Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weight Management and your dog

Wait.....what about Weight?

dog_scaleWhen people come into the Bakery looking for information about dog or cat food, the number one question we get is about food allergies. A close second is about weight management. From the simple questions about how much to feed to the more difficult questions about what to do about an overweight dog. In this article, I am going to outline some suggestions to help you manage your dog’s weight. My first suggestion would be to talk to your vet and make sure there is no medical condition causing the weight gain. Thyroid imbalances can lead to weight gain, so can diabetes. Once your dog has been given a clean bill of health, these suggestions and tips will help you control your dog’s weight.
My second suggestion is to avoid the weight management dog foods. Many of the formulas add a  calorie free filler like cellulose to decrease the calories. These fillers are indeed calorie free but they are also nutrition free.  You want to cut back on calories, not nutrition.
For those who read our earlier blog about us, you know we have Golden Retrievers. Our oldest, Buddy, was more than a little over weight when Karl and I first met. Karl had been feeding him a weight management formula dog food for several years and Buddy kept gaining weight. I wanted to help Buddy lose weight at a slow, steady rate so he wouldn’t think he was being starved. (Buddy is very food motivated). So we switched to a regular dog food and then replaced half the recommended amount of dog food with vegetables. Buddy went from 118 lb to 95 lb over about 6 months. As his weight went down his energy and mobility increased so his weight loss went faster.
dogcarrotThe choice of vegetables you can use is pretty much endless. Dogs like variety so you can mix it up depending on what’s in season. We used steamed carrots and green beans fresh out of the garden because they were in season, also steamed summer squash. A cup of vegetables has only about 40-60 calories, but adds nutrients and fiber to help your dog feel full. You can also add fruit in small amounts for variety and nutrition. Fruit has a higher calorie content due to the fructose or fruit sugar. If you’re are using canned vegetables, give them a good rinse in running water to get rid of the salt added during the canning process or buy salt free varieties. Fruitables makes a weight loss supplement, a blend of pumpkin and oatmeal that has 68 calories per cup. Dogs love pumpkin and it is very good nutrition and fiber for them.
You can still give your dog treats while reducing weight. Choose smaller treats, Zuke’s has a mini treat in a variety of flavors that are 3.5 calories per treat. Fruitables also has several  mini treats available. Our handcrafted treats are available in small sizes, too. Carrot slices or other veggies make a nice treat, and most dogs love them.
Total couch potato.
Now for the dreaded “E” word, exercise. If your dog is an overweight couch potato, you don’t want to suddenly increase his or her activity all at once. Start slowly with short walks and as his or her weight goes down and energy goes up increase the distance. The more calories that are burned off with exercise the faster the weight loss goes.
Once your dog has achieved an optimal weight you can gradually increase the dog food and decrease the vegetables. Feel your dog’s ribs once a week to make sure you are where you should be. Ribs should be easy to feel but not overly prominent. By maintaining your dog at a healthy weight you decrease the risk of diabetes and joint problems, adding to the quality of your dog's life.