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Newsletter - November 2008

The News At Home

Until 3 week ago, Tori’s diet was based on whole rabbit. She began to scratch furiously, so we’re now feeding lamb. So far, so good.

There’s a store nearby that offers packages of lamb “pluck”. This includes the heart, liver and lung. I didn’t want to waste any of these items, so the diet formulation includes all three foods. However, this week, the lung wasn’t in the package which meant that I needed to ask the butcher if he happened to have lung available. A woman was waiting her turn at the counter and couldn’t help overhearing my request. Trying unsuccessfully to hide her disgust, she asked how I prepared the lung. I told her that I braise it. She asked me what I do with it afterward and I explained that it gets chopped up and combined with some liver, heart, ground lamb and a little boiled potato. The poor woman looked like she was going to pass out. “That’s it? And your family enjoys it, huh?” This is when the devil in me couldn’t resist. I told hold her that some meals were like this but that some included raw lamb rib, although I grind those rather than risk a choking hazard. The butcher couldn’t hold back, laughed loudly and then explained that this was for my dog. I wish I were big enough a person to say that I’m sorry for having played this poor, frazzled woman along, but the truth is that I just couldn’t resist.

Fact of The Month: Healthy weight loss needs a certain approach

My consultation cases seem to run in spurts. That is, I get several cancer cases at once, or several puppies to grow at once, or many dogs with gastrointestinal diseases at once, etc. Perhaps this is due to people chatting on certain Internet groups, therefore having a common interest which reflects the reasons clients come to me at any one time. But whatever the reason, some of the more current cases have involved obese dogs that just couldn’t seem to lose weight. Owners tried the more common methods of replacing some of their dogs’ food with green beans and/or canned pumpkin, but this doesn’t work very well when a dog needs to lose many, many pounds. While calories are reduced, so are the amounts of vitamins and minerals being ingested, so the end result can be malnutrition. Further, pumpkin firms the stool of some dogs and causes loose stool in others. Green beans are fine to feed but the additional fiber, while helping to make the dog feel fuller, can result in sloppy poop when overfed.

The more concerning issue is the one mentioned above - malnutrition. Healthy weight loss of many pounds doesn’t happen overnight, and leaving a dog to eat a diet that includes fewer vitamins and minerals than required for a long period of time backfires in other ways. Healthy weight loss that is going to be permanent is achieved by considering two basic rules:

1. The number of calories ingested must be fewer than caloric expenditure.

2. Muscle burns more calories than body fat does. Feeding fewer calories should be based on the dog’s ideal body weight. In other words, starving the dog won’t work. The body may lose weight but a number of things should concern you. The first is that some of this weight loss will be muscle rather than fat, The scale doesn’t differentiate between the two, but body strength will be less and the very integrity of muscles can be compromised. In turn, this can affect the skeletal system as a whole.

Muscles burn more calories than body fat does. So, if your dog loses muscle, s/he can end up needing more calories to maintain weight, simply because that weight is comprised of more fat and less muscle - despite that the dog now weighs what you and your vet were aiming for. Also, when calories are dramatically restricted, the body reacts as if it’s being starved, thus triggering a “conserve at all costs” reaction. Metabolism slows down, and weight loss becomes more and more of a challenge.

All of the dogs I’ve worked with have achieved their ideal weight. Even those that weighed 40% more than they should have, managed to lose their excess baggage. The way to go about it is to recalculate the home-made diet. That is, you want to feed fewer calories (I start with about 20% less than the current diet) but the diet must also meet your dog’s nutritional requirements. Green beans can be fed as treats, High-calorie baked goods and marrow bones are off the menu. Exercise is critical because it helps to speed up metabolism, and obviously the dog burns more calories as well. However, those dogs that are truly obese should not be expected to suddenly walk for miles daily. The heart may not be happy about excessive exercise and the muscles will be sore. Injuries are not uncommon when such a dog is forced to use his untrained muscles (including the heart) overnight. A better plan is to increase the duration of a walk by 15 minutes daily. Also, ask for a “sit-up” several times per day. The dog is asked to lie down and then sit. Repeat at least 6 times per session.

There comes a time when weight loss slows down and the new weight seems to be the new norm. Assuming more weight loss is required, reduce calories by another 10-20% but remember to reformulate the diet so it remains balanced. This approach works because, had we reduced calories by 30-40% to start with, the body goes into starvation mode and the dog usually feels true hunger. Chances are that you will have no peace as the dog whines and paces because he wants food. By reducing caloric intake in stages, weight loss is easier to achieve, and is easier on the dog and owner too.

If you feed a commercial diet, you can feed less of it. Dry and canned diets are well fortified with vitamins and minerals. However, there’s a limit as how much less you can feed and still provide the correct amounts of nutrients. Every label states the amount to feed a dog of a certain weight, and the range can be great. For instance, you will see that a certain weight of dog may need, say, 1 to 1-3/4 cups of food. Choose the lesser amount. If this fails to accomplish needed weight loss, replace current treats with green beans and remember to exercise the dog as explained above. Should this not work as well as expected, look for another brand of food that provides fewer calories per cup. Feeding less and less of the current diet may indeed help the dog to lose weight but his vitamin and mineral reserves can be compromised. We want the dog to maintain a healthy weight, but not at the expense of his overall health.

Case Studies Over Two Years

I’ve been keeping track of certain cases over the last 2 years. In particular, I’ve been looking at my files as they apply to the use of CoQ10 for oral health. CoQ10 hasn’t been studied in dogs for this purpose, but it helps people so I’ve suggested to some clients that it was worth a try. I’m pleased to report that all 27 dogs taking CoQ10 have displayed success. Once the vet had performed a cleaning, CoQ10 was fed daily as 30 mg for every 25-35 pounds of bodyweight. The longest length of time has been 26 months for a thirteen year old Shih Tzu. This was of particular interest to me because the breed is known to have gum and teeth issues. So far, little Jade has lovely pink gums and almost no tarter build-up. Please let me know if you try CoQ10 for this same purpose. I’d appreciate knowing how it works for your dog and I’ll add the information to my files. But keep in mind that it’s not a cure for tarter and plaque build-up. Teeth should be nice and clean before you use CoQ10 because it seems to maintain healthy gums, which in turn, helps preserve teeth.


“If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and giving Fido only two of them’ -- Phil Pastoret



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