Puppy Nutrition Tips from the Experts

GREEN SPOT APR2016 5 - Puppy Nutrition Tips from the ExpertsWhitney Kamish and Jessica Ellis (from left) Owners of the Green Spot

Did you know that one in every two dogs dies of cancer? There are a number of studies that show that there is a direct correlation between what we feed our puppies and adult dogs and health issues, including cancer.

When it comes to animal nutrition, our go to contacts are Jess and Whitney, owners of the Green Spot – our favorite pet store in Omaha. Nestled in Aksarben Village next to Bed Bath and Beyond, the store is a cornerstone of the Omaha pet community; helping rescues, hosting dog friendly events, offering food, grooming, toys and treats your puppy will LOVE.

Not only do these women own their own highly successful business, they both have dedicated their lives to researching and carrying only the best products for your four legged friend. They were the ones who let us know about all the nasty chemicals Rawhides are soaked in (more on that below) which turned us on to bully sticks and cow knees (sold at the Green Spot of course).

They schooled us on the benefits of giving a puppy an ounce of goats milk (more on that below), how to use fish stock, feeding raw diet, dangers processed foods can present and so, so much more.

Jess was kind enough to pass along some additional information on animal nutrition.

“Rotation is key,” Jess said. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Your pet will thrive with a variety of biologically appropriate foods.

Keep little mouths busy. Offer a variety of short and long-lasting chews to develop healthy chewing habits and to aid in dental health.”

Later Jess sent over a very detailed summary of canine nutrition and their professional viewpoints on pet nutrition.

The Problem with Processed foods:

Historically, cooked foods have never been a part of the canine and feline ancestral diet, rather they have subsisted and thrived off of live prey, fermented carrion, and foraged for any scraps they could obtain. They have only been introduced to cooked and processed foods within the last 80 years. The next logical question we should ask ourselves is…Why are 90% of animal caretakers feeding their carnivore companions a dry kibble diet consisting of at least 60% carbohydrate, very little moisture and minimal low quality protein? If our pets have managed to survive off of this cheap, convenient, low quality protein source for the last 80 some years why should we be concerned about it? The answer is pretty clear. Chronic degenerative diseases, auto-immune diseases, allergies, kidney, pancreatic and liver disease are all rampant within our pet populations and cancer rates continue to rise. What many unsuspecting caretakers are unaware of is that in addition to substandard ingredients there are many forms of toxins introduced into our pets’ bodies through these highly processed, cooked, kibble diets. These toxins include: aflatoxins, heterocyclic amines, acrylamides, and most recently discovered in dry, cooked pet foods PBDE’s (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) a chemical used as a flame retardant. (http://answerspetfood.com/nutrition.html)

In the broadest spectrum, the less processed the better. Dogs were designed to eat meat. They have teeth that rip and tear. Their jaws that are hinged to open and close, not move side to side. However, they don’t have thumbs they would require to cook it. And for good reason – they don’t need it to be cooked! Their systems were designed to be able to consume and thrive on raw meat. Their digestive system is much more acidic than humans, killing off any potential pathogens along the way. They are also much shorter and straighter than our digestive tracts, meaning the food goes in and out quickly, so there’s not much time for bad bacteria to grow.

Now, this is not to say that we recommend buying some chicken breasts from the grocery store, throwing it in your pups bowl and calling it dinner. The commercially prepared raw foods that we sell at TGS are formulated to be complete and balanced, with muscle meats, organ meats, bones and fruits and veggies added to give your pet its nutritional requirements in whole food form. They also go through several safety steps along the way, ensuring there are no potentially harmful bacteria. We often say around here “A raw diet can be the best, or worst, thing you ever do for your dog,” meaning that an unbalanced homemade raw diet will do more harm than good and that (for the most part) we like to leave it to the professionals to make sure their foods are complete and balanced and offer a variety of foods.

Three main benefits of raw pet food vs. processed pet foods: (most info here obtained from primalpetfoods.com – lots of good info on their website)

Intracellular Moisture:

Intracellular moisture, or the moisture within a cell, is the most effective way for our pets to absorb the moisture they need to maintain optimum health. Moisture is absorbed during the digestion of the food; this is how nature intended the process to work. Moisture is naturally higher in raw meats, fruits and vegetables. As these foods digest, the moisture is absorbed into the body and effectively hydrates your pet. Cooking the food destroys the moisture, which is why even though canned foods are wet, they do not provide the same moisture benefits of a raw diet.
Of course raw fed pets still need access to fresh, clean water, but you will notice that raw fed pets drink very little water compared to their kibble fed friends. Dogs, and especially cats that do drink a lot of water should be checked for dehydration, as this is one sign of pet lacking proper hydration. Dehydration is a major contributor to many common illnesses that plague our pets. We see this presenting as urinary tract infections, struvite crystals, renal failure and many other common issues that our companion pets are dealing with and are often accepted as normal aging. Your pet’s body cannot and will not operate at its fullest potential without the proper hydration level.


Enzymes function by acting as a catalyst for chemical reactions in the body, making them function in the best possible manner. Different cells require different enzymes in order to function. Enzymes such as those found within the digestive enzymes aid in the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients from food. There are three classes of enzymes: metabolic, digestive and those found in raw foods. The pancreas produces many metabolic enzymes which perform a wide variety of functions including the destruction and removal of toxins within the body. Metabolic enzymes also aid in the production of energy and are connected to every working organ within the human body and also aid in the repair of damaged and decaying tissues. Metabolic enzymes help the body in the absorption of oxygen, assisting in the body’s ability to deliver it to the needed organs and cells.

The most important thing to remember about enzymes is that if your pet does not eat enough raw foods, the digestive enzymes will not receive the boost they need, and will then draw from the metabolic enzymes. This creates a problem for your pet, because the metabolic enzymes are produced in the pancreas and your pet has a certain amount of these available throughout its life. Once these begin to deplete, the aging process is sped up and the door is opened to a variety of different illnesses.

Food enzymes are denatured at temperatures of 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Kibble is extruded between 200-600 degrees, which makes enzymes one of the things that raw does have and processed food does not.

Amino Acids

As your pet eats a variety of different foods, different amino acids are provided. Your pet then formulates them into the amino acids needed for different functions. There are 20 different amino acids, each with a specific function. A few amino acids are what are called, Essential Amino Acids, or ones that cannot be made by the body. A perfect example of this would be taurine for a cat. A cat lacks the ability to form this from other amino acids and must have it in their diet in its raw, whole form. Raw meat, especially fresh kill, is rich in taurine.

There are several signs of a diet deficient in amino acids. They might include:

  • A dry, dull coat
  • Excessive shedding
  • Poor dental health, due to unhealthy gums
  • Reduction in digestive health
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor heart health

When a protein is cooked, the long chain amino acids which make up the protein, become short chain amino acids, and at this point they become much more difficult for the stomach to digest and the liver to metabolize into energy. It must be argued that protein amino acids in their raw form are far superior in quality and function than processed, short chain amino acids. We offer a variety of raw meats and vegetable sources, thereby assuring your pet a healthy, natural diet and elevated health.

If you’re not able to feed your pup raw for any reason, follow these guidelines to ensure you are feeding your pet the most nourishing options.

Tips for selecting a good puppy food:

With premium kibble, the main difference between a Puppy, Adult or Senior food is calorie content – puppies need the most calories, followed by adults and lastly seniors. A lot of the rest of it is MARKETING! The main thing to remember with any pet food you decide on is rotation

What to look for:

  • Look for specifically named meats and meat meals
  • Proteins in “meal” form are not bad as long as they are properly identified. Meal means that the ingredient has been weighed after the moisture is removed, providing a better indicator of the actual weight of the ingredient.
  • Dogs are carnivores and were not designed to consume large amounts of carbohydrates. Some have become better accustomed to being able to tolerate the large amounts of carbs found in dry foods today, but by feeding a food with more meat and less “other stuff” in there, your pup will thrive and be much less likely to develop problems due to excessive carb overload.

What to avoid:

  • All generic meat ingredients that do not indicate a species
  • Byproducts, even if a species is identified
  • Any food that contains corn as a first ingredient or any other starchy foods
  • Corn gluten or soy(bean) meal as main ingredients.

Grain Free vs. Grains in pet food:

Grains are not inherently evil, and just like humans, some dogs tolerate grains better than others. The key here is to look for QUALITY grains, rather than animal feed grains or anything made with corn, soy or wheat products. Again, the more meat the food has in it, the less “other stuff” there is.

Some brands of dry kibble we recommend for puppies: Orijen, Acana, Petcurean, Lotus, Stella & Chewy’s, Fromm, and Victor, among others. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from anything found in your grocery store, big box store, anything you see a commercial for on tv (for the most part anyway!) We want the companies we work with to spend their money on making great foods, rather than a great commercial to make me feel like a better pet parent.

While we offer a variety of supplements in store for anything that your new pup might need, the top two supplements we recommend for just about any dog are Answers Additional™ Raw Fermented Goats Milk and Raw Fermented Fish Stock. The benefits of these two products are never-ending, but here’s the breakdown on both:

Benefits of Raw Goat’s Milk:

  • Raw goats milk contains vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, trace elements, enzymes, protein, and fatty acids utilized by the body with ease.
  • Raw goats milk is rich in the enzyme lactase, aiding in the digestion of lactose, which makes it perfect for pets who are lactose intolerant. During pasteurization, heat destroys the lactase enzyme. Many people and pets not producing the lactase enzyme cannot digest pasteurized milk, but can digest raw milk without problems. The fat molecules in raw goats milk are 1/5th the size of those in cows milk, making it highly digestible.
  • We are partial to the Answers™ brand of raw goats milk in particular because it’s fermented, which adds several benefits to it’s long list as is. Mainly it adds an added safety benefit, helping to balance out the good and bad bacteria. It also helps to aid in the breakdown and absorption of those nutrients, further improving its effectiveness.
  • Safety of Raw Milk: Todays certified raw milk has stricter standards then pasteurized milk. The bacteria count for the standard plate count for pasteurized milk is 15,000 per ml after pasteurization and 25,000 per ml after pasteurization for cream. Certified raw milk and raw cream standards are 10,000 per ml. There are less bacteria allowed in certified raw milk then pasteurized milk. Fermented decaffeinated green tea naturally protects the milk from pathogenic (bad) bacteria all the way to the bowl.

Benefits of Fermented Fish Stock:

  • Contains glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), a major component of joint cartilage, glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid
  • Excellent source of Iodine, contains thyroid nutrients
  • Contains Gelatin, beneficial for lining the digestive system to aid in the healing of leaky gut syndrome & colitis, barrier to bad bacteria
  • High in glycine (essential amino acid) which helps regulate the making of bile salts and secretion of gastric juices also required for liver detox
  • Fermented sardines provide a superior concentrated source of all Omega fatty acids to support hair skin and coat
  • Help regulate immune system
  • Here is some good information about the potential dangers of some fish oils out there

Additional Info & Feeding Amounts:

  • Product is sold completely frozen, defrost in sink or in refrigerator (time varies based on size of container)
  • Once defrosted, product stays good for two weeks. It has a longer shelf life than pasteurized milk because it is a fermented milk. Shake well before each use. Introduce slowly into diet, working up to 1oz for every 10 pounds of body weight, up to 6oz/day

Natural Chews:

Raw bones are great for growing pups – here’s some info on that.

What are the benefits of feeding raw bones?

  • Cleaner teeth: “Chewing” action and enzymes from the raw bone help break down and remove plaque.
  • Provides healthy chewing option for growing puppies: Puppies have a physical and psychological need to chew. It is important to provide appropriate outlets for this behavior (not your shoes!)
  • Provides recreation activity for adult dogs
  • Poultry bones contain “wet” glucosamine: The natural form of glucosamine is easier for the dog to digest and utilize.

Are raw bones safe to feed?

Dogs should never be fed cooked bones. When bones are cooked, the structure of the bone changes and becomes more likely to splinter and less digestible. Raw bones are far less likely to cause injury to pets, however, any time a dog is given a chew item, they should be supervised. This is important as not all dogs and puppies automatically know how to appropriately and safely chew these items!

How should raw bones be introduced into a dog’s diet?

If the dog is already eating raw food, it is an easy introduction. Simply offer the dog the bone and watch to see that the dog chews it, instead of trying to gulp it down. We recommend giving the bones frozen, this way the marrow is harder for the dog to remove which makes it last longer, and also lessons the chance of the dog getting loose stools from the rich marrow. If this is the first introduction to raw food, you will want to do it slowly. Give the dog the bone for no longer than 10-15 minutes, remove it and wrap it up, refrigerate and save it for the next day. After one or two days of this, the dog should tolerate the bone without any difficulties. As when introducing anything new into your pet’s diet, watch for signs of loose stool and adjust the schedule accordingly.

Can I give my puppy raw bones?

Yes, a puppy can very much benefit from chewing on the raw bones. To begin a puppy on bones, a very good place to start is in the bathtub. Lay a bath towel down and give the puppy the size appropriate bone, following the recommendations above. This will teach the puppy at an early age that bones are something to be chewed on in one place, and not carried around the house. After the puppy has matured enough to understand the concept, you can then transfer them to a sheet or blanket on a hard surface floor. After one or two times of the puppy losing the bone for trying to carry it off, they learn pretty quickly to stay put. Of course if you are giving the bones outside, it won’t be necessary to go through this method.

When looking for other chew options, make sure they are single (or limited) ingredient, with no sprayed on chemicals or preservatives. All chews that TGS stocks are free from any preservatives and chemicals. Avoid super processed chews and rawhides.

If you haven’t already been to the Green Spot, take your dog in there now.  Your furry friend will love it.

Green Spot Omaha
1110 S 71st St K, Omaha, NE 68106
(402) 614-7768

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