Superior Pointers - Fine Bird Dogs - Elhew Pointers


Literally hundreds of commercial dry dog foods are marketed by a host of manufacturers, each of whom describes the benefits of feeding their product(s) in glowing terms. The published analysis and ingredients content of these foods are often bewildering to owners. Information at is helpful when seeking an understanding of which ingredients are desirable, and which are best avoided.

An informed dog owner can better select – or disqualify – an appropriate food for their canine companions. Your selection should, ultimately, be validated by your own feeding trials. If your dog(s) eat enthusiastically, maintain good flesh and muscle tone, produce a relatively low volume of formed stool, sustain a good coat without supplementation, and exhibit appropriate stamina, you have likely chosen a good product. Note that regionally available dog foods with high quality ingredients can be an excellent value, as these companies are not supporting expensive national advertising campaigns.

Most knowledgeable canine nutritionists recommend a high quality ration with 30-33 percent protein, and 18-20 percent fat, be fed to active sporting dogs, year round, with the volume adjusted to reflect activity level and/or ambient temperature. Transitioning between high and low calorie formulations according to activity level and/or temperature is not recommended, as doing so often causes digestive difficulties manifested by loose stools. Changing brands can also cause digestive problems. Dogs prefer consistency, not variety, in their diet. It is best to identify one premium feed on which your dog(s) thrive, stick with it year-round, and adjust the volume appropriately to maintain optimum condition.

Dog food label ingredients are listed by weight, starting with the ingredient with the greatest content. Although canids – both wild and domestic – are opportunistic omnivores, the first ingredient(s) on the label should be a specified meat, and/or specified meat meal. Specific callouts such as chicken, beef, lamb, salmon, and menhaden are preferable to generic references to “meat”, “poultry” or “fish”. Since up to 75 percent of the weight of such specified meats can be comprised of water, a specified meat meal is actually more desirable as a primary source of protein. The inclusion of lower cost “byproducts” is not favored, even if named (as in chicken byproducts), and is even less desirable if generic (as in poultry byproducts). Byproducts are never the primary source of protein in a high-quality food.

Carbohydrates may be derived from grains, such as oats, rye, rice, wheat, barley, corn, millet, sorghum, amaranth, or quinoa, or from alternative sources such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, lentils, and tapioca. Whole, unprocessed grains listed as “ground” or “meal” retain all of the nutrients in the bran layer, the original fat content, and the endosperm. Properly cooked, they are highly digestible and valuable sources of energy. Grain fragments, such as brewer’s rice and flours, are incomplete, and may have lost much of their nutritional value in processing. Such ingredients should, therefore, appear well down on the ingredients list, if at all. Fragments such as potato middlings, and unspecified grain sources like cereal food fines and distiller’s grain fermentation solubles, are best avoided.

Some dog food manufacturers, in an apparent attempt to differentiate their product/brand for commercial advantage, produce, advocate, and promote “grain free” formulations. It is important to note that studies conducted by canine nutritionists and cardiologists at multiple colleges of veterinary medicine, including U.C. Davis and Tufts University, have established that there is a definite link between “grain free” foods and canine heart disease – specifically, dilated cardiomyopathy, or enlarged heart. It is suspected that either some portion of the domestic canine population cannot assimilate taurine - an animal protein derivative vital to heart health - in the absence of whole grains, or that the legumes routinely substituted for whole grains by some manufacturers prevent the efficient assimilation of this critical amino acid. As would be expected, manufacturers who have built their brand on exclusively “grain free” formulations have challenged these findings and, in some instances, even attacked the credibility of the canine nutritionists and cardiologists who conducted this research. The evidence of this connection is, nevertheless, compelling, and anecdotally supported.

As Dr. Anna Gelzer , a veterinary cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine observes, “There is no scientifically proven benefit to grain free foods, so why take a chance”? Dr. Gelzer also correctly notes that wild canids “ingest the gut content of ruminant animals on which they prey, so they are certainly capable of eating grain”, and reiterates, “There is no scientific reason for going without grains”. Anecdotally, hunters baiting deer in northern Wisconsin, where the practice is legal, regularly observe wild canids consuming grain.

In response to these alarming findings, some manufacturers of “grain free” dog food formulations have begun adding supplemental taurine. Others have added what they describe as “ancient grains”, such as sorghum, millet, quinoa, and chia, in an apparent effort to address this identified problem while maintaining brand differentiation. The efficacy of both of these initiatives remains unproven. It seems logical that if an individual dog is a part of that domestic canine population which cannot assimilate taurine in the absence of whole grains and/or the presence of legumes, adding additional taurine to a “grain free” dog food formulation would not appear to be effective.

Pointers are an active, “medium” size breed, with corresponding nutritional requirements. “Large breed” puppy and/or dog foods are formulated for retrievers, shepherds, Rottweilers, Newfoundlands, and other large, fast-growing breeds with a relatively high incidence of hip and elbow dysplasia. The comparatively low protein and fat content of “large breed” foods is intended to constrain growth rates, and guard against the obesity for which these large breeds are prone. While the susceptibility to dysplasia among these breeds is genetic, the risk is considerably heightened for overweight, growing, puppies. Similarly, the nutritional value of large breed adult dog food formulations is marginal to inadequate for medium size working breeds, like pointers. They will require more of it to maintain a healthy body weight and, subsequently, produce a greater volume of stool – and the development of a growing puppy may be negatively affected.

“Puppy” food formulations from reputable manufacturers can be assumed to contain all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients required by growing pups. So, however, can high quality “all life stages” rations. In fact, some manufacturers’ “puppy food” is, simply, their all life stages formula extruded to a smaller kibble size. A high quality, all life stages, ration contains all of the nutrients required by pregnant/lactating females and growing puppies, as well as hard working adult dogs.

The Red Paw 32K all life stages food, on which our dogs thrive year-round at Superior Pointers – “from cradle to grave” - contains high quality ingredients, and an analysis of 32% protein and 20% fat. Red Paw 32K enjoys a devoted following among active sled dog racers. We feed a mature dog approximately 12 oz. by volume daily in the off season. During cold weather, or when being hunted hard, this daily ration is increased to as much as 16 oz. to maintain optimum body weight and condition. The daily rations of individual dogs are “fine-tuned”, as required. Other high quality, all life stages, rations currently being fed to Elhew pointers by friends and hunting partners include NutriSource Performance 30/20, Exclusive Performance 30/20, Eukanuba Premium Performance 30/20, Strive Endurance 30/20, Diamond Performance 30/20, Inukshuk 30/25, and Purina Pro Plan All Ages Sport Performance 30/20. With regard to high quality, all life stages foods appropriate for active sporting dogs like pointers, this list should not be considered all inclusive.

It is important to emphasize that a good dog food formulation is no more reliable than is the plant in which it is produced. If a manufacturing plant’s quality assurance protocols and procedures are inadequate, the products produced will be of inconsistent quality – and, possibly, even hazardous to your dog’s health. Equally important is for the manufacturer to use only good quality raw material sources, and to not continually “shop” globally for low-cost spot buys of ingredients of unverified quality from questionable sources. Additionally, the products of manufacturers suspected of regularly modifying their formulations to maximize short term profits should be avoided. Dog foods are relatively poorly regulated, and manufacturers have ninety days after changing key ingredients to change their packaging label. This allows less responsible manufacturers myopically focused on short term profit to change formulations, and change back within ninety days, without disclosure. When evaluating a dog food, the manufacturer’s recall history, and the consequences thereof, should be considered. When feeding your ration of choice, it is recommended that dog owners continually monitor the enthusiasm with which the dog(s) consume their daily rations, as well as coat condition, muscle tone, and stools. A change in any or all of these indicators may be symptomatic of a modification in formula, or ingredient quality. The long term track record of the manufacturer is, therefore, as important as their published product formulation.