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!