None of us like to hear that our pets are overweight—or that they may potentially develop a serious medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes, or osteoarthritis pain as a result. But the truth is, many of us don’t even realize it when our pet is overweight. For example, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), approximately 54 percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
If you feel your pet may be overweight, or if you’re simply concerned that weight might be an issue, there’s a simple test you can do. First, try feeling your pet’s ribs. You should be able to quite easily feel the ribs under a slight amount of fat, but each rib should be distinct. If you can see the ribs, your pet is too thin. And if you cannot feel them at all, your pet is overweight.
If you determine that your dog is, unfortunately, overweight, there are a number of things you can do to help. The answer is the “Weight Loss Triad”: diet, exercise, and supplementation.
Let’s start by taking a look at diet and feeding method. Feeding free choice is never a good idea with dogs that tend to be overweight—just like people, pets will eat out of boredom. You should feed your pet a small portion two to four times a day. (If your schedule doesn’t allow this, purchase a timed automatic feeder that delivers the right amount of food on schedule.) It’s also important that the total number of calories (including treats!) doesn’t surpass the number of calories your pet requires to lose the desired amount of weight.
I’m not a big fan of weight loss foods because these products tend to replace protein with carbohydrate fillers. Your dog may feel full after eating it, but it lacks the nutrition he or she needs for successful weight loss. Instead, choose a high-quality pet food with above average protein and below average fat and calories. Increased protein can help your dog feel more satisfied, which means less begging and an easier time sticking to the diet. Also make sure the food is grain free. The high carbohydrate content of most pet foods has many detrimental effects on sugar handling, weight gain, and food sensitivities. It can also cause pro-inflammatory changes in the digestive tract. Reducing or removing grains is a critical step in your pet’s weight loss journey.
Now let’s talk about treats. We all love to give our pets treats to show them how much we love them. But did you know that a treat such as Purina’s Busy Bone Chew Treat Dental for small to medium dogs contains 277 calories? For a medium-size dog, that can be the equivalent of eating a whole McDonald’s cheeseburger by yourself. Or imagine this: that Busy Bone, for a 40 pound dog, is the equivalent of two (12 oz.) cans of soda for an adult human. Yikes! (You can find nutritional information for many popular dog treats from APOP.)
Give your pets a healthy treat instead. My recommendation is Catalyn (a human supplement that supplies multiple vitamins and minerals for complete, complex nutritional supplementation) or Calcifood wafers (this cold-pressed raw bone meal is a great source of raw calcium, phosphorus, protein, and enzymes), both from Standard Process. Believe me, your pets won’t know the difference, and you‘ll feel at ease knowing they’re eating something good for them.
Just like humans, dogs need exercise daily, but the type and degree of the exercise depends on the individual dog. Younger, more active dogs require much more activity than senior dogs. When they lack exercise, dogs can develop destructive behaviors, excessive barking, and health problems. Normally, a simple walk around the block isn’t going to cut it. Try visiting a dog park to play and run with other dogs. You can also play fetch, find a good hiking trail, or even take your pet to doggie daycare while you’re at work. Regardless of what activity you and your pet choose, spend at least 30 to 60 minutes a day on exercise.
This is the final link of the Weight Loss Triad. Did you know that the adrenal glands play a big role in many metabolic processes? We commonly don’t pay much attention to the role the adrenals play on the digestive system. One primary influence the adrenals have is on gut motility and blood supply, which has a significant effect on digestion, assimilation, etc. The adrenals play another big factor in the enteric nervous system, which governs the function of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. GI dysfunction can have a negative effect on the nervous input from this system, and we see many behavior issues with gut dysfunction as a result. Most of our weight loss cases are successful only after we add adrenal support to the protocol.
Talk to your veterinarian today about a general weight loss program consisting of the following:
- Livaplex (canine hepatic support): Offers general liver support for patients with increased metabolic demands.
- Drenamin (canine adrenal support): Supports the adrenal glands so they respond normally to stress and metabolic demands.
- SP Cleanse: Combines the detoxifying properties of 20 different whole foods and botanicals in a completely vegetarian nutritional supplement. The wide variety of phytonutrients helps eliminate toxins and encourages healthy kidney function while supporting lymphatic system function, healthy digestive elimination, and proper liver function.
I recommend giving this combo for 12 weeks and reevaluate the response.
Ideally, take your pet to the vet once a month to be weighed to keep track of any progress. I know some people who’ve taken before and after pictures of their pets. This would be an exciting and rewarding way to see the improvement your pet makes along the way.
The bottom line? Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight decreases the risk of many diseases and, most importantly, gives him or her a longer, fuller, more active life that you can enjoy for many years together.