Upcoming start dates: March 6th and April 10th
Space is limited - sign up now at politepuppy@friendshiphospital.com

Congratulations on your new puppy! I wish you the very best for a long and healthy life together. At Friendship Hospital for Animals, we are committed to providing you the most up-to-date, inclusive care for the life of your dog. To help get you started on the right paw, we offer two exciting puppy programs at Friendship.

If you are interested in comprehensive training and wellness care recommendations, I would love for you to enroll in the Polite Puppy Class. This six-week long class is open to puppies ages 8-20 weeks, and will help you sort through the important life-long habits necessary to ensure that you are raising a well-behaved, happy, and healthy dog.

The class is held at the hospital, so that your puppy will develop a strong positive association with hospital visits; making all future trips an enjoyable and stress-free experience.

Nutrition and supplements

What to feed

People ask me all the time what they should be feeding their dogs, and I have a difficult time answering this as I debate about what to feed my own dogs.  Just like in people, nutrition is an essential component to a long, healthy life for our pets.

In this post I will attempt to explain what I think is the best way to feed your dog, I am by no means a nutritionist but I do spend a fair amount of time thinking about this and I have definitely done my research.  My general conclusion is that there is not one best food; each brand brings something different to the bowl.  Because of this I rotate the brands of food I feed my dogs.  I don’t eat the exact same thing every day, so why would I feed my dogs like that. 

Dogs developed by eating whatever they could scavenge so it makes sense to me that their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts should always be digesting something a little different.  Since every brand and type of food has a different combination of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals; I can be confident that if one brand is lacking something another brand should make up for it (in theory).

Just about every time my dogs eat they get a different combination of food.  I have two to three bags of different types of dry food and an assortment of canned foods in my house at all times.  I then alternate the dry foods and add in a scoop of canned food to make it a little bit more exciting.

You are probably thinking that suddenly switching a dog’s food like that will result in a nasty bout of diarrhea. This is true if you feed the exact same thing every single day, but if the GI tract is used to being surprised then it adapts quite well.  As I said my dogs get a different mix of food at every meal and they have lovely stool.

Given the multiple pet food recalls some owners want to cook for their pets feeling this is a safer alternative to commercial foods.  I never recommend feeding a home cooked meal unless the owner consults with a veterinary nutritionist or a website like www.balanceit.com.  Without specific guidelines and supplements it is almost impossible to feed your dog a balanced diet.  Just throwing some meat and veggies into a bowl is not providing your dogs with the nutrients he needs and will result in health problems.

Despite what many pet foods will tell you corn is not hazardous to your dog.  It is a viable protein and carbohydrate source that provides many essential nutrients; it is not just filler.  I have no problem feeding my dogs a diet that contains corn, however, I don’t want that to be the only grain they eat.  This again illustrates why rotating diets is so important in giving your dog a balanced diet.

Finally, the super high protein foods are not necessarily better.  Dogs are omnivores like humans and are made to eat a combination of meat and plant material.  These diets provide excess protein that you dog does not need and excreting these proteins creates increased work load on the kidneys.  In animals that have decreased kidney function these high protein diets are actually harmful and can worsen progression of disease. 

I do think that Science Diet makes an excellent food.  They spend massive amounts of time and money on research to provide a fully balanced, top-of-the-line food.  They also use a technique called nutro-genomics, meaning that they design the food based on what genes are activated in specific disease processes.  However, these diets are processed and preserved with chemicals, and have grain as the first ingredient.  Part of my debate is whether or not this is such a bad thing. 

Raw Food

Proponents of raw food, also called B.A.R.F (biologically appropriate raw food) claim these diets are significantly healthier than prepared commercial foods.  The diets are made of meat, bones, vegetables and organ meats with very little carbohydrates.  The theory is that domesticated animals have evolved to eat this type of food over hundreds of years. Compare this to the past 50-70 years when commercial pet food became popular and it does make sense.

In addition, advocates of the B.A.R.F. diet feel the large amounts of carbohydrates in commercial foods cause excessive inflammation, which in turn leads to common degenerative diseases such as arthritis, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, obesity, thyroid disease, and hormonal imbalances such as Cushing's disease.  It is also felt that commercial foods are packed with harmful chemicals and animal by-products, and have excessive levels of salt and sugar.

So on one hand it makes sense to feed the B.A.R.F diet, especially if it is organic. I know that when it comes to my own eating habits, I would be healthier if my own diet consisted of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables while avoiding processed sugars and too much salt  (though I personally lack the self-control for follow-through).  Why should I not feed my beloved pets the same type of diet?

The flip side to this argument is that, other than sushi, I don't eat my food raw, so why would I feed it to my animals?  With uncooked foods, there is an increased risk of illness from food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli.  Not to mention that you are also potentially exposing these pathogenic bacteria to yourself and your family via the food bowl and your dog’s feces.  This could be very dangerous in an immuno-compromised individual or a child.

I hope this helps you decide what is the best food for your dog; I know it can be overwhelming.  Just remember there is no one best food and by rotating brands you have the best chance of providing your dog a complete and balanced diet.  Ultimately it is up to  you decide what is the best fit for your family, lifestyle and dog. 


Regardless of what you decide to feed your dog the most important thing you can do is maintain a healthy weight.  Overweight dogs are at risk for diabetes, heart and joint disease – all conditions we see frequently at Friendship. I know from my own life that it isn’t always easy to keep pets from piling on the pounds: My dog Sparkle loves food more than anything and keeping her at a healthy weight is a challenge but essential.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 42% of dogs in America are overweight. What’s worse is that an additional 10% of dogs are considered obese. This means that over 50% of dogs are at increased risk for diseases that may be preventable. And if that’s not enough to get you motivated, consider this: one study found that dogs kept at a healthy weight live on average two years longer than their overweight counterparts!

The best strategy for keeping your pet slim is to prevent weight gain in the first place. Never free feed. Instead, always measure out the amount of food you offer your pet. Also try to limit the treats you give to 10% of your pet’s diet. Feeding table scraps is strongly frowned upon. Give too many table scraps and your dog may end up with diarrhea or pancreatitis which can result in a hospital stay. Your pets already love you unconditionally; giving them treats doesn’t make them love you more.

Fish Oil

There is much debate in veterinary medicine about what you should be feeding your dog but one thing everyone agrees on is the amazing properties of omega-3 fatty acids.  These helpful little guys can be found in abundance in certain plants and marine fish oils and have been shown to help with treatment of common abnormalities for our dogs and cats.

Allergic skin disease, itching and ear infections are frustrating and frequently treated skin conditions of both dogs and cats.  Multiple studies have shown that using high doses of fatty acids for six weeks or more decreased itchiness in greater than fifty percent of the study patients.  Those that did not experience a decrease in itching, did show a decrease in skin redness or swelling associated with allergies.  Fatty acids have also been found to have a synergistic effect with antihistamines which even further decreases a patients discomfort from allergies.

Another common ailment for dogs and cats is arthritis, especially given the obesity rates in companion animals.  Arthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD) occurs when abnormal motility in a joint causes the protective cartilage of that joint to rub against each other in a pathologic manner.  This results in a wearing down of cartilage until you have one bone grinding on another causing pain and inflammation.  Laboratory studies looking at how omega-3 fatty acids affected canine cartilage metabolism found that our friend the fatty acid decreased cartilage degradation in experimental tissue samples. 

Fatty acids have also been thought to improve treatment of chronic kidney disease, cancer and heart failure.  Essentially they have the potential to help with so much and there is relatively no downside.  The most common side effects are soft stool or diarrhea, if you notice this just back off on the amount you are adding to your pet’s diet.  It is also reported that extremely high levels of dietary fatty acids can cause decreased blood clotting ability but this is very rare.

There are many types of veterinary products on the market or you can buy fish oil capsules from Whole Foods (or any other vitamin store) and toss a few in with your dog’s food.  Dogs have a difficult time utilizing the fatty acids found in flax seed/oil so fish oil is a much better choice.  There are a variety of human and veterinary products to choose from, just remember to find a reputable brand such as Nutramax or Nordic Naturals.


If you have a large breed dog you can consider starting a glucosamine/condroitin supplement to help protect your dog’s joints.  I recommend Dasuquin which is made by Nutramax and in addition to glucoasmaine/chondroitin it includes an avocado extract that has been shown to help decrease pain in arthritic joints.  Unless your dog has hip laxity you should not need to start this supplement until your large breed dog is an adult.

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