New Year is the time that many of us wipe the slate clean from the previous years indulgences and bad habits, setting ourselves goals for how we are going to lose weight, take more exercise and eat more healthily. Don’t just do that for yourself, set some new goals for the pets in your life. Obesity is not just about what it looks like but can have serious consequences for your pets health and lead to diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and even cancer.
If you are feeding Natural Instinct, you are already one step ahead of the pack, as being a grain free, low carbohydrate diet, it is easier to manage your pets weight than it is when feeding high carbohydrate diets. However, no matter how good the diet is, there is a still a simple equation of energy in needing to be balanced with energy out, so excess food of any type will tend to pile on the pounds.
Rather than just looking at your dog’s weight, which can vary according to the body type, sex, fitness level etc., it is better to look at your dog’s body condition score in addition to recording weight to assess the healthy weight and condition of your dog. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) provides an excellent body condition chart with scores ranging from 1 to 9. The ideal body condition score is 5, which represents a dog with palpable ribs that have no excessive fat coverage, with a visible waist behind the ribs when observed from above and a tucked abdomen when viewed from the side.
As a rule of thumb, an adult dog should eat around 2-3% of its ideal body weight per day (e.g. a 10kg dog should eat roughly 200g of food per day). Dogs like humans vary in their metabolic rates and of course have very different energy requirements depending upon what we are asking of them, so for example, a young busy border collie out working sheep all day will have a very different food/energy requirement to a quiet house dog whose owners are out at work for most of the day and who gets a half an hour walk on the lead twice a day. Also remember that treats count as food! For some dogs their treats can account over a 24-hour period for more calories than their dinner! It is also easy to get caught out and end up buying high calorie, usually high carbohydrate treats. Try and stick to simple plain protein treats that do not contain chemicals or preservatives such as the range of air dried and frozen treat products that Natural Instinct produce to avoid too many hidden calories.
If your dog is overweight and there are no medical reasons why you cannot increase exercise e.g. severe joint disease, it is always better to work on both fronts i.e. increase exercise and decrease the amount of food fed every day. Always start by reducing the treats first as these can really be your dog actually training you into bad habits! Next look at the varieties that you are feeding and select the lower fat options e.g. Turkey, Chicken and Tripe or Beef. Natural Instinct provides a range of different fat percentage diets to suit the different needs of different dog types. Simply doing this can be enough in many cases and this way you don’t have to reduce portion size. If this does not start to change things, then it is a case where reducing portion size by 10% initially is the next step. Some dogs may need to have vegetables added in order to feel full enough initially, but try without first. Weight loss should be gradual and steady. If you are too drastic, then many dogs will scavenge and steal which is unpleasant for everyone! The good news is that unless there is a medical condition e.g. hypothyroidism, all dogs can lose weight with good exercise and calorie controlled regimes, and you are the one in control of the portions despite the big brown eyes looking at you!!
For some dogs the opposite problem of trying to keep weight on them can be equally distressing. Ensure that you are not over exercising your dog and that there is no obvious medical condition to account for the problem e.g. malabsorption syndrome. In these animals, look at feeding the mid to high range fat percentage diets (unless liver or pancreas disease is present) e.g. chicken, lamb, duck and feeding 2-3 times daily. Occasionally some dogs will need added carbohydrate e.g. sweet potato, gluten free pasta in order to maintain their optimum body condition.
Most veterinary practices will have good scales for weighing dogs and will be able to provide you with weight charts, so keep a diary of your dogs weight and body condition score and provide plenty of fresh air, exercise and TLC for a happy and healthy 2017!