Dog food for some owners might not seem like a major concern. After all, some dogs seem to eat just about anything and get along okay. Is what they eat really such a big deal?
Actually, yeah. Like your own diet, your dog’s diet needs some careful planning and preparation. Not only that, you may need to rethink your dog’s training too. Let’s look at what to feed your dogs—both dog food and dog treats—and how you can help them lead healthier, more pleasant lives.
Why You Should Watch What Your Dog Food Your Pet Eats
If your family owned a dog when you were a kid, you might have slipped them something from your plate during dinner. If you own a dog today, you might still do it.
And of course, chances are pretty good that your pet ate something they shouldn’t have once (or much more than once). Maybe it was a hamburger. Or a plate full of them. On top of all this, there are those little doggie biscuits you might give your good boy/girl now and again.
So what’s the problem? They just work off all that food by running around. It’s not like they need Weight Watchers or something.
It’s understandable if you think this; it’s still pretty popular to slip your pooches dog treats—and maybe a little people food—every so often. Unfortunately, owners are unintentionally harming their dog’s health by not thinking enough about their diet.
In 2012, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that approximately 53 percent of all the dogs in the United States are obese or overweight. This means that there’s more than a 50/50 chance of your dog being heavier than they should be.
Health Problems for Your Dogs, Money Problems for You
According to the APOP’s founder, Dr. Ernie Ward, dog obesity can impact you and your pet in two ways: health-wise and financially.
Like overweight people, overweight dogs can end up suffering from a variety of health problems, These include:
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Respiratory Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
In short, when dogs are overweight, they tend to live shorter and more painful lives. This will lead to a lot of pain for you too down the road.
Not only can dog obesity break your heart, it can hurt your bank account too. By Dr. Ward’s estimate, dog owners spend tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars each year treating obesity-related health problems.
What makes this worse is that, in Dr. Ward’s view, most of these expenses are unnecessary. If people were just more careful about what they fed their dogs, lots of these health problems wouldn’t come up in the first place.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Too Thin, Too Fat or Just Right
It isn’t always easy to tell whether or not your dog is obese. One reliable way to figuring it out on your own is to check their ribs.
If you can see your dog’s ribcage, that’s a sign that they’re underweight. If you can reach around your dog and feel their ribs with your fingers, that’s great—their weight’s right about where it should be. However, if you can’t feel their ribs, your dog probably needs to shed a few pounds.
How to Keep Your Dog at the Right Weight
Now that we’ve established the importance of minding your dog’s weight, let’s look at what you can do to keep it under control.
Feeding Underweight Dogs
While obesity in your dog is obviously a problem, being underweight is unhealthy too. Underweight dogs can show symptoms like:
- Lack of Energy
- Loss of Muscle Mass
- Dull-Looking Coat
Your veterinarian can let you know certain if your dog is underweight. If they are, you can give them “performance foods,” which are formulated specifically to help pets gain weight and muscle mass. These diet dog foods are packed with more calories and protein than standard ones.
Some of you may wonder if just giving your dog more of the standard food would work. Vets say no. The big problem with this method is that your dog can get used to eating those larger portions. This can make it difficult to wean them off eating so much. In the end, they could go from being underweight to being overweight.
Feeding Overweight Dogs
There are a lot of diet foods out there for overweight canines. Not all of them are equal, though.
For example, some dog foods have a high fiber content, which makes them feel fuller even though they don’t eat as much. They can help dogs lose weight, but they have drawbacks. For one thing, they can make dogs’ coats less lustrous. For another, fiber has the same effect on dogs that it does on humans (i.e. it makes them poop more).
Dog foods with a good balance of carbs and protein are a better option. Also, look for foods that have vitamin A, which can make your dog think they’re full. Ingredients like L-carnitine and chromium tripicolinate will help your pet burn more fat too.
Staying at the Right Weight
It’s a hard truth of dieting (or at least a hard tendency, anyway): You may get your weight down, but keeping it down is the really difficult part. Lots of times, your weight can go right back up.
The same truth (or tendency) applies to dogs—losing weight is one thing, and keeping it off is another. Thankfully, there are types of diet food for this too. They’re called “weight control” foods. They don’t really help dogs lose weight, but they can help keep their weight where it needs to be.
Weight control foods are great for preventing obesity in your dog too. They’re especially good for dogs that aren’t very active or have a low thyroid.
Keep Dog Food Portions Right
As we’ve mentioned before, it’s important to watch how much food you give your dog. If you make the portions too big, it’ll defeat the purpose of the diet dog food. Also, be sure to keep your dogs active and don’t give them too many treats.