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Feeding Your Poodle

We get asked by nearly every puppy family what we recommend their new poodle puppy should be fed, how often and how much?  Those are all good questions and answers will vary to those questions, depending on who one asks!  But here is our opinion...

The first question is to determine whether or not you wish to feed your poodle on a kibble, home-cooked or raw diet.  There are pros and cons to all!

Kibble is easy, clean and the most convenient for many families...  AND there is a tremendous variety of processed kibbles available.  They vary in quality of ingredients and cost.  I believe that the most healthy diet for your new poodle is either a well balanced raw diet or home-cooked diet, and we will discuss the reasons why below...  but for now, a bit of info about various types of kibble!

If you are going to feed kibble, we have found that the cheaper the food, the more filler there is...  which also means that you scoop more poop when you feed these poorer quality foods, sometimes double the amount of poop to clean up!  Top quality foods will have the first ingredient listed as a meat meal of some kind; for instance: chicken meal, fish meal, lamb meal, etc.  This is important, because by the time the meat is dehydrated into meal, it is a very dense source of nutrition.  If a bag of dog food has simply "chicken" listed as a first ingredient, then by the time it is made into kibble, it will be much farther down in the ingredient list, making it very likely that the main source of the food is grains such as corn, wheat or rice.  And while grains can be ok, your poodle is a CARNIVORE, meaning that it's main food source should be meat, not grains!

And by the way, "chicken byproduct meal" is NOT considered to be a quality ingredient, as it is made up of all manner of parts that aren't all that great, such as the feet, heads, feathers, intenstines, etc.   You want a kibble that proudly boasts "human grade ingredients used".

Many kibbles have a lot of chemical preservatives in them, which gives a long shelf life of up to two years.  BUT they are likely the leading cause of skin allergies or other digestive allergies in dogs.  Natural preservatives such as rosemary, vitamin E or other herbs will generally have a shelf life of six months or so...  so it needs to be bought from a place that has a good turn-over of stock  and then used up.  Here on the West coast of Canada, there are a number of premium brands recommended, such as Go!, Holista, Riplees Ranch, to name a few.  Your own area will likely have dog foods that are manufactured fairly locally and will be of good quality.  Not as good as "real food" but certainly better than "Pedigree" or "Mainstay".

Food Allergies
Food allergies are troublesome to narrow down sometimes, as commercial kibbles often have many allergens in them.  If your poodle reacts to the kibble, is it the preservatives, the wheat, the rice or the chicken??!  
If you find your dog :
scratching lots and you know it's not fleas
has welts, hives, or pimples on his/her skin
is vomiting its food or not wanting to eat
has loose or runny stools or is messing in the house because he can't make it to the bathroom...
you may want to discuss food allergies with your vet or do an elimination diet to get to the bottom of it all.  Many vets are not trained in diet issues and will simply tell you to buy "Nutro Lamb and Rice" or some such thing, but as it has a lot of preservatives and grain (rice) in it, that is not very good advice!  Either do a raw diet or find a kibble that has only one protein source and one carb source AND that is an unusual source, such as duck/potato or salmon/oatmeal, or try a grain-free formula that does not use chemical preservatives.  Do be aware that allergy symptoms can take up to six weeks to completely disappear, so you will be looking for a gradual improvement.  It is often a good idea to do a 24 hour fast with liquids only to help speed clearing the toxic stuff out of their system too.  (Puppies, hypoglycemic, pregnant or lactating dogs should not be fasted!).

Raw Food Diet/BARF Diet
We feed raw food to our poodles, and they have done wonderfully on it.  I know that many recommend against it and tell us pet owners that "commercial dog food has been scientifically formulated by canine nutritionists to be a balanced food and has all the nutrients required to keep your dog healthy"...
HMMM!  Sounds just like what they told everybody in the 1960's when breastfeeding babies was discouraged and most were told that "formula is the best for babies because it is scientifically developed for babies and is the best for them"!  Since then, that little piece of advice has been retired and we are encouraged to feed our children REAL  FOOD.  Most of us understand that processed, dehydrated and canned food is not as healthy for us as freshly prepared food, and the same logic applies to our pets as well.  There is lots of information about the BARF diet or raw diets on the web, but here is what we do:
We feed raw chicken backs and beef liver in a ratio of 10lbs chicken backs/necks to 1 lb liver or other organ meat and 1 lb flash frozen veggies such as beans, peas, carrots, etc.  Sometimes we add cheese in or cottage cheese, sometimes we add yogurt.  We will also add in powdered greens every now and then.  Fresh veggies can be added too, but the dogs will get the most out of fresh veggies if they have been pureed in a food processor or juicer (add the juice and pulp back together).  
We will give them raw rib bones to enjoy as a treat, and sometimes will give them the raw chicken backs or necks whole rather than coarse ground.  Since feeding raw, we have found that their poops are very small and easy to clean up... it's obvious that the dogs are getting a lot out of the food, because there is sure not much left to clean up!
On average, we feed between 2% to 4% of the dog's weight daily and divide it into two feedings.  Pregnant and nursing moms are fed more...  sometimes a lot more!   Puppies also may need more than that, so we do the "rib test" often when we pet our dogs.  Your poodle's ribs should feel like a xylophone covered by a heavy sweatshirt when you run a flat hand over the ribcage.  If you can't hardly feel ribs, then your dog is too fat and needs to have the amount of high protein feed cut back.  And if he's skin over bone, it's time to worm the dog and then increase the food (or if you've been feeding a lower quality kibble, you need to switch to a premium quality kibble or do a good fresh-prepared diet for him).
If you are feeding both raw and kibble, DO NOT feed them at the same time!  The raw food digests much quicker than the cooked/dry food, so you will want to try feeding the cooked/dry food in the morning and the raw at night or some such arrangement.  Also, we do not give our dogs cooked bones of any sort, because cooking them makes them brittle and difficult to digest.   There are other risks too, so we just don't do it!

Our butcher in town does two grinds a week for us, but many families with just one dog in the house will get it done every two or four weeks and freeze portions in baggies or on a cookie sheet and then simply take out the needed amount every day and put it in the bowl.  That's pretty easy!  You can also purchase premade raw formulas in frozen chubs and take out what you need.  

If you wish to feed a fresh cooked diet, Dr Pitcairn's Guide to Wholistic Vet Care has a wonderful chapter on recipes for a balanced diet for dogs and some for cat also.  I bought mine second hand from for under $10.

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