PUPPY SENSE - AND YOUR NEW PUPPY
By Dr. Roger L. DeHaan
Raising a new puppy is never easy. There are some important do's and don'ts. In fact, the health and enjoyment of your puppy may hinge on getting the right start in life.
Here are some important steps you can take to help prevent certain chronic diseases-like hip dysplasia, arthritis, and hypothyroidism. Most of the large breeds, for instance, are more prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis. But the latest research indicates that you can lower the risk. Suppose you are committed to getting a German Shepherd, and you know the breed's weaknesses: hip dysplasia and arthritis. Or you have wanted a Doberman since you were a child, but you find out that 70% of the breed end up with immune deficiencies and thyroid deficiencies-not to mention weak hips. What can you do? Are there preventative measures you can take?
My first advice, with any breed, is to be practical: check out the breed, the temperament, the health status, and if possible the parents--before you commit. Make your decision with your head, as well as with your heart. Just this week I examined a 6-month-old purebred dog with an undershot jaw, a grade III heart murmur, given three to six months to live by the experts. The owners discovered the problem on the first health exam-but were already "in love". They came to me for "nutritional counsel", to help extent "quality of life". They had failed to properly check out this puppy before making this heartbreaking "commitment".
After answering the question of which breed, then deciding on which pup, you now have a third vital decision: which food? This is no simple decision. First of all, every manufacturer claims to have the best "100% complete" food for your dog. That is impossible. Every breed has a different genetic pool, and a different country of origin, and therefore was raised originally on foods different from those ingredients you find in the fancy bag or can of food. There is no one perfect food for every dog.
For instance, the Chihuahua is a Mexican breed, raised originally on tropical fruits and rodents. The Chow was developed in China on mainly a vegetarian diet. The Great Dane had a high fiber diet, with whole grains and cabbage predominating. The temperamental Lhasa Apso was fed yak, mountain goat, and Llama in the temples of Tibet. The Portuguese Water Dog subsisted on a high fist diet. The Weimaraner adapted to the unique soil minerals of Weimaraner County in Germany. And the German Shepherd has a shorter digestive tract than any other breed-meaning he will need fiber to slow down the food passage through his gut to benefit from maximum assimilation of the nutrients.
Not one of these breeds were developed on the modern commercial dog food. They were all developed on whole foods, much of it raw, indigenous to the area of origin. Recognize that diseases encountered in today's modern breeds may be due to their inability to adapt to "foreign foods", by-products, chemicals, and additives presently included in the commercial foods. Have you considered that possibility? Hardly anybody is working on that concept, and I believe it is a very serious oversight!
In Europe where most of the large breeds have been developed, the canine diet is considerably different from the United States. The dogs grow slower, they are leaner, and they have less bone problems than we do here: less hip dysplasia, less arthritis, less Osteochondritis Dissecans, and less Panosteitis.
A consensus is growing among researchers and nutritionists that our diets are too rich, and that we feed our dogs too much. Dr. Braden, researcher and expert on hip dysplasia at the MSU Veterinary School, recommends the large and giant breeds switch from puppy to adult food by five weeks of age. He is telling breeders and veterinarians that we must lower the protein and stop the rich snacks and excess minerals that force too quick growth. Bigger is NOT better. He is convinced there is no gene called "hip dysplasia", but that it is a nutritional and metabolic problem-and probably preventable. This is my belief also.
All breeds require LOVE. All breeds require a "pack leader", and in modern society that must be the care-giver. All breeds require some fun and recreation--and daily exercise. "Puppy kindergarten" is also a good option for the single dog care-giver to aid in socialization and to learn the training hints usually included in the hour-long class. Here are some other do's and don'ts:
Be sure to check with your veterinarian that none of the above are contraindicated for a medical reason.