Alex Chronicles - week 3 False Alarms, Zoomies, Ruined Clothes and Food Choices
We had a bit of a worry at the beginning of the week, I heard Alex cough! Not just once either, it was a few times over a few days, by Sunday I heard 3 separate coughing fits, it was a dry, hacking cough. While I’m generally not a worry wort I don’t like it when dogs cough, mostly because I’ve seen a lot of ‘kennel cough’, and I know that upper respiratory tract infections especially in puppies is nothing to mess with. Kennel cough is a generic term and can apply to a number of viral and bacterial infections, and while she did get the kennel cough vaccine, I know that it is only good against one of several bacterium and viruses that can cause upper respiratory infections. The problem is kennel cough is extremely infectious, just like the common cold, and given her age any infection needs to be taken seriously as it can lead to secondary infections. Well the good news is, the cough stopped even before I got her into the vet. I took her in anyway, just in case and she checked out ok, and I haven’t hear her cough since. I may have felt a bit silly taking her in for a non-cough, but I’d rather be safe than sorry with a puppy this young.
Alex also had her first bought of zoomies! This is the very essence of puppydom, running around like a crazed being, sometimes over and underthings, hopefully around the bigger objects (but not always) and often with a barracuda style biting that can and will cause damage! In my professional reading I recently ran across an article that gives this behavior a technical term, it’s called a FRAP, Frenetic, Random, Activity, Period. I’ve always referred to them as zoomies and used to love when Winter, even in her old age would occasionally attempt a 10-20 second much muted version.
Zoomies are just a fact of life about puppies, and generally I just make sure I’m not in the way! Unfortunately, for my favorite pair of flannel lounge pants,
I didn’t get out of the way fast enough the other day, resulting in a lovely new air vent in my pants. Puppies teeth are very sharp, they hurt when they put their teeth on your hands and arms and they can rip through cloth like an expert seamstress! The other thing that took a hit this week was my good North Face puffer coat, out with the dog on Saturday and she decided my good puffer coat would be a great tug toy! Arrrghh!
Eventually, and a bit sadly, the zoomies do fade as the dog matures, and they morph to be more playful and less destructive. For me it’s fun to just stand back and revel in the all out, no holes barred, craziness while it’s here, all too soon it won’t be.
Finally, I have been obsessing over feeding and weigh gain. It is amazing how complex, confusing and utterly frustrating feeding a puppy can be if you actually read up on the subject! I have fed raw for the last 10 years, and attribute Winter’s good health (a 14 year old Golden Retriever with no cancer is nothing to sneeze at) in large part to what I fed.
That said, I also know that puppies, and particularly large breed puppies (mine barely qualifies) have some very specific nutritional needs AND there is a fair amount of concern about exposing young puppies to the extra bacteria that feed raw can expose them too. Even the nutritionists I’ve worked with before recommend commercially prepared puppy food for puppies less than 8 months old. My vet was concerned as well about the calcium/phosphorus ratio being correct. In addition, my raw food was not very calorically dense, and having looked at the caloric requirements for a growing puppy (on the order of 1000+ Kcal/day), she just couldn’t fit the required amount of food into her belly! So, I switched her to a dry puppy food (this was very hard for me as a proponent of raw food), and then I went into major education mode to make sure I was really doing the right thing for her and that I had picked the right food for her. Another reasons I decided to switch was, she had not been terribly fond of the food I was feeding and was a bit gaunt, as soon as I offered her the dry food she was eating everything I gave her. Switching to dry food did change the number, consistency and smell of her poop, but did not give her diarrhea.
The problem is there are so many foods out there now (most of them grain free) and so little REALLY CLEAR information on what we should be looking for as consumers. I also know I have a limited amount of time to deliver the ‘right’ nutrition and it will affect her for the rest of her life. The first six months is critical for the formation of strong bones and joints. That’s a lot of pressure for the puppy owner!
Tufts does have guidelines for picking dog foods, but they are mostly about making sure the company is big enough to have PhD nutritionists on staff, and running feeding trials (which I’m all in favor of) , but I’m not sure I necessarily equate big company with good quality. I would like to see a definitive, evidence based listing of optimal nutrition levels like protein, Ca:P ratios, DHA, Taurine, as well as the other nutritional factors I need to look for as a consumer.
I like to rely on ‘evidence based’ information, but even Tufts and UC Davis, don’t give you hard numbers, except to tell you to follow the AFFCO guidelines, they tell you not to feed ‘too much’ calcium to large breed puppies but don’t give you a target level of calcium to feed. The AFFCO guidelines for CA:P ratio is anywhere between 1.1:1 and 1.8:1 for puppies, but that seems to be a pretty large range. I found this a handy tool to check the Ca:P ratio in your dog food, but
I’m not sure what good it does since I can’t find anything that will tell me what the optimal ratio is.
The AFFCO nutritional requirements, found here,
which are set by the government, are minimums and maximums, so they are not necessarily optimal amounts.
In addition, recently there has been increased concern about DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) or heart disease in dogs, that may be related to food.
Specifically, they are seeing a link between increased occurrence of DCM in dogs that are eating BEG foods ( Boutique manufacturers, Exotic ingredients, Grain free). The first indications were this may have been due to taurine deficiency, but their latest updates indicate it might have more to do with the presence of legumes and other plant based proteins in the food. Still, the bottom line is they don’t know yet! So, many vets on the recommendation of the large vet hospitals (Tufts, UC Davis) are recommending against all foods except those produced by the big companies (Hills, Purina, Royal Canin), AND that you make sure it is not a grain free food.
I’m happy to say that Alex has added 5 lbs of weight in 3 weeks, and has now moved to the next size crate and collar! She has alternated between looking plump, gaunt and plump again, and as far as her weight goes, I’m ‘feeding with my eyes’, which means I will make sure she is on the lean side and her ribs are easy to feel. That said, I am using the Ohio State calorie calculation, as a guide, and I also take into
account how much Alex gets in ‘training treats’ every day. For the most part she is being trained using her food, so I measure out what she should have for the day, and split it up into 4 piles, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Training. In addition, if she hasn’t finished her meal in 15 minutes after I put it down, I pick up whatever is left over.
I will tell you honestly, I am still confused about the food issues, and I wish I had more definitive answers to all my questions. I believe I have a food that is working for Alex right now, but I reserve my right to change my mind and change her food again. In fact, one of the recommendations I read was that we should be changing our dog’s diets relatively frequently, as we do with our own diets. This may be the only way to ensure she at least doesn’t get adversely affected by some as yet unknown food stuff or combination of food stuffs that may affect her health in the long term. I do make sure all her food meets AFFCO guidelines and for the time being I am feeding a food with whole grain, and am avoiding legumes and potatoes at least in the first 4 or 5 ingredients. I will watch her weight and keep her on the lean side, I will read the labels and apply the paltry knowledge I have managed to glean and I will keep up the reading so I can do the best I can for her, and I will keep an open mind because what we knew to be true yesterday may not be true tomorrow!
Week 4 – Oh this one is an independent cuss – the need for Long lines and supervision!