Thursday, January 10, 2013

Does your pet have a waistline?

Earlier this week, Jana Rade over at the Dawg Business Blog made a post to kick off the "Show Off Your Dog's Waistline Campaign".  (If you follow the link to her blog post, she has a nice body condition chart for dogs and cats.)  For those of us who spend our lives trying to improve the lives of pets, I think she is really on to one of the biggest hurdles in getting someone to buy into a weight loss program for their dog or cat.  Depending on the study you read, right now in the United States, it is estimated that between 40-60% of all pets are overweight or obese.  As the number of obese pets increases, the number of normal weight pets decrease and people start to forget what a normal weight pet looks like.  When you look at your pet from above, they should have an hour glass figure with a distinct "waistline".  When you look at your pet from the side, the belly should "tuck" up toward the rear legs.  I cannot count the number of times that I walk into an exam room and have a conversation something like this:

Me: "Why Mrs. Smith, your dog Lucky looks so AWESOME!  His weight is perfect!  You should really be proud of how you are feeding him!"

Mrs. Smith: "Really?  Don't you think he is too skinny?  Everyone tells me that Lucky is way too skinny."

Me:  "Absolutely not!  Lucky is the PERFECT weight.  You are suppose to be able to feel his ribs, but if you look at him, his backbone and his hips are NOT sticking out where you can see them.  He looks great.!"

Mrs. Smith: "Oh thank goodness because everyone in my family yells at me and tells me I should be feeding him more."

There is so much pressure on owners to feed their pets too much.  And because normal weight pets are slowly becoming the minority, everyone starts to think that pudgy is the new normal.

So  I am going to post some pictures of my "triplets" and I am going to give some examples of what I do to keep them normal weight.  I'll also see how many comments I get that my dogs are too skinny.  And to give a little background, I own three 13" beagles although one is a little below standard.  Two came from the local animal shelter and one came from a friend of a family member looking to re-home one of his dogs.  All three are house dogs and like most dogs they do not get a lot of exercise during the week when I work.  However I have a strong belief that working and sporting breeds of dogs need lots of exercise to maintain their physical and mental health.  In my case I feel blessed that I own a farm and so I spend many hours on the weekends and during the week if I have a day off taking the beagles out to the woods to run rabbits.  I love letting these dogs enjoy an activity that they were bred to do.  They do get way more exercise in the fall, winter and spring than in the summer when it is too warm for them to run.  So right now, they are typically at their lowest weight of the year and they all gain about one pound in the summer.  

As you can see, I too am a bit defensive about my dogs' weights because like most owners of thin dogs, I get comments thrown my way about my dogs being too thin.  Well, my dogs can also run rabbits for 3 or more hours per day and come back to the house and want to play some more with each other.  They are truly physically fit.

Now on the pictures.  Each dog has a top view to show the hour glass waistline and each dog has a side view to show the "abdominal tuck".   And a big thank you to my vet assistant Sarah who helped by holding my dogs for me so I could take their pictures.  Since I have trained my dogs to sit for almost everything I do to them, we had a heck of a time getting them to stand straight for the side view.  Ha!  They all wanted to tuck their rear ends under and sit down.  The expression on some their faces was that of being totally confused.  Poor puppies having to endure a photo shoot!

Gabby, age unknown but probably 10+ years.  Weight 20.6 pounds.

OK, so it is kind of hard to see her abdominal tuck since she is trying to sit down.

Next is Dottie, 7 years old.  Weight 17.1 pounds.  She is my small below standard beagle.

And last but not least is Buddy, 3 years old.  Weight 22.2 pounds.

I should also mention that all three of these dogs are spayed or neutered.  So here is some things I do to keep them slim and trim:

  • I do not feed what the dog food bag says to feed.  In fact, I don't even know what the dog food bag says to feed.  I feed my dogs to maintain a certain weight no matter what that amount of dog food turns out to be.  In fact my smallest beagle eats almost 40% more food than the larger two beagles.  It is what it is.
  • I do not feed my dogs the same amount of food every single day.  If they exercise more, they get more food.  If they exercise less, they get less food.
  • I weigh my dogs often, at least monthly.  Since I see them every single day, it is hard for me to pick up on small changes in body weight unless I put them on a scale.  If their weight goes up, I feed less for awhile.  If their weight goes down, I increase the amount of food they get fed.
  • They get a combination of both dry and canned food.  Dry food for my convenience.  Canned food for two reasons.  First because it is higher in protein than dry food and I really do believe that protein helps satisfy appetite better than a higher carbohydrate diet like dry food diets.  Also since canned food contains more water than dry food, there are actually less calories per volume of canned food than an equal volume of most dry foods.  This way I can trick my human brain into thinking I am feeding them more.
  • I break all treats that I buy into small pieces.  The only time I feed whole treats is when I snack the dogs after a long run outside.  Other than that, they only get pieces of treats.
  • I give them lots of exercise.  This time of year a short walk is one hour.  An average walk is two hours.  Three hours is not uncommon.  They do take a summer break so when I first start them back on to an exercise program in the fall, we start with 30 minute walks and gradually increase time.  Owners of short nosed breeds of dogs and dogs who are out of shape or overweight, need to be very careful about the amount of exercise they give their dogs, but just keep in mind that exercise is important.
Hope that helps some and a big thanks to Jana on putting a positive spin on promoting healthy weight of our pets and starting the "Show Off Your Dog's Waistline Campaign".