Many of our canines and felines weigh more than they should. There’s no argument about that! Whether our very own dogs and cats are overweight – well, downright fat – that’s a lot different. MY dog is just large boned.
We have a hard time even knowing whether our pets are fat. Owning up, and learning to see the problem, is the first step in helping your dog or cat live longer. If we do, our pets will avoid some of the most common diseases that eventually shorten their lives. It’s a lot easier than taking the weight off our human bodies: our pets only eat what we give them.
Do you leave food out for your dog and cat? This is one of the most common causes for obesity. Pick up that food. Another is feeding too much. That’s what this series of posts is about.
It is truly confusing to try to sort out commercial foods. What’s with all the diet food? What’s the difference? What’s best for your pet?
In the very simplest approach, your pet needs to eat the amount of food that meets his needs and no more. The chart below shows you a range of activity levels and life stages and calories needed for each, daily. If you know the amount of calories he needs, you have a place to start.
So……your 50# moderately active, medium age dog needs about 1145 calories per day. There are many ways to meet that need. You can use dry food, or canned food, or frozen food, or one of the array of dehydrated and freeze dried foods. You can make food at home, using our book, Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats, as a guide.
In this first segment, we’ll look at dry foods.
Foods made for all life stages are appropriate for the overweight – they just need to eat the right amount. Often, a real measuring cup is needed more than a new food.
Diet foods have a reduced calorie count, achieved in a number of ways. Less fat, more fiber, more grain (thus less fat) and sometimes even not-so-nice additions like a hefty amount of peanut hulls. Stay away from that one. We think that these foods are more for the humans than for the dogs and cats. The humans get to hand out more diet food – since it has fewer calories, the serving is bigger. But this bigger serving has a cost: more metabolically inappropriate starch, and less fat. The natural diet of a dog or a cat would have about 20% fat, and those would be really good fats. We prefer that you use foods for all life stages. Consult the package carefully to see what the calorie count is. If it isn’t there, check the website, or call the company. Below are examples of good quality dry foods, with the calorie count for one cup. That is an official, LEVEL
DRY MEASURE CUP.
Canine Caviar Adult 599 kcal
Canine Caviar Venison and Split Pea 596 kcal per cup
Fromm Chicken ala Veg 370 kcal per cup
Fromm Salmon ala Veg 405 kcal per cup
Horizon Adult 415 kcal per cup
Merrick Cowboy Cookout 359 kcal per cup
Mulligan Stew Chicken 480 kcal per cup
Nature’s Variety Prairie Chicken 391 kcal per cup
These “all life stages” foods range from 370-599kcal per cup. Clearly, all dry food is not alike. Some all-stages foods have 325, a few have even more than the heftiest of those above.
Your dog might get 3 cups of food a day, or a little less than 2 cups of food. If you don’t do the calculations, you may have a very chunky dog in no time. You might think that there is something wrong – when it’s just a question of too many calories.
Which food agrees with your dog or cat is another topic entirely, but if you at least take the time to figure this part out you’ll have a good idea of how much to start with.
The directions on the package may or may not reflect the way the food performs in your dog’s body. In young skinny dogs, people often feed more and more in the hope that their pet will put some weight on. Like young humans, they might just burn up the extra food – or they may poop it out (these are BIG poops) until the day comes that they start to pack it on as fat.
The dogs and cats we’re talking about here have the opposite problem. If you find that you are having to feed your dog much less than the package directs, there is a good chance the they are not getting the proper amount of nutrients. The food is planned so that the directed amount provides the appropriate nutrients.
Many obese pets (ok, a little fat) in our experience cannot handle high-grain foods and do much better on species-appropriate, real food diets, with a more appropriate balance of protein/fat/carbohydrate than can be provided by a regular pet food.
It is tempting to try one of the “grain free” dry foods, marketed to be the next best thing to real food, but they are much denser foods, with far more calories. We didn’t use any of these as examples above. The serving size is smaller and there is no water to help the body process these foods. We’re not big fans of these foods in general, though they can have a place in a rotation of dry foods.
If your pet seems to be one of those that gains on a very small amount of food, real food is probably a better choice. More exercise certainly helps, but real food AND exercise is the best choice in this situation. A frozen diet can be a good choice, or a home-made one. Canned food can provide an appropriate fat/protein/carb profile, but canned food has even more choices and a broader calorie range.