Are you killing your dog?
Did you instantly respond - Of course not! I love my dog! - ? Well, let's look at the facts. Have
you checked your dog's "waistline" lately? Can you actually see the ribs? If your dog has long
hair can you feel the ribs with only the amount of pressure it would take to barely dent the flesh
of an over ripe avocado? If you have trouble with these questions than it could well be that
your dog is fat - even obese.
Some estimates state that in excess of 80% of our canine and feline companions are
"Obesity related illnesses can kill, and when they don't, they reduce the quality of life." (DOG
WORLD, October 1998) Almost no part of the body escapes the stress of an overweight
condition - heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas, joints, etc. And, this "disease" is totally
It is true that some breeds (the Nordics and Labs, for example) seem to gain weight very easily
but a simple equation exists for all breeds - feed no more than the dog requires to meet needs of
growth and/or activity. There is evidence that in neutered animals the metabolic set point is
lowered but the above premise still holds true - feed no more than the dog needs. Another
aspect of weight gain in spayed/neutered animals is that the operation usually takes place
at about the time that the animal has also slowed way down in its growth rate. Therefore
neutered dogs require less to eat but the same amount is offered!
Over and over again, when I comment to clients that their dog is too heavy (read fat!) I get comments such as - "Really?" "He hardly eats a thing." "My breed is supposed to be
heavy." "But, he is always so hungry - just look at that expression." And when I ask exactly
how much the dog eats the answer is often - "Well, about a half a bowl full." Or, "Just a
few handsful." One of my favorites is "But she won't eat if I don't put (fill in the blank) on
her food.) This is said about a dog that is so fat it clearly doesn't even want to eat and is
being "forced" into doing so by a "loving" owner!
To get in charge of the situation the first thing that is required is to know exactly how much the dog eats at each meal and don’t forget to add in all the little extras that fall her way! To
know precisely the amount requires a measuring cup. No guessing. No free feeding! Decide
just how much the dog has been getting and reduce that amount by up to 15%. While there
are low calorie diet foods available there is reason to believe that the dog will feel more hungry
on those empty calories than on reduced intake - which is what will be required ultimately
Feed on schedule, offer no fatty table scraps, buy the best dog food available if you are feeding kibble - do not buy supermarket brands! Consider feeding “real food”* rather than processed
food. Avoid any and all foods with corn, wheat or soy. Best, actually, to go grain free! Grain
free is NOT free of carbohydrates but it is a step in the right direction. For training treats (You
do train your dog, right?) you can mix some of the kibble with tiny bits of meat, cheese, hot
dogs dried fruit,(NO RAISINS!) etc. and let the flavors blend. Only your dog will tell you if the
mixture is worth working for.
No diet is complete without an exercise program but if you have neglected this part of your buddy's life begin very, very slowly to avoid stress on the heart and joints. Walk only in the
early or late hours to avoid heat. The sidewalk is hot to the touch so consider how that feels to
the dog's pads! And, sun beating down on the dog plus radiating up from the sidewalk (He is a lot closer to it than you are.) can dehydrate an animal very rapidly.
As for those pleading eyes and the drooling. remember that your dog is capable of doing that following a full meal. Hunger may actually be part of the problem if you are feeding dry food
that is mostly grains and very, very little meat. The dog is not satisfied even if she is full! If
you love your dog give her a life free of the strain of packing around extra pounds that tax the
system and destroy the joints.
*To me “real food” means a raw diet but even a well balanced cooked diet is way ahead of what comes in bags. There are a LOT of resources for home prepared food but even giving
your dog some vegetables, fruits, eggs, fresh meat now and then is an improvement over the