Lew Olson's newly revised edition is filled with an abundance of new topics and information. Whether you are new to home feeding or a seasoned raw feeder, have a senior dog or a new puppy, a pregnant mom or a toy breed, this book presents all the information you need to make the best nutritional decisions for your dog.
This month’s article is brought to you by Christie Keith. Christie Keith has raised Scottish Deerhounds holistically since 1986. She is the Editor and Director of Community Services for PetHobbyist.com and she is also the host of Holistic Pet Chat. She can be contacted through her website at www.caberfeidh.com.
“If your dog is fat, you’re not getting enough exercise.”
Obesity in pets is at epidemic proportions in this country, with as many as 40 percent of dogs being slightly or seriously above their ideal weight. And while human weight problems are big news (and big money), obesity in our dogs has a completely different cause and solution.
Few of us are overweight because our family members lovingly prepare excessive amounts of food and present them to us at all times of the day or night, without any limit, and then deprive us of opportunities to get sufficient exercise. But that’s exactly what is happening with our pets.
Now, before you start to feel guilty and defensive, I’m going to say something that may surprise you. It’s not your imagination that spaying and neutering your dog resulted in weight gain. It probably did. Study after study has shown that altered animals need fewer calories than intact animals. But this almost always simply means that your altered pet needs fewer calories and more exercise than before their surgery, not that weight gain is inevitable after surgery.
Probably the biggest culprit in canine obesity is lack of exercise, and not just because exercise cranks up the metabolism and burns calories. It’s also because our sedentary pets are bored, and eating is one of the things they do to alleviate boredom. If we leave food available to them throughout the day, as is extremely common, they will eat more than if we feed them on a schedule and then pick up any uneaten food after a fixed amount of time.
Obesity in Dogs
The primary threat to dogs from obesity is the wear and tear on their musculoskeletal system. Unlike humans, who walk erect and can carry that weight at their center of gravity, dogs carry their weight on their spine. Think of a suspension bridge, with the greatest load right in the middle, and you have an idea of the stress put on the spine and also on the two ends of the bridge the dog’s hips and shoulders. Dogs with elbow, knee, or hip problems, all of which are common in nearly all breeds of dogs, and mixed breeds as well, are especially vulnerable to the stresses of carrying too many pounds on their frames. Even toy dogs, which suffer from obesity far more than their bigger cousins, are very prone to knee problems, and should also be kept lean to minimize pain from these problems.
What to Do About It
Before taking any steps to put your dog on a diet or increase his or her exercise, make sure he or she has had a recent veterinary exam. If your dog is elderly, has health problems, is on a prescription diet, has arthritis or other joint problems, is extremely overweight or has gained weight very suddenly, even if he or she has been seen by the vet recently, go in for a specific exam to discuss the weight problem. Some conditions, such as hypothyroidism or Cushings, can be at the root of the weight gain, and you need to rule these out first.
If the vet gives your dog a clean bill of health, it’s time to start changing the way you feed your pet, and increasing his or her exercise.
Dogs, like cats, have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates, and this is an obvious place to cut calories. Unfortunately, most dog kibble is high in carbohydrate, and most “diet” dog foods rely on reducing levels of fat and increasing carbohydrates and fiber. Although less strictly so than cats, dogs are scientifically classified as carnivores, not omnivores, and the only function served by carbohydrates in their diet is to provide a source of energy in other words, calories. Since dogs, just like cats, have a known requirement for both fat and protein, as well as micro nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, start by providing those in the appropriate levels, and only rely on carbohydrate to bring calorie levels up if necessary. This will rule out most kibbled products, which means you need to find quality canned, frozen, freeze dried or homemade diets that are based on meat.
Start out feeding by weight according to the guidelines given with the product or recipe you have selected. Use a measuring cup and/or a food scale. Do not rely on your own instincts or use the “eyeball” method.
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If your dog maintains his or her weight, or gains, gradually reduce the amount you are feeding by about 5-10 percent per week until you start to see a slow weight loss. Stay at this amount of food until the weight loss stops, and then drop down by 5-10 percent again, until your dog is at his or her ideal weight. Then continue to feed that amount to maintain that weight.
If your dog is currently eating a great deal more than their ideal body weight would indicate, or he or she is very overweight, do not drop down immediately to the ideal level of food intake. This can create a lot of stress for the dog, and sometimes triggers the metabolism to go into what dieters call “starvation mode,” and makes weight loss more difficult. As a rule of thumb, never reduce the amount of food your dog eats by more than 10 percent a week. Remember to include any treats in the total food intake for the day.
At the same time you reduce food intake, add an additional ten minutes (or more if possible) of daily exercise to your pet’s current regimen. This should be the kind of brisk exercise that will get his or her heart pumping, such as running after a ball, wrestling with another pet, playing with a laser pointer, running or biking with you, etc. If your pet is old, arthritic, or infirm, or your veterinarian has advised against such activities, look into swimming, either in a natural body of water or at an aqua therapy center. If your pet really cannot tolerate increased activity, at least try to provide a daily gentle stroll and activities designed to minimize boredom.
This article is copyright 2004 by Christie Keith and is used here with permission.
New to the Newsletter
K9Nutrition Monthly Quiz!
This is a new feature to the newsletter. In each month’s newsletter, we will ask quiz questions and then post the answers in next month’s newsletter.
Most of the answers can be found in the K9Nutrition archives, so this is an open book test.
Good Luck and Have Fun!
1). How much ground eggshell is needed per pound of boneless meat served?
2). At what age is it recommended that puppies start eating regular food, besides mother’s milk or replacement formulas for weaning?
3). According to Dr Oglivie’s research on diet and dogs with cancer, which foods should be avoided or reduced in their diets?
4). What is the most common cause of struvite crystals or stones in dog’s urine?
5). Apple cider vinegar is acidifying or alkalizing? (Trick question, think carefully!)
6). Dogs with renal failure need reduced (Pick one)
d. red meat
7). Senior dogs require lower protein (true or false)
8). The way to take weight off on a dog on a raw diet is (pick one)
a. feed less protein
b. feed less fat
c. feed poultry and fish, no red meat
d. substitute sweet potatoes and carrots for meat in the diet
9). The most common cause of diarrhea in dogs is:
a. raw diet
b. e coli and salmonella and other bacteria
c. flagyl deficiency
d. over feeding
10). Bone problems and inflammation in dogs can be caused by:
a) too much protein
b) too much calcium
c) too much fat
d) keeping a dog thin
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