Fat dogs are something I have very low tolerance for. Not only does excess weight put strain on the heart and joints, but it shortens healthy life-span. A 14 year study showed that treatment for certain health conditions wasn’t required in the lean-fed Labrador retrievers who received 25% less food than their littermates in the control group. The median age at which 50 percent of the dogs required treatment for certain health conditions was 12.0 years among lean-fed dogs, compared to 9.9 years for the control group. (JAVMA, volume 220, May 9, May 1, 2002, pp. 1315-1320).
Since my job is formulating canine diets for a myriad of problems, I’m aware and sensitive to the benefits of weight control, so you can imagine my frustration when our own dog, Tori, became fat. Since dogs can’t open the fridge to feed themselves, the cause of being overweight can only be one – the owner! Or so it would seem, but sometimes there’s more to it. Tori takes medications that cause weight gain, and I thought that was the main problem. My husband (bless him) was giving her treats at every turn which didn’t help matters, so I discarded baked treats and replaced them with small slices of carrot. Most people feed green beans instead, but a slice of carrot has fewer calories, and Tori seemed perfectly happy with them. Since you can’t feed the dog anything that isn’t readily available, replacing high-calorie treats with fresh food is easy for the owner – and great for the dog. Tori was at her ideal weight within one month. That’s good news, but there’s something else dog owners might have to think about, and we’re in that group of owners. Some dogs are such easy keepers that they require far fewer calories per day than the average dog. This can become a problem when feeding kibble. Once you reach the point of having to feed less than than the feeding instructions call for, you risk providing fewer nutrients than the dog needs. Fortunately, feeding a home-prepared diet removes that problem because we can formulate it to provide fewer calories, but the correct amounts of all nutrients.
Tori has many genetic problems that diet can help with. Mitral valve disease, luxating patellas, elevated liver enzyzmes (this, due to medications rather than genetics) food allergies galore, calcium oxalate crystals (diet has removed this problem), to name only a few. She weighs a trim 15 pounds now, and needs only 295 calories per day. That’s tough to do given that we need to wrap her pills in cheese and she gets medications all day long, but I included the caloric value of that in her diet, and it works well. The bonus here is that her skin looks incredible. coat is lovely, and she loves her meals.
This is Tori’s cooked diet for a 12-day period:
15 1/2 oz. cod, baked (cooked weight)
22 1/2 oz tilapia (cooked weight)
24 oz yogurt, plain, 2% fat
3 large eggs, hard-boiled
3 slices American cheddar cheese, low salt, low fat (1/4 slice daily to hide her pills)
9 oz carrot, boiled and mashed (cooked weight)
5 oz long grain brown rice (raw amount)
4 1/2 oz long grain white rice (raw amount)
7 tsp. safflower oil
2 tsp. dicalcium phosphate
7 1/2 tsp. NOW calcium citrate powder
2 capsules Multi Mineral Complex
8 mg copper
25 mg iron
70 mg zinc gluconate
3 tablets vitamin B compound (1/4 tablet daily)
2 capsules vitamin E 100 IU
1,750 mg taurine (125 mg daily)
1/2 tsp NoSalt
1 1/4 tsp kelp
12 capsules wild salmon oil (1 daily)
360 mg CoQ10 (30 mg daily)
6 capsules Joint Complex (1/2 tablet daily)
3 tsp Milk Thistle (1/4 tsp daily)
1 1/2 tsp acidophilus (1/8 tsp daily)
It’s a lot of supplements, I know. Some may not be necessary for healthier dogs, but Tori had elevated liver enzymes, and her patella problem brings early arthritis, so I prefer to be proactive. Other than Joint Complex, CoQ10, milk thistle and acidophilus, supplements listed balance the diet.
This diet works well for a dog that’s Tori’s weight and needs the same number of calories, but it won’t be right under other circumstances. A dog’s nutrient requirements aren’t linear to body weight, so feeding more of it to a 15 pound dog wouldn’t be right, just as doubling it for a 30 pd dog wouldn’t work well. In her case, though, it’s been nothing short of fantastic.