Nutrition is becoming quite a problem for me. At first I had no clue what to feed Phoebe, so I went by the dogfoodadvisor reviews. I did not know anything about protein, carbohydrate and fat ratios. The only thing I knew was that grain (i.e., corn and its buddies) was something to avoid.

Before heading out to buy the food I jotted down several options.That way if the pet store did not have one brand I would be able to find another.  Armed with my list of 5-star options I was off on my mission to buy the best food possible. After searching through ten aisles (literally) I found a brand that was on my list. I was pretty proud of my research until I learned that the food I bought had a recent recall. The company was not recalling the specific batch I purchased, but it was recent enough.

foodI went back to the pet store and they allowed me to return the food without any fuss. That left me looking for another brand from my list of options. I was flying blind. If the food had a 5-star rating it was good in my book with no questions asked (talk about blind trust). I accidentally wound up getting a 4-star food (same brand; different flavor mix). It was grain free, so I wasn’t going to split hairs.

Even though I had a quality food on hand, it did not mean that everything would be sunshine and roses. When your dog arrives it is pretty safe to assume that the food you are offering is not the same that was provided at the shelter. Ideally, the switch from one dog food to another should occur gradually over a period of five days to a week (e.g., replace a little of the old stuff with the new stuff the first day, then replace a little more the next day until you finally have your dog eating nothing but the new food). If I had it to do over again, I would have asked the rescue place to bring me a quart or gallon size zip-lock of whatever Phoebe had been eating so I could switch over properly.

When switching food cold turkey you can anticipate that your new dog may show signs of an upset stomach (soft stools, loss of appetite, and maybe even vomit). That’s a scary thing to ignore when you just brought a dog home from a rescue shelter – how does one know if the symptoms are due to switching the food or due to an illness? Do not worry if your new dog is slightly off kilter for a few days as long as he or she does not have full blown watery diarrhea, are not vomiting repeatedly and, most important, are continuing to drink water. If the issue show no signs of improvement, or if your dog stops drinking water/urinating you need to call a vet ASAP.

In the perfect world you will have a vet appointment already set up to assess the health of your newly adopted pal and can discuss any digestion issues during the appointment. Odds are the vet will do a fecal exam and let you know if the tummy trouble is due to a medical issue or not. If it turns out that it is not a medical issue, then you just need to ride it out.

Now,  there are a minority of dogs who can switch foods cold turkey without batting an eyelash, but we aren’t talking about any old dog; we are talking about a stressed out rescue dog.  Erring on the side of caution, give the guy or gal  an edge by feeding them something that is easy to digest.  Since grain is harder for dogs to digest, a grain free food would be a good option. As I mentioned in a prior post, premium dog food will cost you more, but it is the best investment you can make. Proper nutrition impacts everything from their appearance to their energy level to their immune system.

smellAfter the big food switch, Phoebe had very soft stools. I added a dollop of plain yogurt and canned pumpkin (plain pumpkin, not the pumpkin pie mix) to her meals. The yogurt is a probiotic, which helps digestion and the pumpkin is a great stool binder.  I was lucky; Phoebe never got full-fledged diarrhea and was drinking plenty of water. However, she had horrible gas that continued even after her stools firmed up.

Heading back to the wonderful World Wide Web, I learned that milk products and a few other things could cause gas, such as gulping down food too fast.   Phoebe happened to love cottage cheese. Wanting to indulge her,  I gave her a bit at every meal and she would gulp her food down in seconds. Ah!  that meant I had two things I could try – remove dairy and slow down eating.

I removed the dairy from her meals, replacing it with pumpkin, applesauce, or rice. It did not cure the room-clearing flatulence. I moved on to the food-gulping factor. I tried every trick I read about, even standing there holding her bowl for her when she ate. Not only was it a pain, it did not work (good thing I did not buy a feeding station until I tried out the concept).

When the easy fixes did not work, all that remained was to revisit what I was feeding her. I went back and looked at the the stats on the kibble I bought. I noticed that it was higher in carbohydrates than protein. I really did not know what was doggie-friendly and what wasn’t (it  goes back to picking something based solely on ratings versus the reasoning behind the rating). I did some more research and learned that in some cases carbohydrates can cause gas. I was not sure if carbohydrates were the culprit, but cutting them back was worth a try.

Carbohydrates are not required in a dog’s diet,  it just seems that way when you look at the ingredients in a bag of kibble. I will admit that the jury is still out on whether carbohydrates are friend or foe, so I’ll reserve judgement for now. In fact carbohydrates are a hot topic these days, especially in the great debate over whether one should feed their dog kibble or raw meat. I have read some heated arguments on various dog forums, and choose to steer away from them. My goal is not to decide what is right and what is wrong for the species as a whole. I just want is to do what is best for my dog, and it seemed as if her digestive system was not a carbohydrate-friendly zone.

I hated the thought of switching food on her so soon, but opted to do it anyway. I also had the luxury of switching her over gradually. I decided to try Pinnacle Peak Protein, which has an estimated dry matter nutrient content of 47% protein and 21% carbohydrates. That was a significant difference compared to the 30% protein and 42% carbohydrates in the food I initially gave her. Phoebe seemed to love the new food. I continued to keep dairy products out of her diet, but the gas continued – massive gas. I was hoping that it would get better as her body got used to it.

A few weeks had gone by and there was no improvement. Just to make matters worse, Phoebe decided that she no longer liked the new food. I bought a different flavor of the same brand, but she wanted nothing to do with it. Just to make sure that it was the food and not her health, I tossed in some goodies like applesauce and even some cottage cheese (taking it away had not made anything better). She ate that stuff right up. The only problem is that she would lick off the fun stuff and then spit out the kibble. I kept finding little piles of soggy kibble lying around.

That left me in a predicament. I was almost certain that her noxious odor was the result of something in her diet. Her diet was definitely not poor quality; it just did not agree with her. At that point I decided I would try to make her food myself. My goal was to isolate the food item or food group that was causing the chronic gas and then get her back on a kibble that suited her. The concept sounded much easier than it is. Once I started researching the topic, it did not take long for information overload to set in. I had to break it down into manageable pieces, and the first place to start was deciding what type of homemade food to give her: cooked or raw?