by Vickie Halstead, RN, CCRN, CEN, CVNS, LNC
Knowing that skin problems/allergies is the #1 health problem in Bichons Frises means that it is imperative for owners to provide an optimal diet that will promote healthy skin and immunity against the allergic response and diseases, thereby bestowing a long and healthy life for Bichons. See this article for more information on combating skin problems and allergies with nutrition and supplements www.bichonhealth.org/HealthInfo/SkinProblems.htm, and this article on feeding your Bichon www.bichon.org/CareFeeding.htm.
As dog owners we have 3 choices for diets; processed dry kibble and/or wet foods, home-cooked meals, or raw foods. The massive dog food recall in March of 2007 compelled many to question the quality of their pets’ diets and whether the food is causing harm. In this author’s opinion, food that is processed in large factories is suspect so if you wish to feed your dog processed food, buy food made in smaller, more controlled factories owned by the food company, and food that is derived from organic, human-grade sources. In addition, most of the nutrients are destroyed during the processing of foods so supplements need to be added to the diet. However, feeding nutritious home-cooked or raw meals removes the guesswork as to the level of nutrients, but some supplements are still beneficial.
Feed your Bichon only top quality, organic, human-grade food that is bought in a pet store, not grocery or discount stores, or home-prepared diets. Keep in mind that animals used in some poor quality foods made in large factories may have been relegated unfit for human consumption, infected, may be dead dogs (pets that die and are not buried or cremated) or road kill, but used for dog foods.
Avoid the following ingredients in foods and treats (READ THE LABEL!):
This is an example of an acceptable list of ingredients for a dry dog food if the company used organic and human-grade foods:
Beef, Oatmeal, Beef Meal, Barley, Whole Brown Rice, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols – a source of Natural Vitamin E and Ascorbic Acid, a source of Vitamin C), Flaxseed, Potatoes, Carrots, Peas, Dried Chicken Liver, Whole Apples, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Whole Blueberries, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Whole Clove Garlic, Dried Beef Broth, Chicory Root, Marigold Extract, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Enterocococcus Faecium, Lactobacillus Casei, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Natural Celery Flavor, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Vitamin E Supplement, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Complex, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin D3, Niacin, Lecithin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Cobalt Amino Acid Complex, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate, Sodium Selenite.
Now you need to consider the quantity of food to feed your dog. Depending on the food, adult Bichons do well with about ¾-1cup per day, divided into 2 meals or fed at one meal. I find my Bichons eat better with one meal per day at bedtime or suppertime and a snack of healthy dog biscuits or raw chicken wings/necks in the morning. Feeding times depend on you and your dog’s lifestyle. If your dog is overweight feed less food, add raw vegetables, increase the activity level, and avoid free feeding which can cause obesity and promotes irregular bowel habits. To determine if your Bichon’s weight is normal, use the tips of your fingers and rub across the ribs. You should be able to feel each rib with slight padding on the ribs. If the ribs are prominent with no padding, the dog is too thin. If you cannot feel the ribs due to excessive padding, the dog is too fat.
Puppies need to eat 3 times per day until 6 months and 2 times per day until one year of age to get the nutrients needed for growth and development. If you are feeding a puppy formula, change to an adult formula at 6-8 months to avoid kidney disease that can result from excessive protein in the diet. In my opinion, puppy formulas are unnecessary if you are providing a nutritious diet. Consider that you feed the puppy 3 meals per day, which amounts to about a total of one cup of food per day. This is equivalent to what the adult consumes so the puppy is eating more food per body size than an adult, and thereby ingesting sufficient nutrients.
Once you have chosen a healthy diet, you need to know how to encourage good eating habits. BFCA receives many reports of Bichon owners who state their dog is a finicky eater and refuses to eat certain foods, so they change the diet to find the food their dog loves to eat. In my opinion, this is a behavior learned from the owners that change the food anytime the dog seems to dislike the food. Dogs do not need to eat every day—they did not in the wild. My Bichons only get what I provide, and that does not change according to their likes and dislikes. They have learned to eat what is provided. Don’t change the food if your dog gets fussy about eating or try to entice him to eat by adding ingredients, as he will eat when he gets hungry. You do not have to add canned food to the dry food to entice your dog to eat, but can do that to increase the dog’s weight or to add another protein to the diet. Avoiding too many treats and table scraps will encourage your dog to eat the balanced dog food meal.
Feeding dogs in their crates is beneficial for these reasons:
Providing a healthy diet for your Bichon will arm its immune system with the ability to fight skin problems, allergies, and other diseases. A diet containing a variety of proteins will reduce the incidence of an allergic response to repetitive exposure to offending ingredients over time. My dogs are fed a combination of dry kibble and the raw diet with supplements. The references below are provided for further information on nutrition, and do not indicate BFCA endorsement of any products.