As I sit to write another blog it is hard to fathom that it is nearly March, the third month of the new year. Wow, that was fast! It has been quite a soggy winter and if your dog is like my Pablo (or most of the dogs I walk) he HATES rain! This has made it challenging to keep Pablo exercised and entertained and being that he is a food loving Chihuahua it is important that he get his daily walks. It is unbelievable how quickly a 6-pound dog can pack on the extra weight! We learned this the hard way. We never had a small dog before and when we adopted him, we were used to living with a 50-pound dog. Even though we were measuring his food every time and feeding him a raw diet we did not realize how many treats we were giving him and before we knew it, he was overweight, and I was embarrassed. How did I, someone who lives and breathes pet nutrition, allow my little dog to get overweight? It was a real wakeup call to pay attention. I realized how easy it really is to over-treat. Did you know that over-treating is one of the main causes of pet obesity? Americans have a real problem with over-feeding their pets. Especially with treats. So, this month’s blog is about a very important topic: weight management and weight loss.
Obese pets can suffer from many weight related issues, such as joint problems, diabetes, heart issues and depression. Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight is paramount and very easy, it just takes everyone in the house to be on board. You cannot think of your dog or cat as a garbage disposal or vacuum cleaner. If you do, you are in for some real problems down the road. Our household pets are also not meant to be free feeders. This leads to weight problems, eating problems and spikes in blood sugar levels.
This is especially true with cats. Cats tend to get bored easily and will fill that time eating. Getting your pets on a feeding routine is very helpful for many reasons. You can control portions better, especially if you have multiple cats. If you have to feed different foods, or medication, having a feeding schedule is helpful. My schedule is a little of both. Everyone eats at the same time- once in the morning and once in the evening. I feed raw or canned to my cats at those times, which they always eat right away. I then leave a very small amount of kibble down for them (less than 1/3 cup), which they graze on throughout the day. I am fortunate to not have any "piggies". In the past the kibble part was eliminated when we had a piggie in the house and this has been one of the best decisions I’ve made about feeding. It gives you the opportunity to see if all of your cats are eating properly, if anyone is stealing food from another, how fast they eat, etc. The VERY best decision I made for my cats was to feed them a grain-free diet. Cats in the wild are obligate carnivores. They thrive on protein and fat. Although housecats can process some grains and vegetables, those do not exist in a wild cat’s diet. Housecats forced to eat processed wheat, corn and soy in their food are becoming obese and diabetic at an alarming rate. These grains are inflammatories and our animals should not be eating them. Especially the GMO wheat, corn and soy being used in pet food. What I noticed in my cats was they no longer got hairballs or vomited. Ever. Within a month of changing their diet. Once I added goat’s milk to the routine, I could feed less kibble and they all lost weight. Everyone had strong kidneys because they were finally getting the proper moisture their bodies had been lacking for years. It makes me very sad to see so many obese kitties having to get insulin injections and living on garbage "prescription" food when I know- I've seen it many times- that it is totally preventable with diet and exercise. And that with the guidance of your veterinarian (or a holistic veterinarian) and a food change diabetes could be reversed, and they can go back to living happy lives.
As for our canine companions, exercise and a good quality diet rich in protein are important to maintain an optimum weight. Did you know that most commercial dog foods' feeding recommendations are too much? It is the truth. Watch "Pet Fooled" on Netflix if you want all the dirty trade secrets. But I am going to stick to weight management this month. There are multiplication formulas to figure out how many calories are in your pet's food, and to figure out how many calories your pet needs, but I like this calculator that the website Dog Food Advisor offers. It is a good guide and way to compare what your food bag recommends vs. how many calories your pet needs. https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-feeding-tips/dog-food-calculator/
I am not a person that believes everyone needs to feed their pet raw. I believe it is the biologically appropriate diet and I have seen miraculous results in my own pets and those who eat raw. It is optimum for dogs with cancer, allergies or who need to lose weight fast or have a weight problem. It has no carbohydrates, added sugars or fillers. But I believe as long as you are doing the best you can for your pet, that is what matters. For dogs fed a diet of strictly kibble, I do recommend avoiding the 3 evils-wheat, corn, soy. Kibble does not need to be grain-free to avoid these, either. In fact, unless your dog has an actual grain allergy it is not necessary to feed grain free. There are good lines made with millet, pumpkin, quinoa, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, etc. I also believe in adding some raw, whole foods to their diet. It does not need to be meat. Add vegetables. Or pureed pumpkin. Or a raw egg once or twice a week. Or goat's milk. Not only is it a great way to manage their weight, it also adds a nutrition boost and provides vital moisture at mealtime. Once again, a kibble diet leaves an animal in a state of slight dehydration. When they digest, their bodies need moisture and will pull it from their kidneys. It is crucial to add some moisture to kibble. It can be water or better yet goat's milk or bone broth. What is nice about bone broth is it adds hydration along with a nutrition boost without adding calories.
There is a really easy, well balanced food called Sojo's available. It is dehydrated and all you do is add warm water to rehydrate. You can make a batch at a time or up to a week's worth. It is my absolute favorite go-to food for dogs that need to shed weight fast and safely. If you are curious about raw feeding but hesitant because it seems gross or unsafe, this is the best product to start out with. It looks like stuffing when it hydrates and smells delicious! It is packed full of fruits and vegetables and most dogs love it. They also make a version that is just fruits and vegetables you may add to kibble, if you do not want to switch fully to Sojo's, or you are hesitant to try the raw meat version. Here is their website if you'd like more information. It is available at all natural and holistic pet food stores, who will also be able to answer any questions you may have about the product. They can guide you on how to get started. https://www.sojos.com/
Many people, like I did when I started, opt to feed a few raw meals a week. Or feed raw in the morning and kibble in the evening, or vice versa. This is an excellent option. It keeps costs down and still adds some serious nutritional value to your pet's diet. The simple act of adding raw goat's milk or kefir is enough in itself to add a major boost.
Limiting treats and table scraps is a big part of weight management. Many treats are high in calories. Consider using low fat treats such as dehydrated chicken, beef or fish. Answers Pet Food makes raw cow and goat cheese that are low in calories and packed with probiotics. Fresh Carrots and green beans, both frozen and fresh, make good treats. Frozen raw bones are a good, long lasting treat and also double as a tooth cleaner.
Beyond all food recommendations, nothing is more important than the proper amount of exercise for your pet- both cat and dog. Not only do they need the physical activity, but they need that mental stimulation. My 6-pound chihuahua expects 2 miles of walking a day! Even before I began working for All Pet and Home Care; I valued the importance of walking my dogs. When I had a desk job, I knew no matter what I would get 2 miles of walking in daily. Now it just adds on to my 4-5 miles a day of walking YOUR dogs! I also leave my phone at home, so it forces me to be in the moment. It calms our dogs and gives them a much better quality of life.
With cats, playing with them helps for the same reasons as our dogs but it also helps strengthen their connection with us.
I hope you found this informative and were able to use a tip or two for your own pets. Now get them counting their calories and on that treadmill!