It may seem like common sense, but for many dog owners, it's not. Dog obesity has become an epidemic. Thankfully, there is a way to reverse obesity, drastically reduce expensive, painful health conditions caused by obesity, and actually add years to your dog's life.
First, is your dog overweight or obese? It's easy to tell. Can you feel your dog's ribs easily under a layer of flesh? You should feel the ribs, but not see the ribs. Your dog should have a waist line when viewed from above. Can you also feel your dog's hip bones (near the base of the tail)? If so, your dog is in good weight. If not, read on.
Second, how does obesity in dogs happen in the first place? Mostly from the food we feed, and lack of sufficient exercise. As Dr. Becker writes, kibble (dry dog food) is the primary culprit, laden with carbohydrates that dog's bodies don't need, and store as fat. It's that simple.
There are many reasons to avoid obesity, from quality of life to the financial burden, not to mention the heartbreak of watching your dog suffer, and losing him/her too soon.
This is an excerpt from an article written by Dr. Karen Becker:
Too Much Weight = Shorter, Lower Quality Lives The following are the top 10 most common dog and cat obesity-related conditions according to Nationwide Pet Insurance:
Most Common Obesity-Related Conditions in Dogs
Low thyroid hormone
Bladder/urinary tract disease
Diseased disc in spine
Soft tissue trauma
Torn ligaments in knee
Chronic kidney disease
Many of these conditions can take years off your pet's life and destroy the quality of daily life along the way. The financial implications are serious, too, since it's estimated that pet parents pay tens of millions of dollars in medical costs to treat their animals for obesity-related conditions, when simply eating better food and less of it would have been a much better option all the way around. How to Get Your Fat Pet to an Ideal Weight and Hold the Line
DON'T feed a starch-heavy, carbohydrate-laden processed diet — Ultra-processed pet foods are a significant contributor to the pet obesity epidemic in the U.S. Many pet parents overfeed, but very often the problem is also the quality of food they're offering in addition to the quantity.
If you're feeding a dry diet, while it might be free of grains, it can't be free of carbs, because carbs are necessary to form kibble. If you look at the package label, you'll see potato, sweet potato, lentils, peas (pea starch), chickpeas, tapioca and/or other carbohydrate sources. Starch breaks down into sugar, even though you don't see sugar on the pet food package label. Carbs that aren't burned for energy are stored as fat.
Many dry pet foods are loaded with carbs (40 to 50% of total content in some cases), which can lead to blood sugar fluctuations, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes and other health problems in pets. Carb intake above the daily needs of your pet (less than 10%) activates internal enzyme factors that go to work storing the excess as body fat. You can use this carb equation to calculate the digestible net carbs in your pet's current diet.
DO feed your pet fresh food — Cats and dogs need food high in animal protein and moisture, with low to no grain or starch content (which is pretty much the opposite of what dry pet foods offer, especially grain-free kibble).
A high-quality fresh food diet is the best choice for pets who need to lose weight. It's important to adequately nourish their bodies as weight loss occurs, making sure their requirements for key amino acids, essential fatty acids and other nutrients are met. The key to healthy weight loss is to meet your pet's nutritional requirements through a balanced diet but feed less food (portion control) and more exercise, which forces his body to burn fat stores. The first step is to transition him to a diet free of potatoes, corn, rice, soy and tapioca to get the carb content down to a biologically correct value of no more than 20% with a goal of less than 10% for healthy dogs and cats.
My best recommendation is a nutritionally optimal homemade fresh food diet of lean meats, healthy fats, plus fibrous vegetables and low glycemic fruits as the only sources of carbohydrates. These "healthy" carbs are the perfect way to maintain your pet's microbiome, while providing fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Feeding a fresh raw diet has many, many health benefits, other than its natural ability to help your dog achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Dr. Ian Billinghurst, whose formulas we follow, writes extensively on the topic.
Napa Fresh is YOUR happy, transparent fresh dog food producer, and we can help you figure out if your dog is overweight, and how much to feed your dog to achieve a healthy weight, for a healthy long life. Just get in touch.