- Discovering what nutrients your Boston needs
- Deciphering pet food labels
- Deciding what kind of diet to feed your Boston
- Knowing how much and how often to feed your Boston
- Rewarding — and spoiling — with treats
Your Boston’s diet gives him the gusto he needs to get through the day. These bully dogs with their hearty appetites require a healthy diet that gives them the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals per serving. With so many dining choices available from your local pet store, how do you choose?
Feeding a Carnivore: Cost versus Quality
Before they became the domesticated pets that we know today, dogs scavenged and preyed on small animals. They also foraged for food, eating berries, grains, and other plant matter when necessary. This diet gave them the protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals they needed for a complete, healthy diet.
Knowing Your Ingredients
Pump up the protein
When you choose a diet for your Boston, don’t pick one based on the formula’s protein percentage alone; the protein source matters, too. In general, the lower-priced foods use a lesser-grade protein that’s harder for your dog to digest.
Energize with carbohydrates
Too many cereal grains can result in a hyped-up Boston. If your dog is bouncing off the walls, take a look at how many and what types of carbohydrates are in his diet, and limit them, if possible. The fillers also cause your dog to eliminate more often, which means more trips to the bathroom.
Fats for energy and a shiny coat
Take your vitamins, mind your minerals
How to Read Pet Food Labels
Pet foods are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and must contain certain information on their labels. Following is a breakdown of that info:
– Feeding instructions: The feeding instructions give guidelines for how much to feed your Boston based on his weight. If the diet is formulated for puppies, it will give feeding instructions based on age, too. Sometimes it will include information about when and how often you should feed your dog.
– Guaranteed analysis: The guaranteed analysis breaks down by percentage what nutrients are in the food. It lists minimum levels of crude protein and crude fat, and maximum levels of crude fiber and moisture. It also includes percentages or measurements of additives, vitamins, and minerals.
– Ingredients: The ingredients are listed in descending order by amount. Often, a form of protein appears first in line, followed by grains, fats, additives, and preservatives.
– Nutritional adequacy statement: The nutritional adequacy statement says whether the food provides complete balanced nutrition for a dog based on nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The statement also provides a life-stage claim, which states the life stage (growth/lactation, maintenance, or all life stages) for which the food is intended.
AAFCO has developed two nutrient profiles for dogs: growth/lactation and maintenance. All foods must meet at least one of these profiles. Some labels claim the food is intended for all life stages. Those foods provide enough nutrients for an animal’s growth and reproduction, as well as for maintaining a healthy adult.
– Manufacturer’s contact information: A name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor are required; sometimes manufacturers include a toll-free phone number or Web site address, but these aren’t mandatory.
Checking Out Your Commercial Diet Options
- Dry food
- Semi-moist food
- Canned food
No matter the form, each morsel of food for Bostons should be packed with nutrients. Because they have smaller mouths and stomachs, Bostons require smaller pieces of food than larger dogs. Those smaller pieces must contain all the nutrients and calories they need to keep them going. Dog food companies know this, so when they develop diets for smaller dogs, they put as much nutrition as possible in each bite.
Going natural: Is it really better?
In addition to the common commercial brands of foods, most pet specialty stores also carry dry and canned or jarred foods in “organic” or “natural” varieties, or those that may be “fit for human consumption.” What does this mean?
The organic and natural trend has moved into the pet market. Popular with human foods, organically grown meats, produce, and grains are grown without the use of pesticides, chemicals, or other such means. Many dog owners believe that feeding their pets a diet free from those additives will benefit and extend their pet’s lives. As in the human market, organic pet foods need to meet certain criteria to prove that the ingredients are grown organically before they can bear the label.
Food intended for human consumption meets different standards than food intended for animal consumption. More and more, pet owners want to know that the quality of their pet’s food is just as good as their own. They like the fact that they could sit down and eat the same food their pet eats. Some pet owners go the extra step and make their own food for their dogs. But these human-quality foods are an easy alternative to homemade.
Organic or human-grade foods are generally more expensive. They cost more to make, and they’re often made by smaller companies that don’t produce the same quantities as larger manufacturers.
Whether they’re formulating an organic diet or a grocery store brand, manufacturers are required to follow strict guidelines for making quality pet food. Rest assured that the majority of over-the-counter diets will meet your pet’s basic dietary requirements.
For Bostons who have dental problems, are recovering from surgery, or are just finicky, however, dry food poses a challenge. They can’t bite into or digest the hard pieces of food, or the dried morsels aren’t appealing enough for a picky dog’s discriminating taste. These dogs may require semi-moist or canned food instead.
To give the semi-moist food its look and texture, however, manufacturers often add chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and colors. Be sure to read the label and check the food’s nutritional content before feeding. A high amount of corn syrup or artificial sweetener can be harmful to your Boston’s metabolism, causing him to gain weight. Semi-moist food can also lead to tartar buildup on teeth.
Stew in a can
Despite its benefits, canned food generally costs more. You can’t leave it out like dry food because it can spoil, and you have to refrigerate leftovers. Some Boston owners worry about what animal parts are used in the canned food, not to mention the additives and preservatives. Also, it can cause diarrhea in some dogs and cause tartar to build up on their teeth.
Choosing To Feed a Noncommercial Diet
– Raw diets: You can think of these meals as dog-style sushi. Raw diets consist of raw meat and bones that you feed to your dog. Proponents and opponents each have their varying opinions on this type of diet. Some believe the diet improves their pets’ skin, coat, and teeth, and increases their stamina and vitality. Others caution against E. coli, parasites, and other risks associated with raw meats. These diets are often supplemented by some source of fiber and vitamins.
Some manufacturers have begun selling raw diets at pet stores. Often found in a freezer, these diets are individually packaged to make feeding simple.
– Homemade diets: Homemade diets are meals made from scratch, just like Mom used to make. Often fed to finicky dogs or those with food allergies, these diets incorporate whole foods, such as potatoes or rice, and protein sources, such as cooked chicken or beef, that aren’t packed full of preservatives. Bostons don’t eat a lot, so preparing homemade meals can be relatively simple as long as you include all the nutrients that your Boston needs.
Your Boston will tolerate diet changes, but to protect your dog’s health, consult a veterinarian before introducing him to raw or homemade meals.
– Do you have the time to prepare the diet? Preparing a homemade or raw diet is just like cooking for another member of the family. The food should be prepared every few days to ensure freshness.
– Do you have the space to store the raw meat or meals? Because these foods don’t have preservatives, they need to be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer.
– Do you travel a lot? If so, a diet like this may not be appropriate. Dog sitters or boarding centers may not be able to make dinner for your dog every night. And if the dog travels with you, you may not have access to the foods or a kitchen.
– Do you have access to organic meats, or is there a reliable butcher near you? If not, a homemade diet may require that you cut your own meat or search out organic meat sources.
– Do you know enough about dog nutrition to ensure your Boston is getting all the vitamins and minerals he requires? You can research and learn about dog nutrition, or you can meet with a veterinary nutritionist to outline meals and supplements for your Boston.
If you’re going to feed your Boston a raw or homemade diet, first and foremost, visit a veterinarian. You can consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to help you develop a diet for your Boston. You may even want to talk to a conventional veterinarian and a holistic vet to hear their opinions.
Special Diets for Bostons with Health Issues
– Why do I need to feed my Boston this diet? Your vet will explain why this particular diet will benefit your pup’s health, as well as any other lifestyle changes that you need to make.
– How often and how much do I feed? Feeding instructions will be listed on the label, but your vet may alter the recommendations depending on your pup’s diagnosis. Follow her instructions for maximum benefit.
– Will I need to feed this diet to my dog indefinitely? The answer will depend on the dog’s condition. If your Boston is obese, for example, you may only have to feed him a “diet” food until he reaches his goal weight. If he’s diabetic, however, he may be on the special formula for life.
Come and Get It! Serving Meals
Setting up a meal schedule
– Puppies up to 12 weeks old: Feed four times a day in addition to providing dry food.
– From week 13 to week 24: Feed the pup three times a day.
– From six months on: Feed your Boston twice a day.
As the pup’s body figures out how to use the nutrients in his meals appropriately, you should stop free feeding and stick with the twice-a-day routine. If the food is out all day, the adult Boston will eat it, and if he’s not getting enough exercise, the sturdy dog will quickly pack on the pounds.
Dishing out the right amount
The amount of food you feed your Boston depends on the individual dog’s growth stage, activity level, and external factors, like temperature or stress. At first, offer your puppy small amounts of food formulated for growth, but gradually increase how much food you give him as he grows (as you’ll see below). When he becomes an adult and you switch his diet to food formulated for maintenance, feed him the same amount each mealtime. Active dogs or those enduring stress, like moving or welcoming a new addition to the household, may require more food, depending on the circumstance.
– Puppies up to 12 weeks old (feeding a diet formulated for growth): 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup, four times a day
– From week 13 to week 24 (feeding a diet formulated for growth): 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 cup, three times a day
– From six months to one year (feeding a diet formulated for growth): 3⁄4 to 1 1⁄4 cup, two times per day
– Adulthood (feeding a diet formulated for maintenance): 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup, two times per day
If your pet is packing on the pounds, you have two choices:
– Decrease the amount of food you’re feeding your pet. This means cutting back the size of his regular meals and the number of treats you give him. This lowers the amount of calories he is consuming without changing his diet.
– Change the diet to a “light” formula. Some people feel that this may not be as healthy as simply feeding less. But just as there are formulas for senior dogs, there are formulas for overweight dogs. As always, talk to your veterinarian before changing your Boston’s diet.
Supplementing Your Dog’s Diet
If you feed your dog supplements, do so under the watchful eye of your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist, and never exceed the recommended dosage or substitute supplements for a well-balanced diet. Oversupplementing your Boston can make him sick.
Treating Your Boston
Like regular meals, treats contain calories. They should be calculated into your pup’s overall intake for the day, accounting for about 10 percent of his calories. If possible, follow the recommended feeding instructions on the treat package. If you feed your Boston dog-safe human foods, like small pieces of luncheon meat or cheese, factor those calories into your pup’s overall intake for the day, too.
As tempting as it may be, don’t feed your pooch too many goodies, or you’ll wind up with an overweight Boston!
by Wendy Bedwell-Wilson