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Weight Loss Q&A       

My significant other says our dog is fat – I think they’re just fluffy. How can we tell? What should we do if they are overweight?

Between 25 and 40 percent of dogs are overweight, but Guardians often don’t know it until they take their dog to the veterinarian for another reason. You can judge your dog’s condition by placing your hands on each side of their rib cage. Are the ribs protruding? Your dog may be too thin. Can you feel individual ribs easily, and is your dog’s abdomen slightly tucked up when viewed from the side? That’s the sign of ideal weight. If you can’t feel the ribs easily and your dog has no waist, they’re too fat. Your veterinarian can help you evaluate the finer points of your dog’s weight.


Where do we begin?

A good way to begin a weight loss program for your dog is to reduce caloric intake by 25% of their maintenance intake, then decrease the intake by 10% increments every 2-3 weeks until a 1% weight loss per week is achieved. This means that if your dog weighs 15 pounds, a 1% loss would be about 2 ½ ounces. If you feed one large meal a day, or keep food available at all times, try dividing the daily ration into several small meals (at least two meals a day) and pick up what has not been eaten 30 minutes after each meal.

Dogs gain weight for the same reason that people do. They eat more calories than they use. Today’s dogs share another problem with their Guardians – lack of activity. Most Guardians are gone all day, and come home too tired to play with the dog. Guardians may give frequent high-calorie treats. Sometimes more than one family member may be feeding the dog – and the dog isn’t telling!


Losing weight isn’t easy. Changing your habits and your pet’s is the key.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Do a family survey to be sure who feeds the dog, what, and when. (Don’t be embarrassed to admit you give your dog treats – but don’t forget to account for them in your dog’s diet plan!)
  • Substitute affection for treats. Give a pat or throw a ball when they nose your hand.
  • Take the dog for a walk more often. Even 10 minutes a day can help.
  • Feed more often. It takes energy to digest food. Dividing your dog’s daily ration into 2 or 3 feedings will help.
  • Reducing your dog’s regular food amount by 25 percent should bring results.

Diet foods should be low in fat (under 20 percent of calories from fat) and high in carbohydrates. Your goal is to make your dog healthier, so select the diet food carefully. Some diet foods just add fiber to help the dog feel full. This results in reduced digestibility, large stool volume, frequent defecation, and decreased skin and coat condition because the dog isn’t getting enough fat and nutrients.

You’ll want to find a food that has normal fiber levels to keep your dog’s digestive system working properly. It should have high-quality protein, so your dog doesn’t lose muscle too, and an adjusted fatty-acid ratio to help keep their skin flexible and coat glossy throughout the dieting process. Once your dog reaches ideal weight, select a maintenance food to keep weight steady. Remember, your dog needs your help to lose weight and stay healthy. Your can make a real difference in your dog’s health and lifespan.


Why doesn’t Pet Planet carry some of the most common brands of pet food?

As the pet food industry became big business, so did the marketing campaigns of some products. The focus was not on the quality of the pet food, it was on the mass appeal of the product through color, smell, and marketing gimmicks. These commercial pet food companies focused then, and still do today, on appealing to the consumer through clever advertising, not necessarily substance, knowledge, and quality of product. The pet food industry is a large and confusing one. At Pet Planet, we carefully research the quality of every food we stock on our shelves through our Certificate of Trust program. No matter how well advertised or how profitable it may be, Pet Planet will never carry a food that we would not feed our own pets.


But aren’t all pet foods basically the same?

Today’s competitive market contains a vast array of foods, snacks and nutritional supplements for dogs and cats. Products vary significantly in nutrient composition, availability, digestibility, palatability, physical form, flavor and texture. Some foods are formulated to provide adequate nutrition throughout a pet’s lifespan, while other foods have been marketed specifically for a particular stage of life or a specific disease state. At Pet Planet we believe in recommending a pet food that contains highly digestible ingredients, while at the same time providing a high level of VALUE to our customers.


So what should I feed my pet?

There are very good, naturally processed diets available on the market today, prepared using high quality vitamin and mineral packages and wholesome, grade A (human grade) ingredients. Following the trends in human health, there are also a wide variety of holistic pet foods available. At Pet Planet we will never tell you what to feed your pet has to eat but we will strive to provide all of the information necessary for you to make an informed and educated decision on what to feed your best friend.


How important is protein to a pet?

High quality, grade A protein is essential for muscle, skin, coat, and nail growth. Protein is the source of essential amino acids – the building blocks of tissue, muscle, bone, elements of the blood, hormones and antibodies that keep an animal healthy. Not all proteins are created equally. A high quality pet food will use human grade A meat free from by-products. Premium pet foods will always choose a highly digestible animal sourced protein rather than relying on cereal proteins. Most cereal proteins are devoid of the most important amino acids.


My neighbor says her dog is vegetarian. Is that healthy?

Dogs are natural carnivores and therefore should derive their protein from meat sources rather than grains. Unless allergy testing shows a verifiable and specific problem digesting animal protein (this is very rare) a high quality diet using meat protein is preferred. Cereal proteins are low in certain amino acids, animal protein is clearly superior. A complete animal protein contains all of the essential amino acids required by a cat or dog.

Cats cannot thrive on a vegetarian diet at all. Cats cannot get all necessary nutrients from plants and plant products and must consume some animal tissues in order to meet their needs for high protein levels, taurine, arachidonic acid and preformed vitamin A. True meat protein (chicken, lamb, beef, pork meal) has a far superior amino acid profile than cereal/vegetable protein. Cereal proteins are low in many of the amino acids and specifically, the four most important amino acids (Methionine, Lysine, Arginine, and Threonine).


What are by-products?

Contrary to popular belief, there are both good and bad by-products. Some by-products are good sources of easily digested protein such as heart, liver, kidney, lung and other organ meats. Other “bad” by-products generally include hair, hooves, feathers, skin, intestines, heads, beaks and feet – they will show a high protein content on the crude analysis but unlike muscle meat they are very difficult for an animal to break down and therefore are not absorbed and digested by the animal.


I noticed my dog food uses soybeans as a source of protein, is that good?

Dogs lack an essential amino acid necessary for soybean digestion. Undigested protein-based material from soybean can move into the intestines where it is fermented by bacteria, producing intestinal gas, digestive upset, possibly lack of appetite and ultimately poor health. (Source: Lisa S, Newman, “Nutrition”)


If a dog food contains both animal and cereal proteins, does it matter what order they are listed in on the ingredient panel?

By law, pet food must list ingredients in descending order according to weight.


I noticed that some pet foods list “whole chicken” and some list “chicken meal”. What’s the difference?

“Meal” means that the protein has been cooked and is therefore pure dehydrated meat. A premium food that uses chicken or lamb meal as its primary source of protein is typically easier to digest for your pet. Even though whole chicken may be listed first on an ingredient panel (remember – ingredients are listed according to weight) a food that lists chicken meal may actually have more chicken, as it does not contain the water found in whole chicken.


My dog is a senior, should I look for a low-protein food?

Protein in the diets of senior dogs should not be restricted simply because the dog is old. Trying to prevent the natural decline in kidney function associated with aging by reducing protein consumption may lead to a negative nitrogen balance and losses of body protein reserves. Senior and aging pets should be fed diets with a percentage of calories from protein that is slightly higher than the minimum necessary for adult maintenance.

In addition to having lower protein reserves, the decreased total energy needs of the senior pet may result in the need to slightly increase the proportion of protein calories in the diet. However, it is imperative that this higher protein level come from highly digestible meat sources, higher levels of cereal proteins defeat the purpose of providing a higher protein level as they don’t contain readily bio-available amino acids.


There has been a lot of controversy lately about carbohydrates. Do pets need them?

Carbohydrates are supplied in the diet from plant sources like grains and vegetables and provide the fuel needed to sustain life. Carbohydrates are necessary for the digestion and metabolism of proteins and fats. Without carbohydrates and fat, protein would be converted to glucose and therefore protein would no longer be available for its primary purpose of building and maintaining body tissue. Without the proper balance of carbohydrates, they body struggles to regulate body heat and assimilate nutrients.


Does it matter what type of carbohydrates they get?

Sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Quality of ingredients is an important component to determining food quality. Not all carbohydrates are created equally. Peanut hulls, corn husks, rice husks, wheat mill run, rice by-products, oat groats, and soy grits are all examples of very poor quality carbohydrates. These ingredients provide absolutely no nutritional value to our pets. Grade A grains such as brown rice, brewers rice, amaranth, millet, barley, and vegetables are good sources to look for in an ingredient panel.


Like people, can pets have too much fat in their diet?

A high concentration of low quality saturated fat may lead to digestive upset, heart, liver, and kidney stress when excessive amount of cholesterol builds up. Polyunsaturated fat can help to reduce cholesterol levels (safflower, sesame, canola and corn oil). Even quality grade A animal fats must be used in proper proportion in a commercial diet or health problems may ensue.

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