Our pets are more than pets - they are family members, ingrained in our everyday lives. We want to do what is best for them and treat them well. Unfortunately, “treating” them well often translates into just that – treats, or just too much food in general. When our pets are overweight, it’s not just “more to love.” There are very real and negative consequences, ranging from arthritis to predisposition of diseases such as diabetes. In fact, a lifespan study by Purina proved that just being at a healthy weight can add 18 months to a dog’s life and delay the onset and progression of painful arthritis. Just like for us, maintaining a healthy weight is important for our pets!
So how do we achieve this? It all starts with the food we feed. We here at the Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic recommend using a commercial pet food. Our trusted brands include Hills/Science Diet, Royal Canin, and Purina’s ProPlan line. Outside of these we still recommend a commercial line - just pick what fits your budget and works for your pet and household. For more specific recommendations that are tailored to your pet, we welcome you to call or schedule an appointment anytime.
Picking a brand isn’t the only part, of course. Once settled on a product line, we need to be sure to feed an appropriate formula. All commercial foods are required to print the target species and life stage on the package. For example, it may say “for senior felines” or “adult dog food”. Be sure you are feeding the right product for your pet. The chart below may be helpful in choosing the correct product.
Of course, these are only guidelines and won’t fit every pet perfectly. For example, giant breeds tend to need a senior diet sooner. One important thing to avoid is feeding a food designed “for all life stages” to the average adult or senior patient as this is essentially a puppy food based on content.
So now that we have picked a trusted product for the correct species and lifestage we must determine how much to feed. The simplest way to do this is to feed for the weight recommendation on the bag and measure what we give them. Be sure to feed for their healthy weight. For example, perhaps your dog weighs 70 pounds now, but should weight 50 lbs. Feed what the bag recommends for a 50 lb dog, measure it with a measuring cup (not a coffee mug or other cup), and divide this amount into multiple feedings to increase satiety.
Treats of any kind should account for no more than 10% of your pets daily calorie requirements. This might seem like you can give a lot of treats, but that’s not true. For example, a 50 lb, neutered dog should only eat about 1100 calories each day. That means they should only have about 100 calories of treats. A medium milk-bone is 40 calories, one slice of cheddar cheese contains 120 calories. One rawhide bone can contain over 600 calories! It’s easy to see how things can add up.
You might be saying, “what about exercise? I understand food matters, but my dog exercises a lot.” Studies have shown that dogs are not efficient calorie burners. For example, dogs worked in underwater treadmills burned only about 50 calories per hour. That’s an hour of hard work to burn off a single milk-bone! Overall, just like us - dogs “can’t outrun a bad fork” and fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise.
This month at the Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic we are showcasing healthy weight management for all our pets, including dogs, cats, and horses. We have created weight loss packets for dogs and cats, have buy 5 get 1 free punch cards for our prescription OM weight loss diet, and are trained and ready to evaluate your companion’s weight and health status. Call us or stop by to schedule an appointment, ask questions, or enter our monthly raffle for some weight loss swag!