Winter isn’t the only time pups pack on a few extra pounds — the high temps of summer can keep dogs from activities that help them stay trim. With that in mind, we talked to Jennifer Adolphe, PhD, RD, as well as Senior Nutritionist at Petcurean, about her own pups, how to tell if dogs are developing a weight problem, and how to solve it.
Tell us about your dogs! Names, ages, and breeds?
I have three fur kids, Roxi, Timber, and Chip. They are Australian Shepherds aged 13, 10 and 6 years, respectively. I fell in love with the breed when I saw one perform at a dog sport event. I thoroughly researched the breed before getting Roxi, which I recommend everyone do before adding a pet to their family. I learned that Aussies are highly active, which makes them a challenging breed for many people, but was perfect for me as I wanted a running partner. My dogs motivate me to spend time outside every single day no matter what the weather, which keeps me active year-round.
Have any of your dogs ever had a problem with weight?
I’m very particular about my dogs’ diets, so they have never had a weight problem. I weigh out their food allowance every day, as weighing is much more accurate than using a measuring cup. I adjust their food intake routinely based on their body weight and body condition score to ensure that they maintain an ideal body weight.
An estimated 40 percent of pets are overweight, which can have a significant impact on their health and quality of life. My research investigated the health effects of obesity in dogs. It is quite astounding how quickly a dog can gain weight if overfed and how challenging it can be to lose the weight. This is why is it so important to prevent weight gain in the first place.
What is the best way to figure out a dog’s ideal weight?
The best way to figure out a dog’s ideal weight is by using a body score chart. Dogs should have a tummy tuck when viewed from the side, and you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs and hip bones without pressing hard. If you determine that your dog is overweight, slightly decrease the amount of food you offer to achieve a weight loss of 1-2 percent of body weight per week. Weekly weigh-ins are important to avoid rapid weight loss, as this can be detrimental to your dog’s health. Continue to adjust the amount of food and exercise your dog receives until an ideal body weight is achieved.
What is considered overweight for dogs? In terms of percentages?
A body weight of approximately 10-15 percent above ideal is considered overweight for dogs.
Is there also a percentage less an overweight dog should be fed each month?
The reduction in food that is needed to induce weight loss can vary significantly from dog to dog. A decrease of 10-20 percent is a good starting point, with the overall goal being a steady decrease in body weight of 1-2 percent per week. Dog food recipes designed for weight loss may help by keeping your dog feeling satisfied while reducing calorie intake.
It is important to remember that feeding guidelines on pet food labels are simply recommendations and that the amount fed needs to be adjusted to maintain ideal body weight. Even dogs with the same body weight can have large differences in their energy requirements. As an example, I knew two healthy, lean Beagles who were exactly the same body weight, but one of the Beagles required double the amount of food as the other dog!
What kinds of commercial treats are best to feed? Pure proteins? A mixture?
We all love giving our dogs a treat once in a while. When it comes to choosing a treat, a dog’s individual preference is often a factor. Treats that are rich in meat are often considered by many pets to be “high value” and are great for training. Since the calories from some treats can add up fast, it is important to carefully monitor how many treats you provide to prevent weight gain. Fresh veggies, such as carrots, can make great low calorie treats.
Do you play any games with your dogs inside when it’s too hot outside? To help them stay active?
My dogs need a lot of physical and mental exercise, so we do some kind of outdoor activity almost every day. In the hot summer months, we venture outside first thing in the morning or late evening to avoid extreme temperatures. We also will play indoors when the weather is too hot so that they get enough activity. They love to play fetch and “find the kibble.”
Let’s hear from you, readers. How have you helped your dog lose weight, whether through diet modifications or indoor activities.