With over half of all canines considered overweight, dog weight loss is at the forefront of a lot of pet owner’s minds. While we know that a healthy weight can help our dogs live up to 15 percent longer, many people don’t know that their dogs are overweight. And when their veterinarians recommend weight loss for their beloved canines, they don’t know where to start.
Mill Creek Store Manager Fay Harris knows exactly how that feels. She’s helped her own dog lose a third of his body weight, and now she helps coach dog owners who want to help their own dogs achieve healthy weights. She theorizes that changing your thinking about dog weight loss can also make this journey easier. We talked to her to find out more.
MB: What are some of the strategies you recommend to encourage dog weight loss?
FH: First, I like to talk about the difference between food and love. And how I often find myself substituting food for love with my own dog. We love our dogs so much, and we want to make them happy. But in the end, it can be detrimental to their health if we give them too much food. When we want to show them love, it can be through walks and playtime and not just through food and treats.
And then I like to talk about moist and fresh foods. Any time we can substitute moist and fresh foods for calorie-dense dry kibble it’s going to be easier to have them lose weight. So, we talk about raw food, freeze-dried foods or canned foods. We even talk adding about canned pumpkin to kibble diets.
But we also talk about foods that they already have around the house. If you’re making zucchini for dinner that night, some people love the idea of grating their leftover zucchini and saving it. They combine the zucchini with other grated fruits and vegetables throughout the week. Then, they sprinkle some of the grated fruits and vegetables on their dogs’ meals as a substitute for part of the kibble.
MB: Are there certain food types that make better dog weight loss foods?
FH: I like to look for food with a lot of moisture. I prioritize this characteristic because water has no calories. Water is also very filling. I think that some dogs aren’t satisfied by their food, so they eat more and beg more. So, having food that contains a lot of moisture adds a lot more bulk to the food. I also think that fresher, non-processed foods are more satisfying and satiating. So, by adding those fresh and moist foods into the diet, your dog will feel more satisfied.
MB: It’s really easy to accidentally overfeed dogs. Any tips for avoiding this common problem that can lead to weight gain?
FH: I think lots of people forget to measure food. They just scoop some out and place it in a bowl, so it’s easy to overfeed. It’s important to use an actual measuring cup or a food scale to accurately measure the food at every meal.
Some people might not know that the recommendation on the bags of kibble are very broad guidelines. Many people interpret them as something that needs to be followed exactly. And sometimes people misread the guidelines. Sometimes there’s some verbiage that makes it confusing, and people think that the feeding recommendations are per feeding rather than per day.
Some dog owners forget to count the calories in treats and chews. The treats and chews that our dogs eat all day can add up to a lot of calories. And sometimes a dog might eat food that falls from the table, and those calories also add up to a surprising amount. An easy solution is to adjust the amount that you’re giving your dog at meal times based on the number of treats and chews that he’s eaten that day.
Only 10 percent of your dog’s diet should come from added vegetables, treats and chews. The other part of his diet needs to come from a nutritionally balanced dog food.
You can also make your dog’s life more interesting by making eating more challenging. So that might mean he has a raw meaty bone for dinner one night a week. He might enjoy a puzzle toy or completing tricks before getting his food. The occasional challenge is a great way to add love and stimulation to your dog’s life.
MB: If people aren’t getting the results that they expect, what are their options?
FH: Before I came to work at Mud Bay, my little guy, Rueben, weighed twenty pounds. And I didn’t think he was overweight because I thought his stomach would hang down if he was. But my vet said that he was overweight. I was told that he’ll never be a 13-pound dachshund, but he could potentially be a 16-pound dachshund. So, I started giving him less kibble and did some other things the vet suggested.
And he reached 16 pounds, but his weight plateaued there. When I came to work at Mud Bay, I transitioned him to a raw diet with the highest moisture content I could find. And the weight just melted off him. And he is, in fact, now a 13-pound dachshund!
So, I would suggest that if you’re running into obstacles, you should first check and make sure that your dog isn’t eating food you don’t know about. If someone’s giving him extra snacks or he’s eating a lot of chews, you should adjust the rest of his diet.
Then you need to decide if you’re feeding too much food. If you’re certain that the dog isn’t overeating, it’s worth seeing your vet to rule out health issues. If he checks out fine, we need to find the best ways to reduce calories that will leave your dog feeling the happiest and most satisfied.
And finally, we should consider how to incorporate even more moist and fresh foods into your dog’s daily diet. In my experience, that’s usually a very effective step in promoting dog weight loss.
Mill Creek Store Manager Fay Harris has been a Muddy for nearly 8 years. Come visit her store, and you can talk about other fun ways to add more love into your pet’s life.