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11:11 PM Sat, Nov. 17th

Powers: Make mealtime special

Mealtime is always special for our dogs. (Christy Powers/Courtesy)

Mealtime is always special for our dogs. (Christy Powers/Courtesy)

Do your dogs sit and watch you fix their meals? Mine do. They want to make sure I do it right. Mealtime is special at our house. I think it should be. But if it is going to be special, it has to be good, and healthy!

The pet food industry has changed so dramatically and is still constantly changing and improving. (However, there are still some very bad choices of pet food being sold today.) Besides the basic kibble, which has been around forever, we now have raw, freeze dried and frozen options. And there are those who prepare their pet’s food from scratch at home. That is great if the resulting meal is nutritionally balanced to meet the needs of the age and activity level of the dog or cat.

My dogs eat twice a day - as do I. My BoJay is not much of a breakfast eater, but I keep trying to entice him with a small amount of something yummy. What he does not eat is sealed and refrigerated. At dinner time, the leftovers are heated and fresh kibble and tasty toppers are added.

The choices of delicious and nutritious toppers today is amazing. Most of them have to be reconstituted. In a little dish, add warm water to the powder, stir, and set the timer. Some take as long as 15 minutes. But you can be sure the hungry pups are listening and waiting. Naturally, you are talking to them all this time about how wonderful this dinner is going to be and how much they will love it.

With reluctant eaters, I recommend putting the food dishes down and then setting a timer. Twenty minutes is good. If they are not engaged in eating when the timer rings, pick up the dishes and put them away. Making mealtime special means that when we put the dishes down, there will be tasty and nutritious things to devour and the opportunity to enjoy this tasty treat is limited, so it is good to take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy it.

Leaving the food dish out and available all day does not form good habits and is not healthy. Free feeding, as it is called, encourages nibbling. Just as potato chips sitting out all day get yucky, our pet’s kibble becomes yucky also, and the quality and nutritional value deteriorates quickly, particularly if it is humid. (My brother left dry food out for his dog and some clever mice decided that it was pretty tasty!)

Just imagine having a five year old child in the house. Would you ever put a plate of food on the table and say to him, “whenever you feel like eating, it is here”? Not very likely.

We used to believe that our pups and kitty cats needed dry kibble to keep their teeth free of tarter and in good shape. That theory has been debunked - along with a bunch of other theories. Dogs really do not chew their kibble as you can see if they ever upchuck!

But most of us do feed kibble as a base. Choosing the right one involves going to the pet food store and hopefully finding someone versed in pet nutrition and also doing a lot of studying and searching on our own. There is a ton of information available, we just need to find it with a skilled eye.

Nutritious toppers can change a mediocre meal into a tasty and highly nutritious feast. And the preparation can have the four legged crew eagerly awaiting the ring of the timer.

Just like us, our dogs need a definite mealtime and they need a top quality, nutritious and tasty meal. And it needs to be special!

Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at cpowerspak@gmail.com.