Ask Dr. Pawz: Choosing the right dog food

Dr. Katy Nelson. (Courtesy Rich Kessler Designs)

Katy Nelson, special to

WASHINGTON – Hi, everyone! Hope your new year has started off great! We’ve got a few questions to answer today via The Pet Show Facebook page. I hope you’ll send your questions to us at my new email

Dr. Pawz:

Great question, David, and definitely a bit complicated. The broken down answer is this: Pets need to be fed according to their lifestage, lifestyle and size. Foods out there that are labeled for “all life stages” should be avoided as there is no way that a 12-year-old arthritic Maltese has the same nutritional needs as a 10-week-old Great Dane puppy. Now consider the nutritional needs of an overweight 7-year-old Bassett Hound that lays on the couch all day as compared to those of a hyperactive 3-year- old Jack Russell Terrier that runs on a horse farm all day. You see my point, I hope.

I’m not going to go into specific brands, but my advice is this: At this time, your dogs will likely need to be on two separate types of food until the puppy is finished growing (for a Golden, that’s usually between 12 to 18 months). Your older guy should be on a high-quality large breed adult formula food, and your pup should be on a large-breed puppy formula.

My usual tip when trying to translate the bags and the advertising out there is to find one that the first ingredient is an all-natural meat ingredient, and that it is not supplemented with vegetable proteins (glutens). If the company has to substitute vegetable glutens into the food, then the meat-based protein is obviously not high enough quality to sustain your pup.

Do your research before you walk into the pet store, as there are so many brands and types of foods out there that it is easy to get overwhelmed. Discuss with your veterinarian any specific issues that your pups may have that may require supplementation. Sometimes additional glucosamine, chondroitin or fish oils may be recommended for your pet if there are any joint, skin or GI issues.

Finally, don’t assume just because it’s expensive that it’s the best on the shelf. I’m not saying to go for the cheapest, but the quality of a pet food depends on many factors, not just the price. If your pet is on a food that is working for him, you’ll see normal stools, a healthy coat, a healthy weight and a happy dog. If you’ve got these four “outward” signs, then your dog is likely on a food that is doing him well.

This question comes from Jeannie Sturgess via Facebook:

“My cat has a cyst or something above his right eye. He is 13 years old. We are going to make an appointment for him at the vet to check his eye, but I’m just wondering if the cyst (can) be cancerous since it doesn’t seem to bother him?”

Dr. Pawz:

Jeannie, you’re doing the right thing by making the appointment for your kitty at the veterinarian. At 13 years old, any new lumps or bumps should be checked out.

Your veterinarian will likely want to take a sample of the material within the cyst. If it’s a simple cyst, just draining it could be curative. If it’s a fluid-filled mass, then taking a sample of that and sending it to the lab for analysis will likely be able to rule out whether it is cancerous or not.

Hopefully, this is nothing more than a cyst as you say, but having your veterinarian do a full exam and an analysis of the fluid/cells within the lump is the only way to determine what you’re dealing with and how to treat it.

Have a question for Dr. Pawz? Email her at @WTOPLiving on Twitter.

(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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