Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Fat Talk

If you've ever taken a training class from Amanda and your dog escaped the "fat talk", you are one of the very few.  Most dogs could lose a few pounds (as could most of us!)  Keeping our dogs a healthy weight is important on so many levels. Overall if they are slender, they will feel better, be healthier and age more gracefully.

April is NOT a healthy weight.
How do you know what a healthy weight is for your dog?  Dogs are all different so you can't just use a number on a scale although you can use their weight to make sure you are remaining in the right ball park once you get to that healthy weight.

The easiest rule of thumb to follow is: Can you feel their ribs?  When you gently run your hand down their side, you should be able to just slightly feel all their ribs. Dogs should also have a waist that you can see from the side (you want to see a tuck after their ribs end) and the top.

Jetta has a great tuck and narrow waist.

Here is a great chart you can use to see if your dog is too thin, too heavy or just right.  How does your dog rank? (I'd guess my dogs are both 5's... but Lacey is just squeaking into that category.  My cat on the other hand is probably a 7 or 8 but we are working on that.)

Can you see how Lacey's waist tucks in on the sides?  That is a good thing.
How do you get and maintain a healthy weight for your dog?  The same way we would do it for us.  Portion control!

If you are feeding your dog kibble, don't just take the suggested amount on the side of the bag as gospel.  It is just a suggestion. Every dog is different based on their metabolism and how much exercise they get.  If the dog food company recommends feeding your dog 2 cups a day yet your dog is still on the heavy side, don't be afraid to feed less.  The information on the bag is just a guideline.  It may take some fine tuning to figure out exactly what is right for your dog, but with a little time you'll figure it out.

For example, my dog food suggests feeding my small dog anywhere from 1.25 - 2.5 cups (she gets 1.25 cups a day) and they suggest I feed my large dog 2.5 - 4.75 cups (she gets 3 cups a day).  Notice that they both eat close to the lower suggestion even though they get a fair amount of exercise each day (45-60 minutes of off leash running) and aren't the minimum weight in their category. AND, I don't give out many treats and when I do, they are usually quite small.

Even under his fur, you can tell Boone is nice and slender.
Once you figure out the ideal amount of food, still keep an eye on your dog. How much food they need will probably change over time.  As dogs age or become less active, you'll need to decrease their caloric intake.

Once Sadie slows down, she'll have to eat less to maintain her little waist.
No matter if your dog eats scheduled meals a few times a day, or just grazes whenever they are hungry, you should be measuring out how much they eat each day.  This will help make sure they aren't eating too much and it will also make you aware if your dog suddenly starts eating less. This can be an early warning sign that they aren't feeling well.  I use a measuring cup that I just leave in the dog food bin that is exactly what they need each meal so we can't screw it up.

Even if Coulee's activity level isn't the same every day, she still gets the same amount of food. The days where she get's more exercise than usual just make up for those occasional lazy days.
Don't forget to factor in the treats!  If you are feeding your dog lots of treats during the day, you are going to have to reduce how much they eat at meal times. For example, if you are going to a training class in the evening and you use treats as a reward for good behaviour, decrease the dinner meal by 1/2 cup to make up for it. Even though I have a large dog, I buy small treats (the bag will often say "training treats" on it) or I buy larger ones that I can break into smaller pieces.  This way they get a cookie without adding lots of calories.

Just a few treats for a little dog can have a pretty big impact on their weight.  Be sure to give them only a few small treats each day.
So what happens when you've put your dog on a diet and they are constantly scrounging or begging for food?  Try increasing their fibre.  Just like with us, fibre will make them feel full without eating a whole lot more.  Try a scoop of canned pumpkin (just the straight pumpkin, not the pumpkin pie mix) with their food to help increase their fibre and decrease their hunger pangs.

Try not to give in to those pleading looks!
Having healthy dogs will save on vet bills, save on food bills and most importantly keep your pet happier and healthier for a long time to come.

If you have a very overweight dog and are debating putting him/her on a diet, please consult your vet to determine the safest way to do it!


onecollie said...

This was an awesome post !!

Deirdre said...

A great post! I can't believe Jetta is now a model :)

Catherine & Bustsf said...

Awesome Post! I will share it with Buster who got into his food tub on Friday (my fault for not shutting it tight) and decided to stick his face in and eat until he got busted! :)

Catherine And Buster said...

Yikes! That should say Catherine And Buster

Paws on the Run said...

LOL Catherine! Tell Buster binging is never good for the waist line!