.)
– Onion: Destroys red blood cells in dogs. Eating an entire onion can be fatal to a Pom.
– Peach pits and other fruit pits and seeds: Contain cyanide.
– Raisins and grapes: Have been associated with kidney failure and extreme sudden toxicity in some dogs.
– Raw dough: Can expand inside the warm environment of the gut, causing impaction.
– Xylitol, an artificial sweetener in some chewing gums: Can cause a sharp drop in a dog’s blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination, and seizures (see the preceding section for more on this dangerous situation).
Boning Up on Nutrition
– Pint-sized Poms have tiny tummies. You may be able to feed a big dog a handful of potato chips and cookies before a meal, but try that with a Pom and her stomach’s going to be too full of junk to fit in any nutritious food.
– Little dogs need more calories per pound of body weight compared to big dogs, so their food needs to be jam-packed with essential nutrients and energy. Study the ingredients and nutritional analyses on commercial dog foods. You don’t have to be a nutritionist, but understanding some basics can help you make decisions. Note: The dry foods that target the wee ones usually cram in more calories per gram than the foods for their larger counterparts do.
Nutrients come in two basic varieties: those that provide energy (calories) and those that don’t. Both types are vital.
The energy providers
2. Potatoes and corn
3. Wheat, oats, and beans
Dogs need particular enzymes to digest the carbs from dairy products and soybeans. But when they’re not regularly eating these foods, that enzyme activity can be low. So, if you intend to give dairy products and soybeans to your Pom, slowly work up to higher levels of these foods. Need more convincing? When enzyme activity is low, the carbs end up fermented by colonic bacteria, which produces — you guessed it — diarrhea and flatulence.
– Your Pom requires very little food, so consider buying foods that include high-quality protein.
Because meat and other animal-derived protein sources are expensive compared to plant-derived sources, commercial food companies tend to use minimal amounts of animal protein and often use less wholesome sources, such as meat and bone meal or animal by-product meal.
– Many people add meat or even eggs to their dog’s commercial food, which is probably a good idea. Note: No supplement should add up to more than 10 percent of the total diet.
Always cook the eggs because raw egg whites contain a substance that makes biotin unavailable. By cooking the whites or by serving them along with cooked yolks (which are so high in biotin that they offset the deficit), you don’t risk a biotin deficiency.
– A variety of meats ensures the best sampling of essential amino acids, but proteins from plants aren’t as beneficial (although soybeans are almost as high in amino acids as chicken). In addition, most proteins from plants are more difficult to digest and have insufficient levels of some specific amino acids.
To provide a good balance of fat in your Pom’s diet, include rich sources of fatty acids, such as egg yolks and vegetable oils, and aim for a diet with at least 5 percent fat dry matter (the amount of nutrients in the food minus the water content). To figure this percentage out in nondry foods, see the formula later in “Reading the label and between the lines.”
The non-energy providers
Although water is a pretty simple dish to serve, your dog will appreciate your thoughtfulness in serving it. Follow these suggestions and revel in your little friend’s contentedness:
– Consider using filtered or bottled water. After all, how much can a Pom drink!
– Keep the water bowl full at all times. Just because the water’s running right through her and perhaps wetting the carpets is no excuse to hold out.
– Change the water every day; wash the bowl each time.
– Add some ice to her water on a warm day. Your Pom appreciates the gesture — just like you do.
Vitamins and minerals
Most dog foods have vitamins in their optimal percentages, so supplementing with vitamin tablets is rarely necessary. And supplementing your dog’s diet with minerals, especially calcium, is not a good idea.
Perusing the Pet-Food Aisle
Comparing bags, cans, and pouches
– Dry (bagged): Pomeranians, like most tiny dogs, can develop dental problems, but chewing hard foods may help avert them. The typical kibble, however, simply crumbles when the dog bites into it. Specially formulated dental foods maintain their shape long enough to scrape against the tooth surface. Note: After dental problems develop, the teeth may be too sensitive to chew any hard food. See Chapter Primping Your Pom for more information about dental problems.
– Canned (wet): Most Pomeranian owners use canned food in their dog’s diet, either mixing it with dry food or making it the entire meal. However, a diet of just canned food isn’t advisable because it provides no chewing action. Canned foods also tend to be higher in fat, which adds to their texture, so they may not be good for dieting dogs.
Some veterinarians recommend feeding canned foods and other supplements first, then finishing the meal with dry feeds for better cleaning action from chewing. Some dogs with dental problems (missing, loose, or sensitive teeth) may only be able to eat soft foods; these dogs, of course, need veterinary attention first and foremost.
– Pouches (semimoist): These foods are high in sugar and lack the better attributes of dry and canned food. The high sugar content makes them particularly unsuited for tiny Pomeranians or Pom puppies because the sugar can create a rebound situation that leads to hypoglycemia (check out “Watching out for low blood sugar” earlier in this chapter for this dangerous condition).
However, semimoist foods may be handy to keep around in case a dog’s showing signs of hypoglycemia and needs a sugar fix. Some wet foods now come in pouches, too.
When buying dry food (which I highly recommend), keep these tips in mind:
– Dry foods formulated for small dogs are definitely a good idea. Many of the standard dry foods are too large for tiny Pom mouths. In addition, small dogs require more calories in relation to body weight than large dogs do (see this chapter’s earlier section “Boning Up on Nutrition”).
– Buy the little bags. The food loses it nutritional value, can become rancid, and can hatch little bugs and moths (yuck!) when it sits around too long. Don’t stock up on it.
– Poms eat so little food that you can afford to buy the best.
Reading the label and between the lines
Instead, look for the statement that declares the food to be complete and balanced according to feeding trials. Some foods are declared healthy simply because of their ingredients. But because dogs may metabolize some ingredients better than others, the better food companies go the extra mile to test several generations with that food alone.
Understanding label lingo
Here’s how to decipher the list of ingredients in commercial dog food:
Know what your dog is really eating
– A commercial food labeled beef flavored may not even contain beef if feeding trials show a dog recognizes the food as beef.
– A food labeled with beef may contain as little as 3 percent beef.
– A beef dinner or entrée need not contain beef as its major ingredient, but beef products must make up at least 10 percent of the total product.
– Only a product that contains at least 70 percent beef can be labeled simply beef without any fancy modifiers. (The same is true for other types of meat.)
– Animal meat meal is unfit for human consumption because it can come from dead and even slightly decomposed animals. True, your dog may think a can of sun-roasted road kill is ambrosia from heaven, but that doesn’t mean you should buy it for him.
– Meat by-products tend to be perfectly good parts of animals. They may turn your stomach, but your dog finds them delectable. They’re perfectly safe and nutritious, just not something you usually serve your human family — unless they’re visiting and you’re ready for them to leave. Spleen, anyone?
Weighing the nutritional value of dry versus wet versus semimoist foods
Here’s how to equate nutrients in foods with different moisture contents:
1. Subtract the listed moisture content from each food.
For example, if a food contains 75 percent water, then 25 percent of the food is dry matter.
2. Divide the remaining number (the food’s dry matter) into each listed nutrient percentage.
In the example for Step 1, if the food listed its protein content as 10 percent, then divide 10 percent by 25 percent to get 40 percent protein based on dry food matter.
Making your own?
Many owners have decided that, if they can cook for themselves and survive, they can cook for their dogs, too. (Or not cook, in the case of raw diets.) Raw-diet proponents point out that you never see a wolf cooking his catch over a campfire, so why should a dog eat cooked food? Several dog books now list bones and raw food (or BARF) diet ingredients. Unfortunately, many people who go this route forego the books’ wisdom and adopt a watered-down version of the diets. For example, they choose a diet that’s exclusively raw chicken wings, which is neither natural nor balanced.
Critics of raw feeding point out that you should just toss your dog an intact carcass, complete with fur, head, and guts if you really want to go au natural. After all, they argue, buying chicken parts from the grocery store isn’t exactly the way wolves do it in the wild either. Nevertheless, even true BARFists don’t care to plunk a dead bunny in a bowl. The kids react badly.
The few controlled studies on the nutritional value of common raw diets show that most of these diets lack important nutrients. Many of the diets contain salmonella and E. coli. Although dogs are more resistant to illness from these bacteria than people are, dogs aren’t immune, and dog studies have implicated raw feeding in several serious cases of food poisoning.
Some owners prefer to cook their dog’s food. This cooking actually makes some nutrients more available and certainly lessens the chance of food poisoning. A Pomeranian owner can easily make a week’s supply of food all at one time and freeze it. A few appropriate recipes are available in Dog Health & Nutrition For Dummies (Wiley).
3. Compare the protein content of the nondry to the dry food.
You may be surprised to see that the seemingly puny percentage of protein in the canned or semimoist food is really quite high. Of course, you’re still paying for a lot of water!
Deciding How Much, How Often
Pomeranians have been called the hummingbirds of the dog world because of their high metabolism. They have to eat more food more often than larger dog breeds. So just how often and how much does your Pom need to eat? This section tells all.
Starting and sticking to a feeding routine
Feeding Schedule by Age
Frequency of Feeding
0–3 months old
At least five times a day
3–6 months old
Four times a day
6–12 months old
Three times a day
1 year and older
Twice a day
Your dog is still the best gauge of how many calories he needs. You should be able to feel his ribs slightly, and he shouldn’t have a roll of fat over his shoulders or rump. Just like you, he should have an hourglass figure. Keeping track of his body shape is a lot easier than computing calories!
Dieting your pudgy Pom
– You should be able to feel your Pom’s ribs slightly when you run your hands along the ribcage.
– You should also be able to feel a waistline from above and from the side.
– Your Pom shouldn’t have a dimple in front of the tail or a fat roll on the withers.
If your dog eats a prescription (special diet) canned food but seems tired of it, try refrigerating the food so it holds its shape. Then cut the chilled food into thin slices, place the slices on a cookie sheet, and bake at a moderate temperature (350 degrees) until they’re crisp — or the smoke alarm goes off. Voila! Prescription dog treats!
Who can resist those pleading Pom peepers when it comes to treats? Substitute baby carrot sticks, broccoli, pea pods, or rice cakes for fattening treats. Mix some green beans in her dinner. Keep her away when you’re preparing or eating human meals, and, instead of feeding her your leftovers, make a habit of taking her for a walk.
Sometimes a dog that looks fat actually has a medical problem such as heart disease, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, or the early stages of diabetes. A bloated belly in a puppy may signal internal parasites. And a dog with an enlarged abdomen is especially suspect. For these reasons, always get a health check before subjecting your little guy to a diet — which may be the last thing a sick dog needs. Your veterinarian can also supply you with healthy diet dog food.
Enticing your picky Pom
Older puppies often go through a poor appetite stage between 9 and 12 months of age. Stress can also cause a reduction in appetite. But, if you can feel every rib, if the bones in the spine are sticking up like a dinosaur’s, or if the hipbones remind you of an old cow, your Pom is way too thin. You need to have your veterinarian examine your skinny Pomeranian. Unexplained weight loss can be caused by heart disease, cancer, and any number of endocrine problems. If she checks out normal, try one of these strategies to beef her up:
– Feed her more meals of a higher-calorie food.
– Add canned food, ground beef, or a small amount of chicken fat.
– Heat the food to increase its appeal.
– Add a late-night snack; many dogs seem to have their best appetites late at night.
Sick dogs often lose their appetites, yet eating can be critical for them. And eating anything is usually better than eating nothing, even if it’s not ideal for their condition. The following are a few suggestions that just may do the trick:
– Feed the reluctant eater meat baby food.
– Keep the food cold for nauseous dogs (don’t warm it).
– Put baby food in a syringe (no needles!) for extreme cases and squirt a tiny bit in his mouth to get him started.
– Give him canned goat’s milk or a high-calorie drink for humans through a syringe.