The Fussy Eater or the Overeater

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This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Snow Dog Appropriate Diet

Same End Result, Different Causes.

Some Snow Dogs are notorious for being finicky eaters. It is important to determine the cause of the lack of appetite because there can be numerous reasons for it. Sometimes the answer is as simple as your dog just isn’t hungry but at other times this lack of appetite can be a signal that there are other causative factors in play.

Here is a step by step check list to help you determine why your dog is being a fussy eater.

Rule Out Illness Or Parasites

If your dog is not eating the first thing you must do is to take him to the Vet for complete check up to rule out illness as the reason for not eating. If you have have taken your dog to the Vet and he has ruled out specific ailments and parasites in the G.I. tract then it is safe to consider these other contributing reasons for your dog not wanting to eat.

Activity Level

In healthy Snow Dogs, activity levels will determine how many calories your dog needs and how enthusiastically he eats. If your dog is not eating well, check your dog’s activity level. If he is not getting vigorous daily Breed Appropriate exercise then his body may be simply telling him that less calories are needed. This is normal. But if your dog is getting lots of exercise but still turns his nose up at the food, then this is not normal and warrants some further investigation into this behaviour.

Poor Quality Ingredients

If your dog is turning up his nose at his food check the label and look for cheaply sourced meat by-products, grains, and any other Breed Inappropriate ingredients that your food may contain.  Your dog may be trying to let you know that the food your are feeding is not good for him. Dogs are pretty astute about knowing instinctively what their bodies need to remain healthy. Sadly, many food manufacturers hide poor quality food stuffs from plain sight by referring to them by other names to keep you unaware and uniformed about what they are actually putting into their dog food. They may try to hide the evidence of poor quality ingredients but your dog’s senses can detect it.

Why Is My Dog Constantly Hungry?

If a food is not nutritious, Snow Dogs may under eat or over eat. Though not usually known for over eating, some Snow Dog’s body’s may be telling them to eat more because the body demands more usable nutrition than they are getting from their daily food allotment. If your dog is always hungry but looks to be heavy and over fed, check your food label and look for wheat, corn, soy, or animal by-products in the food.

Cereal Grains In The Food

When cereal grains appear in the ingredient list, especially as one of the first few ingredients listed on the food label, this is an indicator that this food is primarily comprised of grain filler. Your Snow Dog will not be getting much needed high daily protein from a food full of filler.

Poor Quality Protein

Poorly sourced animal by-product protein will not be able to supply your dog with adequate nutrition. Only good quality whole meat protein will supply the high protein needs for Snow Dogs. So if your dog is consistently turning up his nose at his food, take careful notice of the type of protein in his current food and switch to a food that uses a better quality source of Breed Appropriate protein.

Change Protein Base With The Change of Seasons

If your dog eats his food with enthusiasm for a while but then begins to turn his nose up at it, he may be telling you that the type of protein is not right for him at this time. Try switching up the protein base as the seasons change and see if that does not entice him to eat with more zeal.

Other Things To Try For a Fussy Eater

Some dogs, like people are very particular about things like the texture or size of their food. Some dogs like their food dry and crunchy while some others may prefer their food dampened with liquid. Experiment and see what your dog prefers.

If your dog likes his food softened you can try adding water or even some Chicken Soup for Dogs  to his kibble to add some desirable moisture. The soup also brings the added benefit of adding a wonderful, and for the fussy underweight eater, a much need array of extra nutrition.

You can also try adding a good quality canned dog food mixed in with the dry food to entice your dog. This gives you the added benefit of changing flavours often to add interest to your dog’s diet.

Been There, Already Tried That. Now What?

So what about the dog that  wants to eat but when the food is placed in front of him he is turned  off after that first bite of the food?  What is going on for this dog?

Wants To Eat But Won’t

There is a growing number of Snow Dog owners who are at their wits end trying to find a food that will appeal to their dog. These dogs give the signals that they are hungry and yet when presented with food, they refuse it.

These owners have changed foods countless times. They have tried wet food, dry food and everything in between. Many of these owners have also tried Raw Food Feeding only to have it be a dismal failure.

Owners of these dogs are at their wits end trying to appease their dogs. They are tired of being on the losing end of this battle of Dog Versus Food. They are sick and tired of being sick and tired from worry about their dog’s refusal to eat and the effect on their dog’s health.

These are caring owners look like they are not caring for their dogs. They have all been to the Vet countless times. Their Vet assures them that they cannot find any reason for their dog’s behaviour. Often they prescribe a ” Vet Formulation” of special food that also does not help.

And oddly enough, these “special foods” only make the problem worse. Why?

The Unique and Specialized Needs of a Breed Appropriate Diet

Those that read my articles know that I preach endlessly about the unique needs of Snow Dogs’ and their need to have adequately high Zinc levels in their Diet. Without it, there are a whole list of common breed specific medical issues that occur in this breed of dog.However, there is one more very important piece of the puzzle that we may have stumbled across as it pertains to these Picky Eaters.

When questioned about why your dog is being such a fussy eater, Vets may often respond with the generic answer that our breed is predisposed to being a picky eater. Yes but WHY??? Not all Snow Dogs are fussy to the point of being anorexic and dangerously underweight. So why are only some of these dogs being plagued by this issue?

Full Circle and Back to Zinc Deficiency

We have very good reason to believe that Snow Dogs who are severely Zinc Deficient or who carry elements of factors giving them a heavily weighted predisposition to having Zinc Deficient Syndrome ( this really is a whole syndrome not just one isolated issue), are not able to taste their food and this puts them off eating all foods!

We know that in people, one of the symptoms of severe Zinc Deficiency is that their sense of taste is altered sometimes to the point of it being non-existent. Think back to time when you had a really bad head cold and your sense of taste was altered. How did your food taste to you? Did it taste off or wrong? Did you taste it at all? One thing is for sure, this off tasting food certainly did not make your meal enjoyable. It definitely did not make eating a pleasure. You probably ate enough food to address the hunger pangs and then that was all you ate.

Well what if this was also the case for severely Zinc Deficient Snow Dogs?

Singing A Song of Food

All food has a flavour or multiple flavours. Even dog food is formulated to have a flavour.  These flavours are called notes or tones.  Notes or food flavours hit on certain places of the tongue and send signals to the taste buds. These signals are then sent to the brain and the brain gives you feed back in the form of taste. Human food is developed to compliment the human taste palate. Dog food is created to please and entice the canid palate.

But what if a dog does not perceive all, or any, of the ” notes” in their food? If this were the case, a food  might taste very wrong, off, or even bad to him. If a dog does not taste anything when he is eating food, his brain might not be getting the signal that the substance placed in front of him is food that he can eat. His brain may not even be able to categorize this food as good, bad, or appropriate!

This would explain why these dogs ARE hungry but when presented with food after eating a small amount of food they stop eating. Additionally, there is a chance that since smell and taste are intricately intertwined, their sense of smell may also not be able to accurately identify this food substance to the brain as palatable food.

Finally we may have an answer that explains why no type of food seems to pique these dogs’ appetites. It is not the food that is the issue. It is their sense of taste and smell being affected by the Zinc Deficiency that is the problem.

What You Can Do To Help Your Dog

Understand that before your dog’s appetite can improve you have to bring up his daily Zinc levels. And since you cannot do this (yet) using foods naturally high in Zinc, at this time, you have to rely solely on adding elemental Zinc. And since every dog’s body functions differ, how Zinc behaves in their body and what form of Zinc is best utilized by your dog may vary tremendously. All you can do at this point is to try different formulations of Zinc to see which gives you the best results in your dog.

What Kind of Zinc To Try

Zinc tablets can be found in any store that sells vitamins. It is a commonly carried item. There is no special dog Zinc. Zinc is Zinc. It does the same job in both bodies.

The type of Zinc to try is either chelated, gluconate, or picolinate forms of Zinc. You can try using methionine ( as found in some many of the popular over the counter Zinc formulations) but not all dogs respond well enough to this form of Zinc. Additionally, these add-to-food Zinc preparations don’t end up effective because they end up competing in the stomach for absorption. While mild cases of Zinc Deficiency may respond to these products, severe cases most likely will not fully satisfy the higher Zinc requirement.

In severe cases you may have try one of the other Zinc formulations to see if you get a better result. For those professionals who give you the pat answer of  “elemental Zinc won’t work”, I found that sometimes these dogs just did not receive that memo. Try it anyway and see if it MIGHT just work for your dog.

Avoid: Zinc sulphate and Zinc oxide. These really are truly poor forms of Zinc and are not readily absorbed by the body. Interestingly Zinc oxide is the form of Zinc most often used in cheaply made foods to give you the illusion of it being a healthy food.

How Much Zinc Do I Give?

Really, there is no cookie-cutter standard answer to this question. Everything depends on your dog’s body and its ability to absorb adequate amounts of Zinc.

The best way to approach this issue is to pick one formulation of Zinc and begin by adding 25mgs of it to your dog’s diet. To keep Zinc from competing for absorption, give the dose about 3 to 4 hours after the last larger meal ( what ever that may be for your dog who is not eating well). If your dog is barely eating then this is less of a concern because your dog really does not have a large quantity of food it his stomach at any given time. Continue this dose for two weeks.

If no improvement is seen in the dog’s appetite, then after 2 weeks increase the dose to 50mgs  using the same Zinc. Try giving divided daily doses to keep from upsetting the stomach and also to help a deliver a more constant daily supply of Zinc. Watch for signs of improved appetite.

If there is still no improvement after 2 weeks, increase dosage to 75mgs, again in divided doses and watch for change.

In dogs  between 35 and 50 pounds I would not increase the daily Zinc dosage to more than 100mgs. Instead, change Zinc formulations to a different one and start from the beginning by giving a 25mgs dose and then wait for 2 weeks for an improvement. If you do not see an improvement keep incrementally increasing dosage until you reach 100mgs. If no improvement is seen then try the next formulation of Zinc until you have tried them all.

In the case of large Huskies and Malamutes, expect that it will take larger doses of Zinc to adequately supply this large dog’s body with Zinc. For dogs 75 pounds and over, the daily Zinc dosage can be increased up to 150 mgs but no more. While this amount is still well under the one time toxic levels, more is not always better.

For those who may be concerned, daily one time Zinc toxicity levels are as follows:

At 250 mgs, smaller dogs will vomit.

900 mgs is considered to be a one time single lethal dose.

So as you can see we are working well under the lethal toxicity levels.

No Guarantees

While there are no guarantees that this protocol will work for your dog, many Snow Dogs’ Zinc Deficiency issues and the accompanying symptom of anorexic eating patterns have been helped greatly by addressing all of the above mentioned issues. It certainly is worth trying them to see if they help even a small amount for your dog.

More Research Is Needed To Fully Understand

Please know that we here at Snow Dog Guru mean every word when we say, “Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.”  We here do what we do because we CARE about your dog and all the other Snow Dogs.

We work tirelessly to bring you cutting edge developments and sometimes we even take it upon ourselves to delve further into areas where Allopathic Medicine, has up till now, only shrugged its shoulders and given the answer, ” I don’t know.” Sorry, that is just not a good enough answer for a worried owner or a suffering Snow Dog. While there is nothing wrong with not knowing the answer, that should not mean that the medical community should stop looking for the answers.

Jhett

As many of you know, when one of my Huskies developed epilepsy at the young age of 14 months, I like many others, got the pat answer of, Breed Predisposition to a medical condition. But if epilepsy is not genetically linked then how and why is our breed disposed to these conditions? It was because of my Jhett and his condition, that I chose to delve further into this medical mystery and it is because of Jhett that I found the link between Zinc Deficiency and the host of other medical issues that commonly plague our breed of dog.

Today we bring you one more piece to this puzzle, that our Snow Dogs are not just being fussy eaters; they cannot properly taste their food due to Zinc Deficiency.

We vow to you to keep chipping away at this issue until ALL Snow Dogs are living healthier happier lives. The well being of our dogs should not be at the mercy of an Allopathic Medical Community who does understand the specialized needs of this breed of dog.

In the end I could not save my beloved Jhett, who succumbed to this condition in April 2014. He had massive cluster of 13 back to back seizures and died in my arms. He was gone in less than 30 minutes. I NEVER want this to be the experience for any of you so we here at Snow Dog Guru promise NEVER to give up trying to helping you and your dog by bringing you Breed Specific information about the health of your dog.

We promise.

The Energy Of Worry

Unquestionably, the worry associated with issue of picky eating and not eating does eventually permeate all areas of your everyday existence. You begin to dread feeding time. The longer your dog does not eat, the more you worry and even panic. You watch as your dog loses weight and despite your best efforts, nothing seems to help. It is easy to fall into a habit of fear and frustration over this issue.

Please know that your dog picks up on this fearful, worried, and frustrated energy. Dogs are masters at reading energy. If they sense that you are fearful, upset or frustrated, they will respond in kind. Try to be aware of your state of mind when it comes how your dog is behaving. Remember your dog  may not have any control over how he feels about food and eating. He is certainly not doing this to be difficult or to be diva. He may legitimately not be able to help himself.

Also, please remember to be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself about this. You did not cause this problem and chances are you have tried your very best to fix this problem. Think about it … if your Vet cannot figure out the cause of this issue, how are YOU supposed to know how to fix this? You have done the best that you can for your Snow Dog.

As always, we welcome your comments and questions regarding this topic. When we share our stories we may well be helping someone who is currently struggling with their Snow Dog.

Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. Helga Eyers on

    Hi Margot, am already following your articles and advice on the Siberian Husky FB page. Have just read all your articles about food, issues with eating and with deficiencies and what they can lead to. I have learnt so much already and continuo learn something new every day. Thank you so much for your passion for the lovely snow dogs, they really are one of a kind, and as you say, even vets often don’t understand them and their specific needs and traits and how to help them. Some things now fall into place after having read the side effects of Zinc deficiency, i.e disinterest in food. I had no idea that this affected their ability to taste, but a lot now makes sense. We have just started trying raw food and our Mishka loves it and can’t wait to get stuck in. I think this is the way forward, but she also needs to lose a bit of weight. Thank you for your dedication and all you help. Regards, Helga

  2. Thank you for your very kind and generous praise, Helga. I wish Mishka many happy healthy years of living. 🙂

  3. Hi Margot – FYI, the abbreviation for milligrams (plural) is just mg, not mgs. Using mg is correct for both singular and plural in the SI system of units (metric system). I know in the Imperial system used in the US we use lb and lbs so it is easy to confuse what to use in the plural form. Probably we scientists and engineers are the only ones who know all the rules.

  4. I’ve just discovered this page and it is amazing. This article is so great, if I wouldn’t stumble upon it, I might have never learned about Zinc deficiency. I have a husky mix rescue, who is very smart, very agile, great at all sports like freestyle frisbee and obedience, can do very complicated tricks like assembling a child pyramyd toy, but on the other hand – she have some serious fear issues, neurological problems, episodes of heavy fly catcher syndrome etc etc. She used to take psychotropic meds which made her a ghost of previous dog, so eventually I’ve switched those meds to heavy exercise which seem to work well. But she is also a crazy picky eater, yesterday I’ve made her your soup and though she ate it, she was stil behaving like eating is stressful and she tried to pick some elements over the other (what it is is not the case, she just randomly throws away some pieces). I’ll probably will sound weird, but I really hope it is the zinc deficiency and I hope that she’ll get better after replenishing it in her body. Thank you again so much! Best regards, Barbara

  5. Janice Bowman on

    Hi Margit: My question is two-fold. I recently adopted my approx 1 year old male husky, He is absolutely wonderful and typically healthy and energetic as can be. However, since day one and for the past 3 months since I adopted him on Feb 12, Archer has been hit with chronic diarrhea and loose stools. Until 3 days ago,he has never has a hard poop. I noticed Archer was going to be a finicky eater from day one after bringing several samples of high-end foods home that he stuck his nose up to. Surprisingly, I did find a food pretty quickly that he has consistently loved, Merrick Backcountry Raw with infused beef, rabbit and lamb. It is high in protein, is grain, soy, and wheat free, has a decent amount of good fats for his high-energy levels, has 1200 mg of glucosamine & 1200 mg chondroitin sulfate, and is gluten-free (which I am not convinced is necessarily a good thing). Since Archer, at 1, was completely untrained, I immediately began heavy duty training. I had to keep his exercise low for 3 weeks because he was neutered the day I took him home. That being said, I used food rewards from day one and his diarrhea did not concern me until it became chronic and went past the 3 week marker. When getting his stitches out I began working with a very well-respected veterinarian in Los Angeles and made my first mention of the issue. As stated, Archer is finicky with food, including all the different treats I bought, but when he likes something, he can go to town. Since I could not keep his interest with treats (he’d love one one day and the next snub it), I decided to try cooking just chicken and giving him that instead of all the bags of uneaten treats I had. This was the perfect solution – he never tires of chicken! So, the first day at the doctors, the vet decided that Archer should be placed on Flagyl as well as given, instead of kibble, a chicken, rice and cottage cheese diet. Archer happily ate the diet, but started having an even worse diarrhea problem. The doctor than decided to try and give Archer a de-worming medication to alleviate a possible parasite infestation, while going back on his normal Merrick kibble. Although his stools became slightly better, he was still having diarrhea or soft stools. After the double treatment of parasites was ruled out as the causation, the doctor than decided we should switch Archer to the Hills I/D dog food and give another go at Flagyl. Because I was willing to try anything to help my puppy and because I am not a vet, I decided to ignore my recognition of the recipe for the Hills I/D and give the $50/8lb bag a try (e.g. top ingredients: corn starch, corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, chicken BY-PRODUCT meal, pork & chicken-flavor….etc). Although Archer did actually eat the food for a few days, by the 5th and 6th day he completely stopped eating AND drinking water altogether. He lost all his energy and became almost unresponsive. When he ignored a piece of steak, I knew I had a serious problem and brought him into the emergency. The vet kept Archer for two days, keeping him on IV’s while running several tests that checked for EPI, cancer, liver & kidney diseases. All came out negative. Without a decisive reason for Archers issue, the doctor recommended that I keep Archer on the Hills I/D, while adding the Hills I/D wet food and to begin taking Clindamycin for 3 weeks. As of right now, I still have 3 days worth of Clindamycin to give Archer, however after seeing his diarrhea worsen again, I went back to the Merrick. Additionally, I stopped giving Archer any treats, including cooked chicken, and began adding brown rice and ground-up chia seeds to his diet. As I mentioned in the beginning of this, 3 days ago, Archer had his first hard poop! Yay! But, this is at the cost of not being given treats and adding food that will absorb excess water. Archer was dehydrated almost 3 weeks ago, so I am not sure that my additives, although working, is exactly beneficial. And, I want to be able to keep training him. Although he eats his food, he spits it out if I try to give it to him as a treat. Yes, I am at my wits end! I do not want to keep my pup on medicine after medicine, and I additionally do not want to keep switching up foods all the time. I am now wondering if Archer is possibly allergic or sensitive to chicken, since even though his Merrick doesnt have it in there, the Hills I/D did AND I give it to him as a treat reward during training – thus, chicken would be the only consistent item he has been eating since I got him. In a couple of days, I am going to try and take the rice and chia seeds out of his diet. If he is still having hard poops after that than problem solved, however if not, do I keep giving him rice and chia seeds or do I try to yet again find another dog food? Do I try to reintroduce chicken again since he seems to love it, and it may not be the cause at all? My doctor suggested next step is a steroid, followed by a specialist visit, as well as an endoscopy. Is there anything you can suggest to me for a finicky eater who has chronic diarrhea without a diagnosed reason? Like I said, other than the diarrhea and the one lethargic visit to the vet, he is a happy and healthy dog. I rule out stress, unless it is body stress from not being able to process foods. We roller-blade 3-6 miles per day and he plays non-stop with other dogs at the park for hours straight. Even though he has diarrhea, he has actually gained a couple pounds in our 3 months together… any help would be much appreciated. Thanks again, and I do apologize for such a long post.

    • Hi Janice, I hope you and Archer are feeling better. I just read your comment stating Archer’s issue and although it was a while back, I couldn’t help but relate and would like to help. I got my Siberian husky puppy Zeus last year November 2015 at 9 weeks old. Zeus had solid stools for about 3 weeks after I brought him home. I was not happy with his quality of food at the time and decided to go for a better brand -James Wellbeloved puppy lamb and rice ( a British brand as we live in UK). Then the loose stools and diarrhoea began from December until end of March! When I first took him to the vet she suspected him of colitis, which is a chronic issue among dogs. She said to experiment with food so we can rule out colitis and allergies. One night in early spring, Zeus accidentally ate chocolate. Me and my whole family panicked and rushed him to the emergency. The vet concluded he wasn’t in need of induced committing and he’ll be okay. I took the time to mention his loose poops. The vet said something I’d never thought of before as obvious as it may be, he said to stop switching Zeus’s food as it takes a dog 6-8 weeks to fully adapt to a new diet, be it kibble or wet food. I finally put Zeus on hypoallergenic puppy kibble from Arden Grange. As Zeus approached the age of 1 in September, I very slowly put him on a premium kibble brand called Acana, he’s on the adult large breed- free run poultry, wild flounder range. It is a Canadian kibble, the same company also produces the brand Orijen. The latter is more expensive and almost the same as Acana. They are both grain free and biologically appropriate for Snow Dogs. Zeus has had healthy poops since with a great level of energy. His coat, nails, and teeth also look great. You can see his nice tucked in husky waist and is at a prime weight for his age at 25.8 kg. maybe if you keep on his diet for longer than 8 weeks it may help. I’ve also been thinking of switching to raw for a while I am researching as much as I can so we can have a smooth transition later on. I hope this has helped you and Archer, I wish you the best of luck!

      • Janice Bowman on

        Hi Soma! Thank you for your reply. It is funny reading my rant from last year; it really feels so long ago that I was crazily seeking an answer. After my post Archer continued having hard poops on Merrick, chia seeds and rice. I followed up with my plan to take out the chia seeds and rice from Archers food. When taking the filler/absorbers out I replaced them by adding 50 mg of zinc piccolinate by Blue Bonnet. After a month of hard poops, approximately April/May, I took out the zinc and slowly transitioned from Merrick to Acana Regional Grasslands. It worked!

        I found Acana when researching the 5-star dog foods: https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/5-star/
        Per the advice in other articles by Snow Dog Guru, “The Snow Dog Appropriate Diet”, I found that the four recipes under the Regionals brand by Acana pretty much aligned exactly with the seasonal changes/nutritional needs Huskies may require. I kept Archer on the Grasslands Regionals recipe through September and switched him to the Appalachians Ranch in October. I am considering switching him to the Regionals Wild Atlantic this month. I like the idea of switching recipes with the seasons; it just makes sense that different ingredients may be wanting/lacking as the year changes.

        Anyway, I am totally with you on Acana. Whatever the combination of things that may have caused Archers problems before, they are no longer an issue. I believe Acana has directly contributed to the long-term recovery of whatever issues he may have had and is now keeping him happy, healthy and a hard-pooper 🙂 I just hope that Acana will stay true to their hard-earned and well-established brand. I have already seen slight changes in the USA Acana recipes since I have become a customer. They say it is because they want to keep the ingredients fresher, but I hope it is not because they want to start lowering quality for cost-efficiency. USA has the worst food regulations and are product based vs. process, so fresher means nothing to me if it is not actually “good” ingredients. So far I have nothing to be concerned about other than I am now paying a little more for the 25lb bag vs the 28.6 lbs bag I was getting before. Hoping to always recommend Acana, and I am always happy to have a healthy pup!

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