Words, Woofs, and Meows  Pet Obesity, part 2

Words, Woofs, and Meows Pet Obesity, part 2

How to Keep Your Dog at a Healthy Weight

Make your dog's weight a family project – Everyone MUST be actively involved in monitoring your pet's weight if you are to succeed. It only takes one of you sneaking the dog extra calories to make your dog obese.
Be proactive – Many people do not understand their pet is overweight; statistically, half the dogs they see are overweight. Use the body condition charts I discussed last month ( https://petobesityprevention.org/pet-weight-check ) and asses your dog weekly.
Weigh your dog at least once a month – Annual weight checks at the vet are insufficient. Most of us do not have an appropriate scale for weighing our pets, so stop by your veterinarian’s office for a weigh-in.
Follow the feeding guidelines for the food you feed your dog – By law, every pet food package must include feeding guidelines that indicate how much to feed your pet. These guidelines vary wildly between brands and formulas, so you must check them whenever you change what you feed. Companies almost always indicate a range for a pet at a specific weight, and I recommend you feed at the low end of the range. I’d rather have your dog underweight than one percent overweight. We know that dogs that are fed less live longer.
Do not FREE feed your dog – Leaving food out increases the likelihood of overeating and may delay your action when your dog is ill. A healthy dog always eats.
Accept that your dog is genetically programmed to ALWAYS be hungry – In other words, a healthy dog will NEVER refuse food, whether offered or scavenged. One day, my wife and I were working in our store and let our dog Gus join us. At one point, one of us said, “Where’s Gus?” We found him with a bag of dog food with a tiny tear that he enlarged. Our 18-pound dog had consumed four pounds of food. Please do not kill your dog with kindness by succumbing to those heart-wrenching pleas to feed him more.
Feed your dog a healthy diet by reducing or eliminating carbohydrates – Excessive consumption of carbohydrates plays a significant role in obesity for people and their pets. More importantly, dogs and cats do not need carbs, yet carbohydrates are a substantial ingredient in dry pet food (kibble). Carbs are in pet food for three reasons: 1) they provide more calories for fewer dollars than protein and fat (meat), creating higher profits for the manufacturer; 2) they are necessary to hold the kibble together; and 3) pet parents find kibble convenient and a healthy choice because the five biggest pet food companies: the Mars Candy Company, the Nestle candy company, Colgate-Palmolive, JM Smucker’s, and General Mills have brainwashed them. No matter what they say on TV, kibble is not optimal nutrition for a pet any more than dry cereal is optimal nutrition for you.
This is what leading pet nutrition experts, including AAFCO, the quasi-regulatory agency that sets the rules for pet food, say about carbohydrates.
“Dogs have no requirement for plant carbohydrate.” – Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), 2016
“There appears to be no requirement for carbohydrate [in dogs] provided enough protein is given.” – National Research Council (NRC), 2006
“…there is no minimum dietary requirement for simple carbohydrates or starches for dogs and cats…” – The Merck Veterinary Manual.
If you need help learning about healthy diets for your pet, talk to someone who understands the value of fresh foods. Every year, more scientific research suggests fresh, minimally processed foods are healthier for our pets. This should be no surprise as human nutritionists have told us the same about what we eat for years. Eat fresh food and avoid processed food. I conduct regular webinars on this topic. You can learn more at https://forcefreepets.com/webinars/.
Understand that everything your dog eats has calories – Besides monitoring your dog's daily food ration, you need to monitor the treats he receives between meals. We’ll discuss that in detail next month.
Avoid Weight-Loss and Less Active Kibble Diets – A veterinarian often recommends a regular or even a “prescription” diet when a pet is overweight. Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian and author of The Forever Dog, states, “…the vast majority stick stubbornly to their misguided, uninformed advice to feed highly processed, starch-based diets.” I agree with Dr. Becker; why feed more carbs? Especially since Dr. Conor Brady’s review of the scientific literature on pet food revealed the following: “The ideal weight loss diet for your dog is lower in calories, high in protein, lower in fat and zero carbohydrates. This will result in gradual weight loss but will retain lean body mass, crucial to the whole process.”
Next month, I’ll discuss treats and exercise and their role in obesity.

Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) and the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB)and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of thePet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Showpodcast,available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/,the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
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