GROWTH AND NUTRITION
If you are ever medically concerned about your dog's weight, health, or diet, please consult your veterinarian. These recommendations are not to supersede your vets recommendations.
GROWTH AND WEIGHT
Alaskan Klee Kai can be notorious for their selective and seemingly picky eating habits. It's important to know that many Alaskan Klee Kai, as long as they are otherwise healthy, take time to physically mature. You may notice your Alaskan Klee Kai around 8 months to 2 years looks thinner or underweight than most. This can be perfectly normal and is not always a cause of concern. There are Alaskan Klee Kai that are “grazers”, who just pick at their food throughout the day. Alaskan Klee Kai can take up to 3 years to physically mature. When a dog physically matures, they begin to fill out, putting more healthy fat and muscle on.
Growth plays a big role in weight and eating habits. You may notice that there will be periods in the first 2-3 years of your dog's life that they eat more than usual or eat less than usual. This generally has to do with growth spurts. When your puppy is growing or going through a growth spurt, they will be interested in eating more to compensate for their body burning and needing those extra calories. Just like with humans!
On the flip side, once a growth spurt is slowing down, so will their appetite. This is perfectly normal if the dog is otherwise alert, active, and in good health. If you have an Alaskan Klee Kai that looks like a “string bean”, as long as he/she is alert, active, firm stools, and is otherwise healthy – this can be perfectly normal until the Alaskan Klee Kai reaches physical maturity.
Additionally, if your dog is at a good weight, but is only picking at its food, That's OK too. This is not a reason to switch or change their food. Your dog is self regulating and eating how much he/she needs to maintain a healthy weight. Naturally if you put new food in front of your dog, it's likely going to be interested and eat it excitedly. It's something new! It's just like if you were to give him/her a yummy treat. You can unintentionally create a “picky eater” if you frequently change your dog's food. This will teach them that if they hold out long enough, you will offer up something new.
If you want to offer your dog variety, that's absolutely OK too! Many high quality brands of dog food offer various proteins and flavors. To avoid an upset stomach, stick with a high quality brand you like that has multiple choices of proteins so you can switch it up to offer your dog a rotation of varying flavors in their diet. When you stick with the same brand, if a high quality brand, the ingredients they use are generally being sourced from the same places and they are using their blend of vitamins and minerals, having similar nutritional values.
FINDING A HEALTHY FOOD & LEARNING HOW TO READ INGREDIENTS
When looking into dog foods, this can be very confusing. There are many different types of diets and even more different brands to choose from. Always do your research, whether you are feeding a kibble(dry food), preparing a home cooked meal, or doing a raw diet. Your main concern should be if the food you are going to be feeding is nutritionally balanced and healthy.
When you walk into a pet store, it can be overwhelming to see all the different brands and types of dog foods. Low quality foods tend to be cheaper in cost. What makes them low quality is the ingredients used in the food. If you look at an ingredient list and see things like corn, wheat, soy, or by-products in the first 5 ingredients, this is a food you should likely avoid. Additionally if the food doesn't specify the type of protein it is using, like “meat” or “poultry”, those are red flags as well. A higher quality food will always specifically name the exact proteins being used in their food, like “beef” or “chicken”. If they do not, then it raises the question of the quality control in their production of the food. If they aren't sure what meat is going into their food at the time their food is cooked and packaged, it is likely not a company you want to trust with keeping your dog healthy.
The list of ingredients on dog food is a very good place to start when researching which food will be an ideal choice for your dog. Ingredients are listed by weight, before they are cooked. This is important to know and understand, because you can easily be misled into believing a food is meat based, when it actually isn't. You also have to be aware of ingredient splitting. Below, we will use a Chicken grain free food ingredient list as an example, with the first 5 ingredients.
DOG FOOD INGREDIENTS: Chicken, Lentils, Pea Flour, Chickpeas, Pea Protein
At first glance, we see that chicken is the first ingredient. It is becoming common knowledge that that's what we want to see in a food, Meat as the first ingredient. Ideally, this is what we want, but unfortunately companies will use ingredient splitting to deceive how much meat is actually in a bag of dog food. Remember, these are listed in order of weight before they are cooked. Next you see 4 ingredients that are very similar. These 4 ingredients also serve a similar purpose in making the food reach its nutritional value goals. In this case, for example; Lentils, Pea Flour, Chickpeas, and Pea protein all contribute to the fiber and protein percentage in the dog's food. This is called ingredient splitting. If the company were to pick only one of these ingredients, like Lentils for the purpose of raising the food's protein and fiber, it would bump Chicken down lower on the ingredient list and meat would no longer be the first ingredient. Lentils would become the first ingredient. This is because they would need significantly more Lentils to make up for the lack of Pea Flour, Chickpeas, and Pea protein. However, they want you to see chicken as the first ingredient, so they add multiple similar ingredients that serve the same purpose. Now if you combine the amount of Lentils, Pea Flour, Chickpeas, and Pea Protein together, it would weigh more than the first Ingredient, which is chicken. Making chicken not the true dominant ingredient or base of the food.
For example if we add the percentage of each ingredient as shown below:
DOG FOOD INGREDIENTS:
Chicken(25%), Lentils(15%), Pea Flour(15%), Chickpeas(15%), Pea Protein(10%)
This food uses 25% chicken. However, if we add up the next 4 ingredients that are put into the food for the same purpose, it adds up to 55% of the food. The food is actually plant based, not meat based. The reason these types of ingredients are used is to up the protein or fiber in the dog food, but being much more cost effective rather than the dog food company having to use actual meats to achieve the same end percentage. It becomes deceitful.
CHOOSING A HEALTHY FOOD
Now that you understand how to read the ingredients list of a dog food, your goal is to find a food that offers more of a meat balance and less fillers or ingredients that are used in place of meat. The more meat you see in an ingredient list, the better. Cost is something that most people need to keep in mind, but that doesn't limit you to only low quality dog food. There are plenty of budget friendly dog food brands that are healthy to feed your dog. Remember to research each company you are considering. Look into how long they've been producing dog food for, how many recalls they have had, and look closely at their ingredients.
Also don't be fooled into believing that the more expensive a dog food is, the better it must be. That is absolutely not true. There are brands of dog food that will cost a small fortune, but still are just as unhealthy as a low quality food. This comes down to advertising and marketing. If you are ever unsure of what an ingredient is or what it's purpose is, look it up! Today we have the advantage of being as informed as possible. Things like BHA(A bad chemical used in foods and treats) and artificial colors(These are not only unhealthy, but are only used to make the food or treat appealing to people, not the dogs), should have no place in dog food or treats.
WHAT ABOUT TREATS?
What about Treats? You still want to pay attention to what you are purchasing for your dog when it comes to treats, whether they are for training or snacks. Read ingredients and stick with brands you are comfortable with using. This doesn't have to be the same brand as your dog's food. Avoid food and treats that are made in China.
You can also make your own treats! Get creative and have fun with it. There are seemingly endless possibilities with making your own treats for your dog. Things like jerky, biscuits, sweet potatoes, blueberries, eggs. Look into recipes or ideas for homemade treats and you'll likely find that you already have the ingredients laying around your house. The best part is, you know exactly what is going into your dog's treats.
HOME COOKED AND HOME PREPARED RAW DIETS
These are two GREAT options for your dog. It's very important to understand what your dog's dietary needs are and be sure the meals you are feeding are nutritionally balanced. Join groups or ask for guidance on meals you are making from scratch. The benefits of these diets are significant and despite popular belief, can be cost friendly too! There is more to it than giving your dog a piece of cooked turkey or raw beef. You need to be sure you are balancing your dog's diet appropriately with things like fiber, iron, calcium, (or organ, bone) etc. which meat muscle alone can not provide.
PURCHASING COOKED OR RAW PREMADE DIETS
This is another excellent and healthy option if you do not have the time to cook or prepare meals yourself. In these diets you may see ingredients like bone, gizzards, organs, etc. These are perfectly healthy and beneficial to your dog when prepared the correct way.
When in doubt, talk with your breeder! Your breeder should be there for you and will know what foods are likely to work best for your individual dog. This is because your breeder should know your dogs family and lines, what has worked in the past and what hasn't worked in the past. What your dog may be more sensitive to based on how his or her relatives handled different types of foods, if they do better on a higher protein diet or lower protein diet etc.