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Feeding Your Cairn
 The Well Nourished Cairn
  The Commercial Foods
  Home Made Foods
 Table Scraps and Bones
The goal of proper nutrition in the Cairn is to achieve and maintain a well-nourished and healthy dog. How best to do this is a complex and controversial topic. Today there are a large number of foods and diets available for dogs. Each has its proponents and detractors. Dog food manufacturers have poured millions of dollars into research and advertising their products. Thousands of Breeders have developed their own theories. The purpose of this paper is to work through some of these, explain the choices, and provide recommendations. We will begin by presenting the things that are in general agreement.

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  Well Nourished Cairn
First, the dog isnít a pure carnivore. Neither is it a vegetarian. Like us, the dog is an omnivore, naturally evolved to thrive on a diet of mixed animal and some vegetable products. A proper diet will contain a mixture of the protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals that are required to keep the dog healthy and well nourished. While there are a few people who believe in pure meat or vegetarian diets, these people are not highly regarded and their theories are not supported by fact.

Second, there is a general agreement on the appearance of a well-nourished Cairn. It will be energetic and clear-eyed. Its coat will be well pigmented, thick, and somewhat shiny. The coat, however, will not be as glossy as is seen in some other breeds. It will produce well formed, solid stools and a minimum of flatulence. It will be firmly muscled. At correct weight, the Cairnís ribs will be easily felt. The hipbones will not so easily be felt.

Third, dietary requirements will vary according to the age of the dog, whether it is neutered or not, its level of activity, and its size. Nursing mothers also have special dietary requirements to maintain them in good condition. Growing puppies need to be fed more frequently than do adult dogs. They also need proportionately more protein, fat, and calcium than do the adults. Old dogs require less protein and fat than do puppies and adults in their prime. Neutered animals generally require fewer calories than do intact dogs. Highly active dogs need more calories than do sedentary dogs. A large Cairn will require more food than does a small one. All of the above must be somewhat modified according to the dogís individual metabolism. Dogs with more efficient metabolisms require fewer calories than do those less able to make use of the nutrients they take in. This individual variation can be so large that some working dogs with less efficient metabolisms require special, high nutrition, supplements to maintain their weights.

Fourth, the dog neednít be fed as frequently as do humans. The dog evolved as a hunter making kills on an irregular basis. They are adapted to a cycle of starving and bingeing without developing the toxicityís that humans are prone to under similar circumstances. Although it isnít harmful to feed a dog several times a day, it isnít necessary either.

Fifth, most dogs will happily eat the same thing day after day. It isnít necessary to provide the variety that humans prefer. There is, however, a school of thought that believes in switching foods from time to time. This is based upon the suspicion that no single food is complete enough to provide optimal nutrition to any dog forever.

All of this leads to the question "What should I feed my Cairn?" What foods are good? What are to be avoided?

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  The Commercial Food
By far, the most popular foods are those produced by the commercial manufacturers. There is good reason for this. Dog food manufacturers have spent years of effort and millions of dollars researching nutrition in dogs. They are the acknowledged experts in the field. These foods are also highly convenient and relatively inexpensive. Furthermore, in some ways, they are safer and more reliable than the foods supplied to humans. The government regulates some dog foods for safety and consistency more than they do for some human foods.

This does NOT, however, mean that all commercial dog foods are good for your Cairn. These manufacturers are in the business, first and foremost, to make money. They can increase their profits by using cheaper, less healthful (but permissible), ingredients. Profits are also increased when the shelf lives of their products are increased. Some manufacturers have used questionable preservatives for this purpose.

None of this, though, is reason to avoid commercial dog foods. There are many on the market that are excellent. The trick is to determine which they are. Generally, the higher priced foods are the better ones. The cheaper ones, mostly carried in supermarkets, are usually less desirable. Beyond that, the best way is to read the list of ingredients.

All commercial dog foods contain nutrients, minerals, and "fillers" (to provide some nutrition and increase volume). As in human food products, ingredients are listed in order of decreasing percentages. I.e. there is more of the first ingredient than there is of the second and so on down the list. Some ingredients are more desirable than others.

When analyzing the ingredients, first look at the grains. Corn is the cheapest filler used in dog food. It is also more difficult to digest than are other commonly used ingredients. In Cairns and in other Terriers it is associated with a higher risk of food allergies leading to skin disease. The existence of corn, then, and how high it is in the list of ingredients, is a big clue in analyzing a foodís quality. When selecting a dog food, avoid corn, especially when it is the first ingredient. We donít used foods that contain any corn at all. Rice has the reputation of being the least allergenic grain supplement, with wheat, oatmeal, and bran falling somewhere in the middle.

Next, look at the animal products. Lamb, chicken, turkey, beef and pork are commonly used. Lamb and chicken are reputedly the least allergenic and the lowest in calories. When looking at these ingredients, look for the word "by-products". This is also a big clue. If, for example, you see "Chicken" as an ingredient, the product contains chicken meat. If you see "Chicken By-Products", the food could contain ground chicken beaks and feathers. These by-products are cheaper and less nutritious. Foods containing by-products are to be avoided but may be ok if they are well down on the list of ingredients.

The third thing to examine is the "Guaranteed Analysis". This lists the percentages of protein, fat, fiber, moisture, minerals, and vitamins contained in the food. These give a measure of how high or low calorie the food is and also how well balanced it is. Any good dog food will be well balanced so a complete understanding of the vitamin and mineral analysis isnít necessary for most people whose dogs are healthy. People whose dogs have metabolic disorders or some other diseases, however, are advised to consult with their Vets regarding these ingredients to determine which, if any, are either helpful or harmful to their dogs. The other measures, though, are generally useful to all Owners. The protein and fat percentages give you a measure of how high in calories the food is. When you look at commercial dog foods you will see an almost bewildering variety of foods labeled "Puppy", "Regular", "High Performance", "Senior", and others. The major difference between these is often just the caloric rating. Regular food is higher in calories; Senior is lower. You can often maintain your dogís optimal weight simply by switching between higher and lower calorie food as required.

There is continuing discussion of canned dog food versus dry kibble. All research agrees that a good, dry kibble will provide all the nutrition and calories that your Cairn needs. Also, it is generally agreed that a pure canned dog food diet provides more protein and fat than is usually needed. Our preference is to feed mostly dry with a little canned for extra flavor. While this isnít really necessary, the dogs much prefer the mixture to straight dry kibble.

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  Home Made Foods
Many people prefer to create their own dog foods. The two currently most popular are home made stews and the BARF diet. A variety of ingredients are used in the stews. Most popular are meats like lamb, turkey, and chicken, and vegetables such as carrots and broccoli. They usually also contain grains with rice being the most popular. Those who prefer this approach, feel that in this way they can fully control the quality and list of ingredients. Note that onions, a common ingredient in human stews, are not recommended for dogs. While a small amount is probably permissible, large quantities of onions have been shown to be dangerous.

The BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet is a relatively new concept that has a number of proponents. It consists of feeding raw meat and bones, and raw vegetables to dogs. Raw chicken wings are especially popular. It is felt that raw bones are not harmful and that by serving raw foods, no nutritive values are lost through cooking. Users of this diet also report that their dogsí stools are smaller and odorless. One word of warning here is that if you feed raw chicken to your dog be very careful about the source of the meat. Salmonella is prevalent in chicken and can be disastrous to your dog. Unless you can be absolutely certain of your source, all chicken should be cooked.

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  Table Scraps
Although all dogs love these items, many Breeders and virtually all Vets feel that dogs should never be fed table scraps or bones. There is good reason for this. Dogs fed exclusively on table scraps tend to be overfed and undernourished. The table scraps fed typically contain too much fat and protein and not enough vitamins and minerals. Bones caught in throats or that punctured stomachs and intestines have killed many a dog.

Given all this, however, we admit to feeding our dogs both table scraps and bones. We do it very carefully, though. No dog ever gets more than a morsel at the table. The vast majority of their diets are of the recommended variety. Bones are restricted to two varieties. The first of these is vertebral chicken bones. These include the necks, ribs, and backs. Unlike the skeletal bones ( legs, thighs, and wings ), the vertebral bones crush rather than splinter when eaten. Other than an occasional fragment caught between the teeth, this has never caused any problems. We also give large beef bones. These must be large enough that a Cairn canít splinter them. Not only is this a special treat, but gnawing on such bones is a good tooth cleaner and plaque remover.

Although we donít recommend this to everyone, we feel that there is a safe middle ground in this controversy.

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Properly nourishing your Cairn is one of the most important things that you can do for it. A well-nourished Cairn will live a longer, happier, and healthier life. At no time in history has more been known about proper canine nutrition nor have there ever been more good foods available. This leads to the happy situation where it has never been easier to achieve this most important goal.

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