Is it Time to Put Fido on a Diet?

Posted by Billy Francis

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Maintaining a healthy weight for your dog is vital to keep him wagging throughout his life. In 2020, Banfield Pet Hospital examined the health records of millions of pets and found that the number of obese dogs in the U.S. rose to 38%. If your Chihuahua or other small breed dog is 5 pounds overweight, it’s the equivalent of 105 pounds in humans - the same as carrying three cinder blocks around with you at all times. Fortunately, a few easy changes to Fido's mealtime routine will help keep your dog lean, happy and (maybe) not begging for treats.

How to Determine Your Dog's Ideal Weight

"Diet? What diet?" Photo by Pixabay/danbar44

Your pooch might look a little round in the belly, but does that really mean he's overweight? There's an easy way to find out. In humans, Body Mass Index (BMI) is often used as a guideline for calculating ideal weight and body fat, but a canine’s weight is measured by a Body Condition Score (BCS). Ranging from emaciated to severely obese, this is the scale most veterinarians use to judge where a dog is at and what is needed for a return to health. Your vet will be able to give you Fido's BCS, and tell you what it means, at his next checkup.

What's on Fido's Menu?

"Is this good for me?" Photo by Ayla Verschueren on Unsplash

The best way to help a pudgy Pug is to evaluate the contents of her dinner bowl. Low-quality foods often cause weight gain in dogs because they include unhealthy ingredients added as filler. These are known as “empty calories” and have little nutritional content. Ingredients like corn syrup, MSG, and certain types of meat meal made from bad offcuts are examples of unhealthy ingredients found in dog food.

Suitable dog food depends on a variety of factors like breed, size and age. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “optimal diets for growing puppies should contain a minimum 8% fat as dry matter.” This can be found in food specific for puppies like Purina Pro Plan Puppy. On the other hand, senior dogs require food to support their body and mind as they reach their golden years. Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind is rich in nutrients for the brain like omega-3 fatty acids, arginine, antioxidants, and B vitamins.

A lifetime study of Labradors by Purina suggests dogs who are fed lean food throughout their lives can live up to 2 years longer than dogs who aren’t. For weight loss, look for food that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Nature’s Logic Canine Beef Meal Feast is one example of a nutrient-rich dry dog food made with high-protein beef meal. When purchasing dry food, look at the back of the package for a mention of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an indicator that the product has been successfully tested with dogs.

Human-grade food can be expensive, but it’s one of the healthiest types of food for dogs. Food is FDA-approved for human consumption, rather than animals, which guarantees higher standards than other dog food. Translational Animal Science completed the first extensive study on human-grade food in 2019. Testing six of JustFoodForDogs’ bestsellers, the study found they were all highly digestible, which is one of the main things to look out for in a balanced dog food diet.

Overeating and Over-Treating

"Even I think this is too much." Photo by @champagne.hachi

Has Fido ever heard of too much of a good thing? Even if your pooch is eating the right stuff, he also needs to have the right amount of food per day. Use the feeding guide on the back of the bag to determine how much your dog should be eating. Remember, this is based on a 24-hour period and should be split between two meals. Every dog is different, and you know your pup better than anybody. An inactive canine may require less than the recommended guideline, while an outbound hound who burns a lot of calories may need a heftier scoop.

Treats are one of the most common culprits in unhealthy weight gain among dogs. After all, it’s hard to say no to those puppy-dog eyes! Treats are great for training and rewarding your dog for good behavior, but just like human snacks, there is a tendency to overdo it. If your pooch is used to getting the last few bites of your dinner, replace that with a small healthy treat that’s high in fiber (like a slice of apple), or reward him with a fun activity like a game of fetch instead.

Teach Your Chow Chow to Chew Chew

"So it's ok to play with my food?" Photo by Facebook.com/OutwardHound

Getting your dog to chew a meal rather than inhale it is another way she can lose weight safely, helping her to feel fuller longer and eat less. This fun feeder from Outward Hound will slow your speed-eating Spaniel down and also helps prevent bloat, risk of choking and vomiting.

Top Dog Food Brands

Looks good, feels good. Photo by Facebook.com/thefarmersdog

From human-grade to dry kibble, here are some of the most recommended dog food brands on the market. Even if it is healthy, however, it might not be right for your dog. Buy a small bag as a test run first before committing to a switch.

The Farmer’s Dog

The Farmer’s Dog is one of the best subscription boxes for dogs. Get real food, made fresh and delivered straight to your door with a personalized meal plan for your furry foodie.

JustFoodForDogs

Human-grade food can be one of the healthiest types of dog food. JustFoodForDogs is one of the leading brands that offers fresh frozen meals that can be customized to suit your pooch. Check out their feeding calculator for extra help at meal time.

Spot & Tango

Spot & Tango is a fresh, healthy dog food delivery service curated for your pooch’s unique needs. Offering recipes made with 12 simple ingredients designed to boost energy, manage weight, build immunity and much more, there’s something for all canine needs.

Purina

Purina serves up balanced bites to suit your dog’s specific needs. From sensitive skin and stomach to complete essentials, there’s a Purina meal plan that will agree with your dog’s lifestyle and condition.

Royal Canin

Royal Canin is the top pick among U.S. veterinarians. Backed by scientific research and feeding trials, they offer a variety of different dog food depending on your dog’s needs, including gastrointestinal and hydrolyzed protein.

Taste of the Wild

Taste of the Wild is one of the most well-rounded dry kibbles on the market. The first ingredient is always real meat like roasted fowl, wild boar and smoked salmon, joined by sweet potatoes and other nutrient-dense ingredients.

Blue Buffalo

The main ingredients in Blue Buffalo dog food include rabbit, chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, salmon, duck, trout, and oatmeal. They also feature recognizable fats, like chicken fat, which are an excellent source of fatty acids. Their wet dog food is great for dogs with diabetes who need to keep moisture levels up. And their chicken dinner recipe is the crème de la can for senior dogs.

The Last Bite

“Just right.” Photo by James Lacy on Unsplash

Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s best to avoid yo-yo diets that could cause your dog distress. Instead, introduce positive weight loss techniques and good-quality dog food, stick to your plan, and maintain a healthy weight throughout your dog’s life. Staying in shape also requires regular exercise. Check out BringFido's activities' section, which lists 20,000 fun activities around the world that you can enjoy with your dog.

If you’re still wondering which food to feed Fido, ask your veterinarian during his next visit. They will be happy to recommend a dog food that suits his size, age and breed. Take the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s survey to help researchers gather data about canine obesity and find new ways to help dogs and their owners combat it.

Does your dog need to go on a diet? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

Banner photo by Cup of Couple from Pexels.