By Michael Landa
Over half of American pets have parents with “feeding disorders.” OK, to be fair, there are some breeds that are more prone to becoming overweight, but by and far we’ve become a nation that’s feeding the human equivalent of fast food to our dogs and supersizing them at the same time.
Who doesn’t love a double Cheeseburger with fries now and then; but for every meal?
Obesity is a major health concern for dogs that often leads to acute conditions such as heart and liver disease, diabetes, joint problems, digestive disorder, and an increased risk of cancer. The health risks to overweight dogs are severe and every dog owner should be aware of them.
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to prevent your dog from packing on the pounds.
- Start them out right. Puppies that are overweight while growing have a greater risk of becoming overweight as adult dogs. While it’s important that developing puppies have adequate nutrition, we need to be careful not to feed them to excess. In addition to contributing to weight problems as they age, extra juvenile weight can lead to other issues such as joint disease.
- Select dry kibble varieties with high amounts of animal-based protein (versus plant). How can you tell? Look for foods whose ingredients start with a named meat like chicken or lamb and are immediately followed by their ‘meal’ (dehydrated) equivalent such as chicken meal or lamb meal. Stay clear of foods using generic “meat by-products” (which can come from a number of species and vary significantly in nutritional content).
- Avoid foods containing corn, corn gluten meal, white potatoes, wheat, wheat gluten meal or soy protein – these are simply low-quality plant protein sources being used in place of meat. These foods are very high in carbohydrates – which are quickly stored as fat if they’re not burned off for energy. Dogs are not ‘corn-ivores!’
- Treats should be given very sparingly. As a rule of thumb, they should make up no more than 10% of your pet’s daily calories.
- Do not give table scraps or people food. You may be feeding them way more calories than you realize. She’s not really hungry; she’s simply perfected those loving puppy dog eyes. Begging is a behavioral issue, not a hunger issue.
- Long daily walks can help combat excess weight; they’re good for you as the parent and they can increase the bond you have with your dog. Playing fetch and swimming are also very effective activities.
- Regularly monitor your dog’s weight. It’s easy for us to put on a few pounds and not notice until we try to slip into that pair of jeans we haven’t worn in a while. It’s even harder to notice small weight gains in dogs. Three extra pounds on a 15 lb. Jack Russell is the equivalent of an average person gaining 30 lbs. Ouch!
- Involve everyone in the household. One of the key reasons that weight issues emerge with dogs is that one (or more) member(s) of the household is not following proper nutrition guidelines – quantity or quality. Everyone must agree that managing a dog’s weight is essential for its life and long term health. Young children, in particular, must learn to respect and follow the guidelines to ensure success.
- Recognize any contributing factors or diseases. Although the majority of weight gain in dogs is due to feeding too much and exercising too little, there are medical conditions that can contribute to obesity, many of which can be treated if diagnosed properly. If your dog has a sudden increase in appetite or weight, have him examined by your veterinarian for the possible medical cause.
- Nulo’s recipes for dogs and cats are designed with high animal-based protein and fiber-rich whole foods like chickpeas, lentils, and sweet potatoes, which help to keep your pet feeling full while also supporting a lean body condition. Nulo’s Trim and Weight Management recipes also include L-carnitine for extra support with helping pets reach and maintain a healthy body weight.