Caesar can’t understand why “cow” doesn’t get more than grains in his diet!

Healthy Treats

There are so many treats available for dogs but of course I look for what I believe are the healthier choices.  I like to stick to things that have only a few, natural ingredients in them and ones that are made in Canada if possible (since we know how much controversy surrounds some imported foods).  Some time ago I came across some “chicken jerky”-like treats which contained only chicken in them and had a wonderful “Canadian quality checked certified laboratories” stamp on them and of course Caesar loved them… but soon after, he got significant itching of his skin.  I thought maybe it was just a coincidence (although I only give him one “new” food or treat over a few days), so I decided to continue with these treats.  The itching got worse.  So I stopped the new jerky treats and wouldn’t you know it, the itching improved and then was gone in just a few days.  I looked more carefully at the package I had bought and saw that although there was only chicken in the ingredients, the food had been irradiated so humans were advised to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water after giving them to their dogs.  What?!  If my hands are vulnerable to this irradiation how could my dog not be?  I used to buy sweet potato chews for him but have noticed the same itching reaction. Perhaps they were also irradiated…

So I did a search on irradiated dog treats and found quite the controversy surrounding this issue.  I even came across this NBC news article which is worth reading:

I have since that time made my own chicken-bites and sweet potato treats for Caesar although I will still buy some non-irradiated cookies or yogurt treats for Caesar.

But I don’t want Caesar to be getting too many cookies.  I like him to get fruits and veggies into his diet regularly and even though I do use a lot of veggies in the meals that I prepare for him, I decided it’s time to create healthier treats for my fur-baby.  So I have started making chips-for-dogs, or as I like to call them “Wag Bags” — because Caesar does love them (of course he loves most treats)!  I am making 3 varieties at this time: sweet potato, kale and beet chips.

These crunchy/chewy snacks are antioxidant-rich, good for his teeth because of their texture, and good for my soul in knowing that he’s getting some great sources of vitamins and minerals from treats that he loves so much.

In my next post, I will share with you the benefits of these treats on the canine body so that you can look for similar nutrients to get into your dog!  Pictures to come soon of my own treats — $5/bag — what a tasty gift of health for your dog!!  Happy Holidays everyone!

“We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare, and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has ever made.” —Author: M. Acklam

Basic Nutrition

Okay, so you know about some of the potential health risks for miniature schnauzers and you’re wondering what kind of foods to feed your loved puppy or adult dog.

Here is what I have found to be most useful:

1. Protein!!!  Good sources of protein include fish, lamb, chicken, duck and beef.  High quality specific proteins are most important, with some kind of specific “meat” or “specific meat meal” (listed as salmon meal or lamb meal etc) being the first on the list, and not a by-product. So you can look for “lamb” or “lamb meal”, “chicken” or “chicken meal”, etc. listed in the ingredients list. Please note that seeing the words “meat meal” is not a good sign — this could mean anything (yes, anything) — which is too generic to trust as nutritious sources of protein.  Also remember that whole meat (beef, chicken, duck, lamb etc) contains a lot of actual water by weight, so if the first ingredient is whole lamb or duck, and not lamb meal or duck meal, then you need to look for at least one or two other animal proteins early in the ingredients list, with at least one also preferably being a meal such as chicken meal or salmon meal, etc. Remember that ingredients of the highest quantities are listed first and when whole lamb/duck/chicken is used in the food, it’s weighed with the water content included (this is not the same as having the same weight of dry protein).

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I do make most of Caesar’s food now.  From meals to treats; however, for meals I also include dry kibble with ingredients that I am happy with to encourage healthy teeth and gums.  Many holistic brands are good to use even as complete food for miniature schnauzers (I like to see 20 – 30% protein in a dog food and fat from 7 – 12% — since we also supplement with additional essential fatty acids which I will explain in a later post).

2.  Grains that I have found useful/acceptable for Caesar are brown rice, oats and barley.  Wheat is often an allergen in humans and can be for dogs too.

3.  Fats that are best to work with (in my opinion) are: salmon oil, flaxseed oil, flaxseed meal and/or  coconut oil.  Again, these are oils that we also know are healthy for humans.

4. FRUIT: Caesar absolutely loves fruit and we love the additional vitamins that he acquires from fruit.  We like to give him blueberries, strawberries, apples, pears, watermelon, papaya, and his all-time favourite — mangos (see picture on nutrition page)!  What’s important to remember is that fruit contains sugars and excess sugars contribute to diseases like diabetes (which is also related to pancreatic health) so it’s best to give small quantities of fruit for the best digestion of it.  If your miniature schnauzer is anything like Caesar, he/she will love these treats and they can be used fresh or dried for great training treats too 🙂

What to AVOID:

Equally important in mini schnauzer health (maybe all dogs) is what to avoid to encourage good health for your dog.

The most important things to avoid are: meat by-products, poultry by-products,  “meat meal” in the ingredient list (remember that meat meal could potentially contain anything such as diseased or dead/dying animals, including the possibility of euthenised pets as well as a legally-acceptable or allowable percentage of various chemicals and toxins.  Soy and corn (both are often the cause of various food sensitivities) and cancers from estrogenic-compounds in soy are very common in humans.  Of course it’s good to also avoid artificial flavours, artificial colors, BHA, and BHT.

Unacceptable foods:

Onions, garlic,chocolate, any kind of alcohol and caffeine, chocolate, and raisins and grapes are all unacceptable foods to feed dogs — some more toxic than others but all of these are unhealthy (sometimes life-threatening) for your dog! If you are reading this, you know that the internet is a wonderful resource — if you are wanting to try/share a new food with your dog, look it up first to see if it’s safe or not — when in doubt, just don’t feed it!  The short-term satisfaction to both you and your dog is not worth any health problems and grief that can arise from unsafe food choices.

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”
~ Mark Twain

Hope this info is helpful to you — more to come soon,

Dr. Menen


19 responses »

  1. john ryan says:

    Hey Dr Menen,
    This question may be a little off-topic, I can really see how much time you put into your posts. I’m a blogger too, and I know how difficult it can be to make time for writing sometimes. Bookmarked and will share.
    Nice One!

  2. Awesome website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about in
    this article? I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get comments from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

    • Dr. Menen says:

      Hi and thanks for your feedback. There are quite a few online community “forums” you can check out — of course any/all of these will have good and maybe not-so-good recommendations/advice. Since I don’t want to endorse any particular forum as I can’t keep up with each thread/conversation, I would recommend searching “dog food nutrition forums” in a web search. Hope this helps you.
      Dr. Menen

  3. Nancy says:

    How much coconut oil can I safely give my Schnauzer. My concern is they are so prone to pancreatitis from too much fat.

    • Dr. Menen says:

      Hello Nancy,

      I would encourage you to be careful about “too much” coconut (or any other) oils or fats. Even the same breed can tolerate different amounts (just like different people can handle different amounts of even healthy supplements/foods). And then it depends on how, or for what purpuse you’re using the coconut oil. For itchy ears, you can put a few drops into each ear; for skin itchiness you can use about one teaspoon or one tablespoon (depending on how much your dog is absorbing through skin and fur) applied topically (massaged into the skin ideally) — I’d say you could do this daily for weeks to months since the absorption into the bloodstream will be low through the skin. If you’d like to pour some coconut oil into food regularly for your schnauzer to get internal benefits (which can also help external symptoms) — I’d recommend half a teaspoon twice a day poured over his/her food for a few months, then take a break, then give again for a few months. This likely will not challenge the liver/pancreas enough for any pancreatic symptoms. Of course, I am thinking that you have a miniature schnauzer as standard and giant schnauzers would likely be able to have a bit more.

      Remember however, that different dogs have different sensitivities to foods or supplements. If you notice your dog’s bowel movements are looking pasty, runny, or change colour (very light/clay-coloured especially) the coconut oil might not be the right supplement for him/her.

      Hope this helps you!
      Dr. Menen

  4. Lila says:

    How about making home dog food with turkey meat? I am wondering because you did not mentioned it on your list of meats and that is usually what I buy for my pups.

  5. Judy Montgomery Chartrand says:

    I enjoyed your article. I have been using this type of diet for a while now, and the coconut oil. My Mini Schnauzer has continual ear infections, and after a number of years, we finally determined the cause was a food allergy. I have tried so many different foods for him, and have discovered Rice is a problem. But there is something else as well, and I’m not sure what it is. I feed the grain free dry food, but I mix veggies in with it, as well as chicken, beef, Salmon, ect…and sometimes they get the 5 grains (barley, oatmeal, flax seed….) mixed in as well. No Wheat, or corn.

    I make my own dog food, as well, and treats, but I am finding I have less time to do so now.

    I have been using the coconut oil drops in his ears. I also, use the apple cider vinegar rinse. We have used every Vet ointment there is but not one has been beneficial.
    I am planning to be more persistent with the Coconut oil, and see if we will get some results from it. The Mini Schnauzer is the most wonderful dog I have ever owned, they are beautiful, intelligent, and great companions, but suffer from many illness, which is heart breaking. I want my Schnauzer to be healthy and happy.

    • Dr. Menen says:

      Hello Judy,
      Sounds like you’ve tried some good things to try to clear your Mini Schnauzer’s ear infections. I hope that the coconut oil will help. I have learned that chicken can be a sensitivity for many dogs, so maybe avoiding chicken in your Schnauzer’s diet for a couple of months will help a little (fish, beef and lamb seem to have less sensitivity issues). Adding a half-teaspoon of fish oils (omega 3) onto meals twice per day for a few months would also be a good strategy that might help as well. If you give these ideas a try for a few months and if you are still seeing regular ear infections, please do write again and I will suggest a couple of other ideas for you to try. Of course, if you see improvement (less frequent ear infections or none at all) I would also love to hear from you!
      Thanks for your comments. I also think that Mini Schnauzers are absolutely wonderful and I hope we can all help our own (dogs of all breeds) stay as happy and healthy as possible!
      Dr. Menen

  6. Anne says:

    Hi Dr. Menen,
    What a wonderful and informative website you have here.

    Our 7 year old male mini schnauzer went thru an emergency bladder stone (calcium oxalates) operation 2 years ago. After that he has been on Hills Diet (dry) supplemented with Potassium Citrate and extra water mixed with his food. Unfortunately he has developed new stones. After carefully following the recommended diet that was supposed to prevent the formation of new stones that was really discouraging news and lead me to suspect that this diet is not working for him. Could you recommend a home cooked diet/recipe we could try? I found an article online mentioning Lysimachia-3 as a herbal supplement that would help in treating the stones – what are your thoughts on that?

    With Thanks,

    • Dr. Menen says:

      Hello Anne,

      Thank-you for your positive comment about this blog and for your question too.

      I just looked up the Hills Prescription Diet for Canine Urinary Tract Health — I’m not sure if this was the one prescribed/suggested for your mini schnauzer, but it looks like it is that company’s recommended choice for urinary tract health (which includes kidney stones). Let me know if it is, or email me the specific name of the food your dog was recommend and I can let you know my thoughts on whether the ingredients are helpful or not for your dog.

      For now, I certainly believe that cooking your own foods for your dog would be gentler on his system and for long term health. Has your dog also received any prescription veterinary medication to help treat/prevent kidney stones (since that is often when Potassium Citrate is also recommended?) — just curious since I think you could get good citrate into his diet through just adding about one half teaspoon of lemon juice to his food daily. But I wouldn’t want you to stop the Potassium Citrate if there is also another reason your Vet may have recommended it. As for the Lysimachia-3 — even though I focus on using Chinese Medicine in my practice, this is not a product that I’ve ever worked with for my patients, so I don’t have any personal experience with its effectiveness. However, if you were to use this product it’s important for you to know you would need to keep your dog on the Potassium Citrate since this herb is a diuretic and with increased urination, potassium levels can become depleted in a dog (or human) which can lead to further health complications.

      I do believe your best plan for now would include changing the nutrition. If you do work with any kibble choices, try to avoid corn (which can increase food sensitivities in general) and avoid high protein diets which are hardest on kidney health.

      For food — I am just about to start a page on recipes that I use for my Caesar, but these would not necessarily be ideal for everyone’s dogs, as different dogs will have different needs. Over time, I will add more condition-specific ideas/suggestions/recipes. For your dog I would suggest that the most important details to remember right now are the foods to AVOID such as: nuts, spinach, beets, swiss chard, rhubarb, tofu and most soy products, strawberries, parsley and wheat flour as these are high in oxalates. Meats can challenge the kidneys because of the protein type and amount that needs to be broken down, so try to keep the veggie content of your home made foods higher for your dog rather than the meat content. And although they contribute to a different type of kidney stone (uric acid stones) it’s not impossible for any person (or dog) to develop both. Interestingly, in the area of seafood, anchovies, fish roe, herring, mackerel, mussels, sardines, and shrimp are the most problematic in contributing to uric acid kidney stones, so try to keep these choices minimized. Working with cod, salmon, halibut, haddock would probably be your best choices for a seafood meal creation. Sea salt is safe to use, but any table salt should be minimized as table salt will also over-excrete calcium into the kidneys for elimination (or stone production). Also decrease or eliminate sugar in his diet as sugar is hard on good kidney function, and increases the risk of diabetes which is a common condition in older schnauzers (and happens to weaken kidney function and increase stone production too).

      Also, try to increase your dog’s calcium intake through low-fat dairy choices such as yoghurt, or cheese. Even though he has calcium oxalate stones, he needs to increase calcium since these calcium is being bound and excreted in the urine. You might even want to consider supplementing with calcium citrate, but I would suggest to work with a Holistic Vet if possible to determine good dosing for your dog.

      Finally, lots of exercise and lots of fluids should be encouraged!! These are the 2 steps that will help your dog’s kidney health the most.

      I hope this information has been useful to you — do let me know how you and your dog do with these ideas 🙂

      Dr. Menen

  7. Eva says:

    What food brand you recommend for my new puppy miniature schnauzer. I been looking at the recommendation and I am more confuse then ever. I am looking at the Merrick, Wellnes and Orijen? Please help.

    • Dr. Menen says:

      Hello Eva,
      Orijen, Merrick and Wellness are all good companies (we use Taste of the Wild), but you need to look at changing foods very slowly. What was the puppy eating before you got him/her? Start with that for one week, then add 1/4 of one of the other brand that you choose for 1 week, then 1/2 of the new and the previous food for 1 week until you can finally use only the new food of your choice. The only way to know if a new food is working well with your puppy is to watch for stool changes (constipation or diarrhea for over a couple of days), skin changes (including any excessive itching) or changes in eating behavior. If all goes well, a healthy food choice will enhance your dog’s overall health and longevity. Just remember that no matter how good/bad the puppy’s original food source was, you want to try to stick to as familiar food as possible to avoid major digestive upsets.
      Hope this helps and congratulations on your new puppy!
      Dr. Menen

  8. Margaret says:

    My 5 year old miniature schnauzer has been having some hair loss. We think that her food is at the root of the problem. Since we got her last year, we have been giving her Iams (which I think was the main cause of her problems) but we have recently changed her to Royal Canin, hoping that will help her coat improve. Now I have been reading about grain free food and am wondering if we should try that, but I just don’t know what brand to choose. There seems to be a lot of pros and cons to every brand I research. What brand food do you recommend?

    • Dr. Menen says:

      Hello Margaret,
      Thank-you for your question. Food sensitivities can certainly cause hair loss. We have found that Taste of the Wild is an excellent choice for Caesar. It is grain free and has a few varieties of combinations to choose from so we get a different kind to keep variety in Caesar’s food intake. This would be my first choice of recommendation at this time. Remember to change food gradually (over one-two weeks) to avoid shocking your dog’s system. Then watch your dog while she is on the new food (as you have with your change to Royal Canin) to see how she responds over a few months. Natural supplements added into her food can also help to restore her health (and hair) too – so you might want to make some additions in that regard as well as soon as you know she’s ok with the new food. I hope this helps you and your miniature schnauzer!
      Dr. Menen

  9. STACI says:

    Hello Menen
    I am a new Miniature Schnauzer owner and Sebastian is my baby. I want to feed him the best puppy food. I know that maybe you cannot endorse certain foods but please if you can be specific in the best you found, it would help me narrow things down. I currently am purchasing Castor & Pollux but I am hearing conflicting negs/pos’s information.

    • Dr. Menen says:

      Hello Staci,
      Congratulations on your new Miniature Schnauzer addition! We have found good success with using Taste of the Wild with Caesar. We like the grain-free formulas and we have seen good health and no food-sensitivity reactions with this line. Always remember to introduce a new food slowly – using only 1/4 of the meal as the new food for a week, then 1/2 of the meal with the new food for a week, then 3/4 of the meal for a week until you can give the full meal as the new dog food. This will allow your dog to become accustomed to the ingredients for ideal digestion. Remember that each dog (even the same breed) responds differently to different formulas and if you notice any new/extra itching, hair loss, and most obviously, bowel changes like loose stools or constipation which lasts longer than 3 days, the food choice may not be ideal.
      Hope that this information helps you!
      Dr. Menen

    • Dr. Menen says:

      Hello Staci,
      Congratulations on your new addition! I can tell you that we have had good success with Taste of the Wild grain-free kibble 🙂 We alternate the formula we feed him and he has been doing great with it. Of course, half of each meal he eats is home-made (see the recipes on the recipes page on this blog) – and more recipes will be coming soon. Hope this helps you!
      Dr. Menen

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