Diet Notes 2010

Not a lot of seal meat at my local grocery store or feed store here in East Tennessee.  Also, regrettably, their supply of whale blubber leaves a lot to be desired.  Amazon however has gallons of wild-caught salmon oil (with a pump) so there’s that.

When feeding Malamutes you gotta consider what their original diet consisted of: whatever was available in the arctic, up to and including the leather from their own harnesses and trace lines.  Down here in the lower 48 in the modern era, we can do a lot better than a starvation diet.  Without getting into a (heated) discussion of Raw Meaty Bones and Prey-model diets, which the dogs would LOVE, what’s the best food to feed your dog?

The best you can.  Whatever way you chose to feed your Malamute, the best food is one that is Available in your area, Affordable to buy, and the dog Does Well on it.  If it doesn’t do all three, it’s not your best choice.

Fat puppies are Unhealthy puppies.  Fat puppies are fed too much food — i.e. not burning off the calories they consume.  It doesn’t matter how many cups of food you feed your puppy.  It REALLY doesn’t matter what the bag says since dogfood companies are in the business of SELLING DOG FOOD.  They are not in the business of LEAN, MUSCULAR and HEALTHY puppies.  If a puppy is fat, feed fewer calories.  Don’t feed less quality of calories.  Don’t feed a Weight Management diet no matter what.  Malamutes need a dense-callory, quality food based on MEAT.  Healthy puppies are LEAN and MUSCULAR and have rock-solid stools, bright eyes, shiny coats, and boundless energy.  If you have a fat puppy, cut the calories and increase FREE exercise — not forced exercise like walks where they will push too far because they want to keep going, but free exercise like backyard play so they can lie down if they want to with no pressure to keep going because they’re not back to the car yet.

Again, FAT puppies are UNHEALTHY puppies no matter what you feed, how much it costs, or how much exercise the puppy gets.  Fat is unhealthy.  Stick-skinny is bad too, of course.  The middle ground is stout and stocky without a roll of fat.

If you had a favorite food that you had to eat for every meal for the rest of your life, you’d go quietly bonkers.  And rightly so.  Even donuts would get old after a while… (wouldn’t they?)  Not to mention the lack of healthy donut choices outweigh (WEIGH, get it?) the immediate benefits.

My preferences for feeding are:

  1. Raw Meaty Bones, free range, wild-caught and certified organic based on seal, whale, & salmon (not that I eat that well.)
  2. Grain-free fish-formula kibble.
  3. Chicken kibble without corn, wheat, soy or by-products.

Diamond Naturals Chicken & Rice ALL LIFE STAGES 26/16 (no corn, no wheat, no soy, no by-products) is what we feed.

Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, whole grain brown rice, peas, cracked pearled barley, pea flour, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dried beet pulp, egg product, natural flavor, flaxseed, salmon oil… AND THE SUPER FOODS: dried chicory root, kale, chia seed, pumpkin, blueberries, oranges, quinoa, dried kelp, coconut, spinach, carrots, papaya, yucca extract, and probiotics…

Some dogs don’t do well on anything but grain-free.  And I prefer grain-free foods for Malamutes.  But the vast majority of mine do well on this when I add in wild-caught salmon oil.  If the container does not say wild-caught, it is farm-raised.  And if the container says Fish oil, it’s not generally salmon, or not enough to make a difference.

Supplements are wild-caught salmon oil and perhaps weekly Nupro.  Sometimes digestive enzymes if someone gets a little loose.

Substitutes. The same dry kibble day in and day out for eternity, no matter how good it is?  Nah… we add in other things as to stave off food boredom, while leaving their main diet the same.  This is important:  the vast majority of their diet is a dry kibble that is formulated using RDA (Recommended Daily Allowances) for dogs.  Not kibble as garnish.  But some meals they get no kibble, instead:

  • Raw bone-in, skin-on chicken (usually quarters, and if I find a sale, they get chicken until it’s gone), or
  • Raw or sterilized knuckle bones (not smoked, they are nasty going in and coming out) for teeth cleaning.

Garnishes.  Sometimes I “cook” for them.  This is to add a big dollop on top of their kibble (or more likely mixed in) of something sweet or savory.

  1. Oatmeal.  My guys love oatmeal on their kibble.  Might have to do with the butter.
  2. Rice.  I use cooked white or brown rice as a delivery for canned fish, wild-caught salmon oil, Nupro, RAW eggs, whatever RAW meat is on sale, sometimes a RAW chicken liver each, canned fish, or veggies.  The point is flavor and real food.
  3. Surprises.  Whatever I have too much of to store properly in the freezer or pantry.  When I grow too much or fall into a deal, like on green beans, they had cooked green beans on their kibble.  Not for any nutritional value, but because I had a lot of it, I was sick of it, and could only store so much of it.
  4. Canned fish like mackerel, salmon or sometimes tuna.
  5. Raw eggs, in shell, although you could cook them over-easy if you wanted to (they make it ALL go away)
  6. Fruits like apples, bananas, & pears.
  7. Veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, & summer squash (self-picked right off my plants if I don’t watch them closely).

Training Treats are string cheese, Nuked Hotdogs, Zukes Mini Naturals, or whatever works.

Nuked Hotdog coins.  These are like Twinkies for dogs. Buy the cheapest chicken hot dogs you can find, $1 for 8 at Wal-mart.  Slice the hotdog lengthwise into quarters, reassemble, and slice cross-wise into nickel-shapes.  You’ll end up with tiny little quarter pizza slices.  Place in single layer between paper towels and nuke until charcoal.  This removes the fat.  Dogs LIKE charcoal.  Store in zip-locks in the refrigerate when not training.  If you use expensive hotdogs, it won’t work.

Special Diets

A dog who does not do well on a brand or a flavor of kibble should be TREATED (not just tested) for parasites.  They walk in poop then lick their feet, think about it!  Then if that doesn’t work, switch to something else.

I have never liked the volume required to feed on large-breed formulas.

And I’ve never liked the coats on a dog fed primarily beef or pork.  If you have a dog who develops intolerances to chicken, try fish, if that doesn’t work, try lamb.

But grains are the usual culprit with any commercial food.   That and owners who feed too much and think their dog is picky when he’s just fat.  And smarter than the average owner.  I’ve never one Malamute who would have starved to death next to a bowl of kibble, but that was an absorption problem in the digestive track.

The vast majority of Malamutes will eat if they’re hungry.  But there are plenty of owners who think new is improved.  If a new brand or new flavor or new formula comes out, for the love of your dogs, DO NOT FEED it until it’s been out a couple of years so any kinks or tweaks have been worked out on other peoples’ pets.  Especially in the ever-expanding puppy food market.  New is not necessarily better.

Conception diet.  The only thing I do for a mama dog before breeding her is increase her salmon oil intake to twice what everybody else gets.  Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are the building-blocks of cells.  Mom already formed her eggs a long time ago, but EFAs won’t hurt.

Pregnancy diet.  When an already-healthy pregnant mom starts to SHOW a little pooch, it’s time to increase kibble.  But a 75# pregnant Malamute does not need 10 cups/day, she’ll just get loose stools as the body shoves all that nutrition right out as fast as she can gulp it down.  And she WILL gulp it down, she’s a Malamute.  They act like they have a genetic memory of starvation, even when they are fat and ate an hour ago.  She’s still getting exactly what everybody else gets, just SLIGHTLY more.  By birth, she’s eating twice what everyone else gets, so long as she’s carrying a good weight over her ribs and hip bones and has plenty of milk.

Nursing & Weaning diets.  A week before her due date, mama dog should start to lose the hair over her teats and have milk coming in.  I help this along with Dogzymes Puppy-Bac if she doesn’t do this on her own.  Or needs the extra fat if it looks like a large litter.

At 2 weeks, I start introducing tastes to puppies.  This will be just a taste at first.  Mashed bananas, peanut butter, cooked sweet potatoes, whatever I had for dinner, they can lick the spoon while mom licks the plate.

Between 2-3 weeks, depending on mom’s weight and milk supply, puppies start getting kibble.  First pulverized with a $10 Braun coffee bean grinder I very carefully wrote DAWG on so there was no mistakes.  Then made into a slurry with hot water and Puppy-Bac or goat’s milk.  Some pups ignore it completely, some dive right in.  Dive being the operative word here.  They end up wearing more than consuming for the first several days.  But mama dog will be there to clean them right up when they are done.  I usually separate moms from puppies for 30 minutes to an hour to give them plenty of time to eat, stomp, wear, and smear the food as much as possible.

After 4 weeks, if mom was getting Puppy-Bac or goat’s milk in her kibble, I stop it completely for her but the pups are still getting it in their meals, which she cleans up.  I feed them enough they do leave some for mom and they have plenty of time to eat, play, then go back and eat again.  They have very tiny stomachs at this age.  I want her to nurse as long as possible, but from 4-5 weeks on out, it’s more a comfort suckle than a meal. There are exceptions, I had to force Sera to wean her pup at 11 weeks by separating them.  She was never going to give it up.  Some moms like Honey were completely done with the whole experience at 3 weeks.

By 8-9 weeks, pups are getting straight kibble in preparation for going home.

Frequency.  I feed on the 8s to everyone, 8am & 8pm, year round.  Ish.  It’s not a rigid schedule, but woe unto the person who walks out of my house on the 8s with a bucket in hand that does not include food.  They have no understanding of that event.  Pups & nursing moms get an additional meal at 2pm.  By the time they go home at 9 weeks, they are eating on the 8s and still leaving kibble.  As a group.  Puppies eat like its their last meal, every time.  It’s one of those biological imperatives, competition with their littermates for resources and survival instincts.

Volume.  The bag recommendations are for all breeds and all ages, so remember:

  1. Dog food companies are in the business if selling dog food, they are not in the business of producing LEAN muscular sledge breeds from the arctic.
  2. Pound for pound, Malamutes eat less than other breeds.

If you feed by the bag recommendations, you will be throwing money out the window every meal.  In the beginning, the dog will just poop out the extra food, so that’s unpleasant.  Shortly, the dog will start to get FAT.

A FAT Malamute is an UNHEALTHY Malamute.  Keep them marathon-runner lean, Greyhound-lean, not chunky or round.  Think of the top 10% of MARATHON runners.  They are all LEAN and MUSCULAR and you can see their bones, but it’s overlaid with a layer of MUSCLE.  If you are not RUNNING your dog miles every day, than it’s not as much muscle as fat layering their bones…  Marathon top finishers don’t JIGGLE and their flesh doesn’t ROLL they way it will in an out-of-shape Alaskan Malamute.

Go-home Diets.  I send pups home with whatever kibble they were eating at the time.  I recommend you stick with that for 1 full bag’s worth.  Change causes digestive upsets.  Change in schedule, change in food, change in water supply, change in environment.  Don’t change every single thing about this puppy’s life at once.  If you want to upgrade, please do so.  Grain-free fish-formula kibbles are my recommendation for almost any Malamute.

But steer clear of corn, soy, wheat, garlic, pork, and beef.

And don’t add supplements, garnishes, or treats except straight kibble for at least a month.  Again, change causes digestive upsets.  You’re house training the new pup.  Need I explain that?

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