At Dolittle’s we try every day to improve the relationship between dog and owner (okay, guardian, for you freaks out there. Hey, give us some cred we did list dog first).  Having been around nearly 20 years Dolittle’s has picked up some handy tips and smart advice for living harmoniously with the family dog.  One such tip that we pass out daily is MORE WATER[1].

Dolittle’s understands that dry food is often the best option for busy families with pets.  Dry food is as it was 150 years ago: convenient.  And, the good news is that today’s quality dog foods are closer to mimicking ancestral diets than ever[2], except for one glaring…uh…exception, lack of water. A quick internet search will give you a rule of thumb for canine daily water consumption: 1 ounce for 1 pound of body weight.[3]  Sure your dog may drink a lot, but we’d like to make the case for adding some of their daily water into their daily food.

1. Dog foods contain salt.  Even the great all-natural foods found on Dolittle’s shelves contain some amount of salt.  Salt dehydrates the system and we want to hydrate it.

2. Stomach capacity. An average dog, say 50lb can have a stomach capacity of 24ounces.  Now one, we never want to push the stomach to capacity, and two, we certainly don’t want to do it with food. Adding water to the food allows us to trick the stomach into feeling full with far less food.

3. Dolittle’s Practical Guide to the Canine Universe– Double Patented Sponge Theory.  We believe that the dog’s system has a finite amount of water in it.  Roughly 70% of their weight. Next we propose that dry food, with it’s porous construction and salt content,  acts like a dry sponge on that system. So each time you feed dry food you actually deplete the system of valuable water.

Now you’re saying: “But my dog drinks a TON of water.”  Well one, that’s not true, a ton is an awful lot; 35,274 ounces roughly.  And two, are you sure?  By the above rule of thumb a 64 pound dog should be drinking 64 ounces a day, or 8 cups.  The average dog bowl is around 24 ounces so you better be filling that thing up at least two and a half times a day.

But enough about you, back to our sponge theory.  Let’s do some experimenting!

Investigating the Affects of Dry Food on a Wet System
Gather these materials: A measuring cup, a dry sponge (the old fashioned kind), and some water.

Part I
1.  Cut the sponge so that it fits nicely into the bottom of the measuring cup.
2. Into the empty measuring cup add 3/4 cup of water.
3. Drop the sponge in.
4. Wait 10 minutes, then remove the sponge. Save saturated sponge for Part II.
5. Observe the new water level.

Part II
1. Fill the measuring cup back up to 3/4 cup.
2. Drop the saturated sponge in.
3. Wait 10 minutes, then remove the sponge.
4. Observe the new water level.

So kids, what have we learned from this little experiment? Dry sponges don’t make good food, wait no, dry dog food extracts moisture.  Granted the amount of water lost can be debated, but hopefully we can all agree that there is a loss.  We believe losing any water is not good for the system, especially over a prolonged period of time.

In conclusion we offer that adding water to your dog’s dry food (and, hey, cats love it too!) will offer a few dietary benefits:
1. salt dilution. Easy enough, If you turn one cup of food into 2 cups fed (with water) you’ve diluted the salt.
2. stomach capacity trickery.  Take a look at the two middle pictures above.  The dog eating dry food (top row) would experience little change in capacity.  The dog eating food with water (bottom row) would feel like more food is in the stomach.
3. increased water consumption.  Say your 64lb dog needs 64 ounces of water. If you add water 1 to 1 to the feeding amount, let’s say 4 cups (2 cups twice a day), in two meals you’ve added 32oz of water. Half of their daily need.

MYTHBUSTER: We hear a few of you saying: “I feed dry food to keep my dog’s teeth clean.” This is a MYTH.  Don’t believe us? Try this experiment at home: Eat a bowl of cereal without milk.  How do your teeth feel? Now eat a bowl with milk.  Any cleaner? Food does not clean teeth (any more than it helps us lose weight (another blog)).  Brushing cleans teeth.  Ever had a dentist say: “you could brush, or just eat a bag of pretzels now and then. That should do it.” By the way, when you perform this experiment only move your jaw up and down, not sideways, that will more closely mimic your dog.

One benefit to adding water we did not go over (because we have a whole other blog on that) is that it greatly reduces flatulence. The dog’s not yours. Check it out here! Shameless cross promotion.

As always we welcome your feedback. Chow!

1We would like to emphasize that this is a PRACTICAL guide NOT a medical guide.  Changes to your dogs health and diet should always be between you and your dog’s professional medical care giver.  At best we hope our practical guide will give you practical questions to ask and/or food for thought.
2 BJones, Feeding Your Dog – Could You Be Feeding Your Dog The Wrong Things? 

3 Why Your Dog Is Always Thirsty 


The High Price of Air

May 25, 2010

I recently read an article about ice cream.  It stated that manufacturers are allowed, by law, to increase the volume of ice cream by aerating it up to 100%.  In other words they can put in equal amounts of mass and air to create greater volume.  Hey!  That’s not too unlike blogs.  By law blogs may contain up to 100% fluff and 0% content.  Allow me to up the content.

I decided to do a little research of my own.  I purchased a 1.5qt container of Breyer’s for $4.99 and a 14oz container of Haagen-Dazs for $3.49.  So right away I’m thinking it’s a deal for the Breyer’s, after all 1.5qt is 48oz that’s almost 3.5 times more ice cream than the Haagen-Dazs.  If I were to buy the same amount of Haagen-Dazs it would cost me about $12.00.  I just saved over $7.00!  It was a surprise when Breyer’s weighed in at 27.6oz.  Almost ½ of the volume is air.  I just paid over $2.00 for air!  By comparison Haagen-Dazs came in at 12.6oz, or 10% air ($.35 in cost).

So what does ice cream have to do with dog food?  At Dolittle’s we hope to teach customers about the value of pet foods.  One point we often bring up is perceived value.  A food may look like a good deal, but when you compare the density of the food you often find another story.  It takes a second to grasp, but 8oz of volume (recommended feeding quantity) is not the same as 8oz of mass (or weight).  The weight of 8oz of dog food ranges widely from manufacturer to manufacturer.  You can find pet food from 3oz per cup to over 5oz.  An aerated dog food [Brand A] might recommend feeding 2 cups a day, but a dense food [Brand B] might recommend 1½ cup.  As an example let’s say 1 cup of Brand A weighs 3oz and Brand B is 4ozs.  Based on the serving recommendations we end up feeding the same mass of food, but less volume of Brand B. Heady right?  And you thought you were reading some fluffy blog.

Back to ice cream for a second, let’s dig into the true savings.  Who’s ready for fun real world math?  If we remove the air from these ice creams and compare the cost of equal masses what are the true savings?  First take the price per . . . to avoid a brain freeze, let’s use the fast forward button . . . then subtract the two costs per mass and we get a savings of $2.65. (Table 1 reviews what you missed) Wait a second, where did the $7.00 savings go?  Nearly $5.00 of it went into thin air.

Unfortunately this experiment in density does not address quality or value it only helps us understand mass, volume, and the price of air.  Yes I saved over $2.50, but what did I really get with my money?  Judgment on value will be reserved for another time when we take a look at the ingredients used and the amount of calories manufacturers put into the foods.

CEO of Buy N' Large

photo by Flickr user Matt512

Before opening the doors to Dolittle’s in 1999 I dug deep into pet foods. One of the food companies was Natura Pet, a company committed to independent retailers. This ideology suited me well, and so I added them to the line up. Dolittle’s would be the first pet store in Charleston to offer Natura Pet Foods: California Natural and Innova.

In addition to Natura Pet, Dolittle’s opened its doors with Iams. Very soon after opening there was the announcement that Proctor & Gamble was purchasing Iams. Being a business newbie I acted rashly and tossed Iams out the back door. No corporately owned dog food, here thank you very much. My actions did not play well with some customers and the store lost them as food customers. Fortunately a good many stuck with Dolittle’s and made a switch. A year later Iams downgraded the quality of their foods and entered the vast grocery market (small vindication for my actions). Dolittle’s stayed the course with great new foods and established itself as Charleston’s source for healthy, all natural pet foods.

Flash forward 11 years and Natura Pet is being purchased by Proctor and Gamble. Again the store is faced with a difficult decision. Maybe I’m jaded now, maybe I’m more business minded but I don’t feel the need to react as I did with Iams. Our nation is so full of corporate ownership. Tom’s All Natural toothpaste is a subsidiary of Colgate Palmolive ref 1, and Kashi cereal is a subsidiary of Kellogg’s ref 2. How can we get away from corporations? The fact is among the three Dolittle’s stores Natura Pet makes up 50% of food sales I cannot just kick that out the door. However this corporate dog has bitten me before.

So, I have a cautious solution (one which I would love to see Natura Pet commit to as well). Dolittle’s will begin a Bad in the Bowl program. A list will be created that contains what Dolittle’s considers to be harmful or questionable ingredients. In other words, ingredients that are “Bad in the Bowl.” With corporate giants into everything from granola bars to yogurt it makes sense to watch the integrity of the ingredients. If Natura Pet, or any other food we offer, uses any of the ingredients on our “Bad in the Bowl” list then it will be phased out. If a customer finds an ingredient from the list first, then Dolittle’s will reward them with a $50 gift certificate to the store.

For customers who wish to switch, our friendly staff is ready to offer great alternatives (there are many). If you wish to stay with Natura as long as they uphold their current integrity, then Dolittle’s is supportive of that too. In the end it’s all about your wonderful, healthy dogs and cats. As long as they thrive on quality foods like Innova they should have the opportunity to eat it.

Your comments are welcome.

Ric Sommons
Owner – Dolittles

ref 1:
ref 2:

Bad in the Bowl

May 11, 2010

At Dolittle’s we are very conscientious about pet food ingredients.  Bad in the Bowl is our guarantee on the pet food products we sell. We read the labels so you can be assured that what you buy from our stores is high quality and safe for your pet to eat. In our 11 year history none of the foods we carry have been recalled due to ingredients.

If you ever find one of these ingredients in one of our foods we will reward you with a $50 gift certificate, and we will phase the food out of our inventory – permanently.

These are ingredients you WILL NOT find in our foods.  These ingredients are all defined by the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This list is a works in progress.

Meat (meat is a general term for animal protein.  You will find only NAMED meat in our foods. i.e. bison, lamb, or beef)
Meat Meal – Meal is an ingredient which has been ground or otherwise reduced in particle size. – AAFCO
Meat and Bone Meal
Meat By-Products (not all by-products are bad: liver, blood, bone to name a few.  Dolittle’s looks for each of these to be separate ingredients)
Poultry (again this is a general term for animals in the poultry family. Dolittle’s looks for these to be named individually. i.e. turkey)
Poultry Meal
Poultry By-Products
Animal Digest – AAFCO defines this as: material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue.  Dolittle’s asks what animal(s)? and WHY?
Animal Fat – Again, what animal?
Hulls – as in Peanut Hulls, or Rice Hulls.  The outer shells of said grains, seeds, etc.
Mill Run – as in Barley Mill-Run, Soybean Mill-Run. Materials from mills, usually ungraded and un inspected – AAFCO
Corn Meal
Corn Gluten
Wheat Bran
Wheat Flour
Wheat germ
Wheat Gluten
BHA – an artificial preservative
BHT – an artificial preservative
Ethoxyquin – an artificial preservative
Colors or Dyes – These are only in food to make it more appealing to humans

Generally speaking Dolittle’s looks for whole ingredients.  When we see “umbrella” ingredients like poultry or meat we feel like they are open to interpretations. Likewise when we read hulls, or mill-run we see ingredients that another industry has used first.  Dolittle’s prefers ingredients originally intended for the foods in which they are used.  There is nothing “wrong” with many of these ingredients, like corn or wheat, Dolittle’s avoids them for the potential allergy problems that could arise.

A dog.  A bowl.  A bag of food.  Now what?  Here are six tips to make life easier and healthier. 

1: Feed the need, not the want
Your dog has a caloric requirement.  He needs energy to do the things he does.  Food provides that energy.  Here’s an example: a 50lbs dog that goes on a daily 30 minute walk requires about 1,050 kCals per day, fewer on slow days and more on active days.  If he gets a few treats, he gets a little less food. 

Finding caloric numbers on dog food can be a difficult task, currently it is not a requirement in the industry.  A quick call to the manufacturer will enlighten you.  (Dolittle’s can tell you kCals any of the foods they carry) 

2: Use the food’s feeding guide as a GUIDE
The governing body of dog food AAFCO requires manufacturers to include a feeding guide based on industry standards.  The downside here is assuming every dog fits these standards (is 45lb Bulldog the same as a 45lb Australian Sheppard?)  Further the guide can give a broad range (i.e. 21 – 35lb dog 1 2/3c – 2 1/2c  a day).  Dog foods can range from 250 to 600 calories per cup.  If you feed ONE extra cup of food, you potentially increase in your dog’s daily caloric intake by 50%.  

C'est ne pas une tasse


3:  Measure
The feeding guide, an estimate on caloric intake, is based on one important thing: a US standard 8oz measuring cup.  So when you read 2 cups of food it does not mean 2 cupfuls of 7 Eleven’s Big Gulp.  The best thing you can do for your dog is feed them by using an 8oz measuring cup. Overfeeding leads to a multitude of problems not the least of which is diarrhea. 

4: Feed smaller meals more frequently
By splitting the consumption of calories your dog will burn energy more evenly.  A heavy breakfast can result in a sluggish afternoon, and dinnertime begging.  Or, if you give your dog all of his energy right before he goes to bed, the body will store it for tomorrow.  Guess where the body stores energy?  Fat.  

5:  Add water
There can’t be enough said about water (I’ll try in another blog).  Here’s the abbreviated version:  Dogs do not get enough of it.  Yes even the heavy drinkers need more.  Pour water on their food like you would milk on cereal.  Your dog will thank you.  If you don’t believe me try just one piece of their dog food and notice how it dries out your mouth.  For more convincing information read the Dolittle’s blog “Doggy Farts.” 

6: Limit what is available
Leaving a full bowl out all the time can lead to all kinds of problems.  One of the biggest (literally) is overeating.  Be responsible and offer what they need twice a day.  If they do not eat it, don’t worry.  At least not the first time or two.  If they don’t eat by the third or fourth meal, well that could be some cause for concern. 

Our pets rely on us to provide them with food.  If they over eat it is only because they are being offered more than they should.  Follow these tips and your dog will be on the way to a long and fit life.