ASK THE VET: Why won't my dog eat dry food?

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Q: How do I get my Shih-Tzu to eat his dry food? He is slightly overweight, so was wondering how to shed the weight as well.

Holly Sze, Queens

A: If I had my choice between eating a juicy tuna burger or some processed pellets, I'd opt for the burger, too. So let's give your dog credit for having good taste! It's only natural for dogs to prefer meat over processed kibble, which is made predominantly of grains.

I believe most of the obesity problems we see in dogs (and people) are due to excess consumption of grains. Dogs will maintain a stable weight - and even lose weight - when fed a diet high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. I've been preaching for years that dogs and cats need to eat more "natural" diets, and especially diets more similar to what their relatives in the wild would eat. I feed my dogs a dry kibble called Orijen (www.championpetfoods.com) that's 70% protein and 30% fruit and botanicals. Another excellent diet is Instinct (www.naturesvariety.com).

I'm also wondering about your dog's teeth. Perhaps your pup doesn't want to eat the dry food because his/her teeth are too sensitive to chew the food. You have to take a look at the rear teeth especially, and if they're not nice and white and if they breath is stinky, it's time for a cleaning.

As for the excess pounds, if your dog is eating a normal amount of food and still putting on weight, there is a possibility of hormonal imbalances, which can be detected with simple blood tests at the vet.

Q: My dog sometimes eats feces at the dog run. Why does he do this and how can I get him to stop? Amber H., Williamsburg

A: There have been lots of theories on why dogs eat feces - their own and that of other creatures (coprophagia) - ranging from physiological to biological, but the sad truth is, we just don't know.

One theory is that they eat feces of herbivores to get the partially digested vegetables that they don't digest very well themselves. So giving the dogs more vegetables might help (especially if you add a product like ProZyme that can their digestion). Other suggestions include Chlorophyll, Anise Seeds, and pineapple.

In 2003 a study in Ireland showed that using a Citronella spray collar worked very well in decreasing the incidence of coprophagia. Gary Landsberg , a veterinary behaviorist, gave these three tips:a) house train the dogb) accompany the dog outdoors at each eliminationc) have the dog approach and take a reward after elimination and clean up stool before leaving unsupervised.

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Let's not forget possible medical reasons that could cause this problem. Certainly evaluation for medical, gastrointestinal or nutritional problems is a starting point. If my dog were doing this, and the veterinary visit showed no medical problems, I'd try switching his diet to Orijen or Instinct, add Prozyme and probiotics, and for a long while make sure that the possibility of eating stools didn't occur.

Have a question for the vet? E-mail to lauren.johnston@am-ny.com

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