Do You Have A Pudgy Pooch?
I recently saw a dog I fostered a couple of years ago. When he was with me, he was fit, active, happy and at a perfect weight for an average size Cavalier. I sent him off to his new home with specific feeding instructions that would allow him to maintain his healthy weight and condition. Sadly, though still active, quite happy and well loved, he now is rather pudgy.
The first question I asked his owner was how much do you feed him at each meal? The amount was a bit more than I had recommended but, after further inquiry, I learned that this dog eats way more than he needs. Apparently once he finishes his meal, he races to the other three dogs’ food bowls and gobbles up what they don’t have time to eat before he ambushes them. Not surprisingly, the other dogs are at optimum weights for their size.
It wasn’t until this dog’s owner saw and held my Cavaliers that she realized her own dog is overweight. She really just didn’t have a clue! I showed her how to assess if a dog is overweight, and we devised a game plan that will help her boy slim down, to include feeding him in his kennel so he can’t get to the other food bowls until the other dogs have emptied them.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight
You must pay attention to your dog’s weight. You no doubt pet your dog many times every day. But do you actually FEEL your dog as well? There’s a difference, and really feeling your dog EVERY DAY – especially if he has a thick of fluffy coat that doesn’t allow you to see his body – is the only way you can assess if he is at a good weight.
If you can’t feel each of your dog’s ribs easily, without having to push too hard into a layer of fat, he’s overweight. If you can’t feel your dog’s spine or pelvis/hips in the same way, he’s overweight. If a “grab-able” roll of fat has developed at the base of your dog’s neck, he’s overweight. If your dog’s body jiggles from side to side when he walks, he’s overweight.
How Much Should You Feed Your Dog?
Often people with overweight dogs report that they simply are following the feeding instructions on the bag of food. Well, I have to say that those instructions rarely are accurate even as a starting point. Certainly age, metabolism and activity level are huge contributing factors in determining how much your dog should eat, and getting to the right amount can involve a bit of guess work at first. But, since it’s easier, in general, to put weight on a dog than to take weight off a dog, it’s best to err on the side of less is more. For example, the instructions on the bag may tell you to feed a German Shepherd Dog five cups a day; I would drop that down to four cups – two cups twice a day and adjust from there. For a smaller dog such as a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, the instructions may suggest one and a quarter cup per day. My Cavaliers eat two thirds to three quarters of a cup a day of kibble. If they start to seem a little thin when I feel them, I bump up the amount and re-assess after a couple of days; if I feel them getting thicker than they should be, I feed them less.
It’s not a static thing. Just because you start giving your dog two cups of food a day doesn’t mean that’s what you should feed him the rest of his life. In general, puppies need more for awhile; intact dogs need more; spayed/neutered dogs need less; active dogs need more; sedentary dogs need less; older dogs need less – until they don’t, and then they need more. So you can see, the amount of food you give your dog will vary throughout his life, and you really only can know how much he needs at any given point by feeling him.
Cutting back on food does not mean skimping on nutrition, however. And as you consider how much to feed your dog you also must take stock of his overall appearance. Does he have healthy skin and coat? Are his eyes bright and clear? Do his ears smell and look clean? Is there a little giddy up in his step? If not, perhaps you are not using a food that is optimum for your dog. Don’t be afraid to try a different brands. I use several kinds of food and I rotate them often, while adding frozen raw, as well as – yes, I’ll say it: “human” food.
Raw And Homemade Food For Your Dog
If you’re feeding a raw food or a homemade diet in any shape or form (all by itself or in addition to store bought kibble), your chances of having an overweight dog can be reduced considerably (no pun intended). Take out those fillers and by-products and you take out a lot of useless calories that easily can turn to fat. Even if you simply reduce the amount of kibble you give your dog and replace it with steamed veggies, raw or cooked meat, raw or cooked eggs, over-ripe fruit, yogurt, canned pumpkin, etc., you can keep your dog’s weight down while adding valuable nutrition to his diet. Remember, good nutrition supports that overall great appearance as well as a strong immune system. And it’s the strong immune system that what keeps your dog healthy and able to ward off diseases like kennel cough, cancer, and even some parasites.
Feel For Your Dog’s Fitness
A fat dog is never healthy. A fat dog is likely to be uncomfortable, less active, and more susceptible to disease, injury, and the effects of wear and tear on the aging body. Do yourself and your dog a favor: don’t just pet your dog; really FEEL your dog every day to make sure he is not getting too pudgy or too skinny, and adjust his food portions and intake accordingly.