New book serves up advice on feeding your dog

If you find it confusing to choose the proper dog food for your faithful canine companion, you aren't alone. Grocery-store shelves are laden with choices, specialty food is available at pet stores and many veterinarians sell food. Then there are pet owners who use human-food ingredients to make pet food and a contingent that swears by the raw diet, which is just what it sounds like: raw meat and other ingredients.

While the arguments wage, pet owners are firmly stuck in the middle. Things just got a little easier. Mark Poveromo has written a book called "To Your Dog's Health! Canine Nutrition and Recent Trends Within the Pet Food Industry" (Poor Man's Press, $14.95).

The book is a clearly written, concise look at the many choices that consumers face. Poveromo is a strong proponent of purchasing the best food you can afford for your pet, and the book helps you do that. Chapters discuss food selection, ingredients, alternative foods, feeding a raw diet, feeding a cooked human-food diet (complete with recipes), the use of supplements such as CoQ10, glucosamine, chondroitin and liquid vitamins and minerals, and treating medical issues such as kidney problems and cancer with diet.

So what qualifications does Poveromo have to pen such a book? He has master's degrees in both nutrition and environmental science and has spent many years testing out his theories on his own pets. He has had up to 11 Labrador retrievers at one time. The former science teacher is also the owner of Thomaston Feed in Thomaston, Conn., a purveyor of holistic pet food since the early '90s.

"Despite the economic downturns, educated pet owners now realize there is a direct correlation between nutritional health and decreased vet bills," he says.

In his business, he's seen a steady increase in sales and has noticed that customers are much more savvy about the food they buy for their pets. People are also willing to pay for nutritional consulting, a part of his business that has grown proportionally over the past several years.

Although the raw diet is still the most controversial way to feed a pet, more and more people are embracing it. Pet-food companies have jumped on the bandwagon, and it is now possible to purchase pre-made nutritionally balanced raw food for your furry companions. Poveromo said he has seen his raw-food sales increase from 2 percent in 2006 to 27 percent today.

While he discusses all methods of feeding in his book, he is careful not to endorse any particular product or method. He hopes the book gives readers an understanding that pet foods are not all what they claim or seem to be.

"Consumers should ... not just take for granted the foods that are recommended to them from advertisements or, for that matter, their vets," he says.

While he feels that good nutrition will limit visits to the vet, he cautions that it should not negate them.

"Our pets are counting on us. They are domesticated and that word has many implications. ... Medicines, diet and (the) overall well-being of our beloved pets should be a symbiotic relationship, not a fragmented debate over past beliefs or practices," he says.

Considering that his beloved pet Drake, the Lab his book is dedicated to, died in 2007 at the ripe old age of 17, he might just know what he's talking about.