Feeding your Monster!


Dog bowl

Hovawarts need food, lots of it.  They grow from a 15-20 pound 8 week old puppy to a 60 pound 6 month old puppy to a 75-90 pound one year old… and then add on another 10 pounds between 1-2 years old… they are tall, lanky and hungry. They have a high metabolism, and lots of energy… I’m a bit envious, naturally.

I’ve found that the most common “behavioral problem” over the years, all involve them not getting enough food.  Vet’s will advise you to feed them 2-3 cups per day, a family seeing how hungry their puppy is will feed 4 cups per day, but the puppy is still hungry, exhibiting destructive chewing beyond the normal puppy chewing, eating odd things like socks, going through garbage, guarding their food, growling if you take something from them, etc.  We do open feeding and our dogs average between 6-9 cups per day… they are active and do tend to put on the extra 5 pounds in Winter, which they shed in Summer.  They eat more, and need more calories, after a long hike and a day swimming then they need in Winter when they’re spending lots of time at my side as I’m huddled by the fireplace and reading a novel… ok, not quite, but you get the idea.  Caloric requirements change daily for them, just like with people.  If a dog spends lots of time outside during Winter, their caloric requirements increase drastically, if they are hiking mountains versus a walk around the block, they need more calories, if they spend the day at your side because you have a cold, well then they get a treat : )

Most vets aren’t familiar with Hovawarts, they look at them, they think Golden Retriever / Labrador type of dog… and these breeds are known to have weight problems, so the vets recommend food allowances equivalent to what these other breeds need… but these guys burn through their caloric intake.

My main concern with underfeeding is my fear/terror of Bloat/Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GVD).  Studies have shown that dogs fed once a day are twice as likely to develop GVD as dogs who are fed twice a day, the risk increases for those dogs who eat too rapidly or exercise too soon after a meal.  When dogs are “super” hungry they literally inhale their food, taking in large quantities of air… that air causes gas (smelly household gas) or they burp, just like we do, we all take in air when we eat, but it may also be a contributory cause of GVD which is an emergency vet visit and surgery, if you get there in time. GVD is deadly, it is fatal, and you have only a couple of hours between it’s onset and surgery to save the life of your baby.  Studies are ongoing, they look at risk factors, large deep chested dogs are more likely to suffer from it, as well as anxious, high strung dogs, etc., etc.  I’ve never had a dog suffer from Bloat, but I know those who have, and fortunately they knew something was wrong, and took their dog to the vet promptly.  I learned from that experience, it terrified me.  To see a healthy active dog, suddenly become “questionable”,.. my neighbor called me, she knew something was wrong but we didn’t know what was wrong, he appeared agitated, restless, then breathing seemed labored, heavy panting, salivating, dry heaving, then after about 15 minutes we rushed him to the vet, only to be told that even with surgery he still might not make it.  (This was before the internet was a household go to.. I’m dating myself, I know).  We were told at that time that eating fast after exercise was the cause, and he had been playing frisbie, and then had come in her house and she fed him, he got fed once a day in the evening.  I was scarred for life. So I try to minimize the risks for all our dogs, open slow feeding, treats when sitting down in the house and not with exercise, longer wind down times after strenuous exercise, but with open feeding they only really nibble at their food..

Slow feed dog bowl

I often see people changing brands of food thinking that is what is causing their dog to have the smelly gas in front of company, or they hear the gurgling of their belly, but it is all related to hunger and not eating slowly.  They have some great dishes out there that help slow down a dogs eating, as in the image above, and which I highly recommend if you’re not doing open feeding.  They are called anti-bloat dog bowls, or slow feed dog bowls or maze dog bowls, and there are lots of styles, varieties and colors.  Dogs actually will enjoy the interactive nature of the bowls and you can get a couple and change it up daily so he/she doesn’t get bored ….  your innovative Hovawart might just pick up his bowl and dump his food, but even that slows down his eating as he’s picking up the kibble piece by piece off the floor.

FOOD QUANTITY:  My rule of thumb is that a 2 month old puppy requires 2 cups of food offered daily, then increasing by a cup per month of age, i.e.  3 months = 3 cups, and so on, until they are 6 months old, after that you want to offer roughly between 6-9 cups per day based on activity level.  Ideally, the food is divided throughout the day and your puppy will eat slowly.  By the time your puppy is a year old, his caloric needs will be between 2500-3000 k/cals per day, most dry kibble varies between 300-400 k/cals per cup.  If he doesn’t eat all his food, that is great, his belly is full.  If you’re interested in open feeding but work and are concerned about their pee and poo schedule during the day, then you can feed them a smaller amount in the morning, and offer open feeding at night when you’re home over a two or three hour period.

Also, these guys need puppy food until they are at least two years old because they still are growing up through that second year.

Oh, and “treats” count towards their daily caloric requirement, so make those “treats” actually account for a healthy nutritious contribution towards their daily intake.

There are some great websites that have “calculators” to give you an estimate on how many calories your dog needs based on age, weight, breed, etc.

<p align=”center”><table width=”469″ border=”0″ cellpadding=”0″ cellspacing=”0″><tr> <td bgcolor=”#990000″ align=”center”><font color = “#FFFFFF”><b>Calorie Calculator Powered By <a href=”http://www.trainpetdog.com” target=”_blank” style=”color:#ffffff; text-decoration:none;”>Train Pet Dog</a></b></font></td></tr></table><table width=”480″ border=”0″ cellspacing=”0″ cellpadding=”0″><tr><td><iframe src=”http://www.trainpetdog.com/calorie-calc.html?breed=Hovawart” frameborder=”0″ width=”100%” height=”430″ scrolling=”no”></iframe></td></tr></table></p>

Also, one of my go to Websites is http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/ .   They have developed a wonderful rating system for quality dog food, and they also have a wonderful dry dog food calculator http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-feeding-tips/dog-food-calculator/ .

Take a look, ask questions of me, of others, do your research, let me know your thoughts… but just remember these guys are not our lovable, chunky, barrel-chested Labs, nor are they those beautiful, fireside Goldens… and in response to those of you who have active working Labs and Goldens, we know they eat more then those picturesque beauties who tend to be less active, more sedentary and gain weight a bit more readily then their counterparts.