We all love a healthy dog, am I right? A rumbly-tumbly, rolly-polly pooch. I mean, isn't it true that the chubbier the better? The direct answer to that is a *fun fact!*: no.
Veterinarian and president of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, Dr. Ernie Ward, said, "Veterinarians need to offer more obesity treatment options than: Feed less and exercise more." I'm sure we have all heard this before. And then, your pup is hungry and barking constantly for more food. What can we do? We, at Deep Roots Animal Clinic, want to answer that question.
Let's start with the first question we should be asking, and that is, "What kind of diet is my canine SUPPOSED to be eating to begin with?" Dogs are omnivores, like humans, and can eat a combination of meat and plants in their diet. Unlike cats, who are considered obligate, or true carnivores, and only need a meat based diet, or on the opposite spectrum, cows, which are herbivores and can only have a plant based diet. Our canine's diet should be regulated according to their nutritional needs. Along with meat and plants, they need a well-balanced diet with an appropriate amount of minerals, vitamins, certain essential amino acids (from proteins) and specific essential fatty acids (from fats).
Again, which diets then should we be feeding? Pet food ingredients are listed by order of weight. Keeping that in mind, "premium" food is not only found on the nutrition label, but also, in the quality and source of the ingredients. Check the ingredients and the order they appear in the ingredients list. Find a diet that matches your pup's current lifestyle and body condition. Many, like Purina ProPlan, Royal Canine and Science Diet, offer diets geared toward your pet's needs. Detailed feeding instructions can also be located on the back of the bag.
Another factor to consider, is lifestyle. Most adult, indoor, spayed or neutered dogs have low energy requirements. Therefore, their diet should contain a relatively small number of calories per cup; ideally less than 350 calories. If a dog food has 500 calories per cup, and you have a 20lb dog, then the amount you should feed, according to the VCA Hospital Veterinarians, is tiny (and unsatisfying). Making matters worse, high-calorie foods mean even a small snack or a few extra kibbles can really pack on the pounds.
How many calories do our canine counterparts need? A standard formula for energy requirements for an adult, indoor dog that receives light, daily exercise, and is spayed or neutered is:
30 X weight in kg (or pounds divided by 2.2) + 70 = daily caloric intake
AHHHH, so much math am I right?! Don't worry. I'll break it down with an example. My pooch is 55 pounds. If I take that and divide it by 2.2, I would get: 25. Then I take 25 and multiply it by 30, which would give me: 750. That number, added to 70, leaves us at the daily caloric intake of 820. And if one cup of dog food was 500 calories, then my doggy would only be allotted less than two cups of food for the whole day. Being a senior, spayed canine, with a healthy lifestyle, she would do best with a diet that had lower calorie intake, allowing her to eat her desired, 1 cup, amount at each meal and keep the healthy body condition she needs (4 or 5; see picture below). Keep in mind, each dog is different and most likely needs less or more caloric intake, depending on its lifestyle and body condition. As briefly mentioned in the example above, spayed or neutered dogs have a decrease in their metabolic rate, and therefore, their energy needs are lowered. This is caused by the loss of estrogen and androgen (sex hormones) from the alteration. So their caloric intake would be decreased from the average pet.
So, you may be still wondering, what can I do to get my furry friend back to their optimal weight? What is best for dogs that need to lose weight is daily exercise and caloric restriction, which is usually 70% to 90% of the calculated amount above.
Dr. Steven Guzman - DVM states that, an appropriate diet along with daily exercise and avoiding things like excessive human food and high calorie treats is the best start to helping your canine toward a healthier diet and lifestyle. He recommends trading out those high calorie treats for vegetables like baby carrots or canned green beans. Also, each dog should get a measured meal twice daily, and owners should avoid free feeding when trying to lower their pet's weight.
Many health issues can arise, simply due to obesity strain on the body. So, let's give our canines the best quality in life we can give!
"My pet is shedding all over my house! What should I do?!"
Maybe you have this issue. Maybe you can’t wear black out of the house, because your Golden Retriever laid on your clean laundry pile last night and now all you see is hair. Maybe you “throw your hands in the air” in hopeless doubting, wondering if you’ll ever get your house clean enough for your mother-in-law, after your longhair tabby rubbed all over EVERY PIECE of furniture. Does this sound like you?
Don’t worry. You are not alone. Every pet owner, especially those of us with an indoor buddy, has felt this way. Why is your pet shedding so much?
Dog shedding is based on a few factors: breed, health and seasonal changes. There are a handful of breeds that have a more hypoallergenic coat that produce less dander. Dander is what is attached to the hair and what is considered the main, contributing factor to the allergens passed from canine to human. And while no dog is 100% hypoallergenic, according to the American Kennel Club, it is possible to find breeds that produce less dander, with limited shedding and fewer allergies.
Your dog’s health also affects their shedding habits. Stress, poor nutrition or an underlying medical condition can cause abnormal shedding in your furry friend. High quality pet-food manufacturers work hard to offer the correct amount of nutrients for your pet, so that extra supplements may not be needed. Yet, like how every human body is unique and responds to diets in different ways, dogs are similar in their uniqueness as well! You may have to experiment with different brands, or formulas to find that perfect, “fits-like-a-glove” match for your canine companion. Keep an eye out for excessive shedding, bald patches, red skin, bumps, rashes or scabs. If your pet experiences any of these conditions, please contact your veterinarian for advice.
"Let's bubble up, Buster!"
Okay, so now you may be thinking, “I can work with the breed and health factors, but I can’t choose or change the weather!!” Many indoor dogs are not affected by the seasonal changes quite as much as outdoor dogs, so they are more prone to smaller fluctuations of coat thickness and so, they typically shed evenly all year. The best thing for our domesticated doggy is daily brushing, adding moisture to their diet and keeping that vacuum and lint roller handy, for our own convenience. A regular bath is also helpful with shedding management. Depending on the coat type, regular baths can vary from weekly, to every 4-6 weeks, to seasonally. Over-bathing can strip too much oil from your pet’s skin. And be sure to use your canine friendly shampoo! Products specifically for shedding are a huge plus for you AND your canine counterpart.
But what about cats? Cats were created in a way that their regenerative coats are necessary to regulate their temperature. So, why are they shedding? To put it simply, that is how their bodies were designed. And, unless you have a hairless cat, your cat will shed. Maintaining through brushing and occasional baths can help you and your feline family member. The National Cat Groomers of America recommend cats get a bath and blow-dried every 4-6 weeks to keep their coats from getting matted or pelted. For strictly indoor cats, on average, bath time can be even more sparse! An average indoor cat can experience the “heart racing, eyes wide, claws out” bath time only once to twice a year. Choosing the frequency of this experience for you and your cat is up to you! However, remember, that even though baths can help the shedding issue, too often they can strip those healthy, skin oils your feline friend needs.
Health is, of course, another contributing factor to shedding in cats just as in dogs. If your furry feline starts shedding significantly more than normal in a short amount of time, seek counsel from your veterinarian; we are talking about a few days or weeks. Some of those contributing health factors include cat allergies, ringworm, thyroid disease or simply, anxiety, among others. But overall, just remember, shedding is a sign of a healthy cat!
Hair, hair everywhere! Let me guess what you are thinking. “Where there is hair, there is a furry friend. Where there is a furry friend, there are lots of cuddles. Where there are lots of cuddles, there is a lot of love and memories!” Am I right?! Hmm…maybe I should read minds for a living…