JoAnna Lou
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Diets for Dogs
Navigating the canine obesity problem.

This time of year, many people have diets and weight loss on the brain. But humans aren’t the only ones that could stand to lose a few pounds. A study by Pfizer Animal Health found that veterinarians consider 47 percent of their patients to be overweight, making them susceptible to a myriad of health problems and possibly a shorter life span.

Earlier this month, I wrote about exercising with your pup, but for obese pets, dietary changes may be necessary. In the last few years, inspired by both the growing human and canine obesity problem, many brands of low calorie animal diets have cropped up. 

A recent study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, looked at almost 50 of these so called diet dog foods. The researchers found a wide range of calories, ranging from 217 to 440 kilocalories per cup.

The study also found that many dogs fed according to the directions on the back of the packaging would not result in weight loss and might even cause the pets to gain weight. 

I’ve never followed the feeding guidelines on the back of food packages. Quantity depends not only on the brand of food you feed, but on your particular dog and his activity level. I routinely feel my dogs’ ribs to regulate their diet. If I can feel too much, I increase the amount I feed and vice versa.

If you’re unsure how much you should be feeding your dog or how to tell if your pup is overweight, discuss proper diet and identifying characteristics of obesity with your veterinarian. Check out PetEducation.com’s online resources to educate yourself before you get to the veterinarian’s office.

How do you regulate your dog’s diet?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.


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Submitted by Melissa Garcia Logan | February 16 2010 |

For my dogs, who do not eat a commercial diet, I feed them much the same way that I feed myself. If one of them needs to lose weight, we go slowly, adding exercise and reducing calories so they don't lose weight drastically and quickly. I add fiber and low or no calorie items like increasing vegetables and reducing the calorie intake of other items like switching from full fat yogurt to low fat or fat free. If necessary I cut back on the protein and add more fiber so they feel full without the calories.

One of my dogs looks at food and gains weight, but my renal dog it's the opposite. Keeping weight on him is usually the problem so I have become adept at manipulating the ingredients so that he still receives moderate protein from high quality sources but also gets high calorie additions that are low in phosphorus.

When my dogs ate commercial dog food, I fed them the same adult formulas, not reduced calorie formulas. I just fed less, added frozen green beans or other vegetables to increase fullness, and increased activity and we always had good results.

Submitted by Carolyn | February 17 2010 |

At 11 lbs., my dog hardly registers on a regular bathroom scales. A few ounces can make a difference. If she begins to feel well padded, I cut down on training treats and up exercise. If that doesn't do it, I use a portion of her meals for treats. She's not on a commercial diet either so I mostly adjust amount and exercise to keep her at a healthy weight. I like to be able to feel her ribs. She has a heart condition and luxating patellas so I'm well aware that a healthy weight is important for her.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 24 2010 |

My dog is very small - only 8 pounds, so her portions are proportionately petite - 1/4 cup of food twice a day. She likes everything, but with so few calories to to get all her nutrition in, I feed her Wellness organic dog food - right now she's on their Core adult dog food, before it was the small breed (we only switched because they stopped carrying the small breed in the local Petco). I use some of her food as training treats, and try to break up training treats that aren't her dog food into the smallest pieces possible that way we don't have an obesity problem to start with ---
Mocha on the web: http:DoggoneKnits.com

Submitted by Anonymous | March 2 2010 |

I also follow the feeling of ribs method for determining my dogs' proper weight. I have exceptionally active dogs (3 herders, 1 pitbull mix and a chihuahua), and have found that if I followed the back of the bag alone I'd probably have one obese, 3-legged heartworm surviving rescued aussie, 2 well exercised dogs at good weight,a porky chihuahua and one really emaciated pitbull. The best advice i ever received on feeding came from my vet when she told me my dog was overweight after being penned after heartworm treatment and a leg amputation (caused by neglect from previous owner). I ask her if I needed thyroid tests or special food and she flatly replied "No, she's fat, you need to simply feed her less. She may not like you too much for a while, but she'll live alot longer."

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