Weight Management for your Dog
Just as in people, obesity is becoming a significant problem in our pet population. A pet’s weight can easily fluctuate out of a healthy range with a little too much food and not enough exercise, just like people. And also just like people, being overweight or obese can have many negative effects on animals’ general health.
Maintaining a healthy bodyweight is all based around the right balance of energy in (the calories pets ingest in their food) versus energy out (the energy used by their bodies for function and activity). Seems like a pretty simple equation, but it is so easy for that balance to tip… an extra treat or two here and there can add up, especially for smaller pets, as a single treat can provide a significant portion of their daily energy (calorie) requirement.
When dogs get too much energy in their diet, or are not using enough energy day-to-day, their bodies will store this excess energy (whether it is from fat, protein or carbohydrates to start with) as body fat and they will become overweight. This can predispose them to a number of diseases including arthritis, diabetes and pancreatitis. Excessive weight in puppies can make them grow too quickly, as well as become a little ‘pudgy’, which can lead to joint and bone problems later in life. It can also predispose them to obesity, as they will develop a larger number of fat cells, just waiting to be used.
Dogs that are provided with less energy than they need to keep up with their daily requirements will experience weight loss and muscle wasting. In young animals, insufficient energy can lead to poor growth and developmental abnormalities. Breeding female dogs (during late pregnancy and lactation) and working dogs are more prone to becoming underweight because they use such a large amount of energy every day, so they should be fed a little more accordingly, and ideally foods with higher protein and fat levels, to meet their bodies’ nutritional needs.
Weight gain is a more common problem with adult, senior and geriatric dogs as they naturally use less energy as they have stopped growing and spend less time playing and more time sleeping. This is one of the reasons that there are often different foods recommended for puppies, adult dogs and senior dogs. Dogs are considered to be adults from 1-7 years old in small and medium breeds and 18 months to 6 years for large and giant breeds; after this age, they are considered seniors and then geriatrics.
Choosing the correct diet for your dog will help to manage their weight correctly. Adult dog foods will generally contain less energy than puppy foods, and senior foods even less again – primarily this will be as a result of less fat in the food, as this is the most energy-dense nutrient. They may also contain a little more fibre to promote the feeling of fullness, to encourage these dogs to eat less. Older dogs can start to become less mobile due to old-age aches and pains caused by poor muscle tone and arthritis, so many quality foods for senior and geriatric dogs contain ingredients such as green lipped mussel, glucosamine or chondroitin to help improve their mobility.
Tucker Time Lite and Mature Rolls with Joint support are formulated with less fat and calories than the standard adult rolls, pea fibre to promote gut fullness and include Green Lipped Mussel for mobility support. These rolls are a suitable choice for adult dogs carrying a little extra weight, as well as senior and geriatric dogs.
It is important to look at the feeding guides on dog food packs to see the recommended amount of each type of food for your dog. And remember if you are feeding a mixed diet to reduce the reduce daily feeding level of each food in proportion to the amount of the diet which it fulfils, e.g. if Tucker Time rolls are intended to provide 50% of the total daily energy requirement, halve the suggested amount of food fed to your dog and provide the remaining 50% of the daily calories required with a different type of food, for example dry dog food. Don’t forget that treats have calories too! If you are including these in your pet’s diet, remember to reduce their main meals a little. Remember that the feeding guides are just that – guides. They are approximations not exact quantities, so keep an eye on your pet’s waistline (which should be just a little tucked in) and feel for their ribs (which you should just be able to feel under their fur) to determine if they are the correct weight. If these are getting less visible/palpable, reduce the amount of food a little.
As well as providing the correct food, it is important to make sure out dogs are getting the right amount of the right kind of exercise. Keeping active will help to ward off unnecessary weight gain and keep the body strong. Walking and swimming are both great activities for older dogs to build and maintain muscle and burn fat. This should be regular – ideally daily – for best results. Exercise sessions don’t need to be hours and hours long and cover tens of kilometres. Even 15 to 30 minutes and a short walk or swim will be beneficial. As dogs age, it is important to keep exercising to maintain muscles strong enough to support their aging joints. Providing a diet with good quality meat-based protein will also help to keep those muscles in good shape.
Just like humans, weight management in dogs really comes down to good diet and exercise.