Dr Jacqueline Boyd
BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, PGCHE, CHES, FHEA, MRSB
In-house Nutritional Consultant
In order to keep Fido fit and not fat, there are some important lifestyle aspects that we have to think about. In the first article in this series, we looked at the idea of measuring, monitoring and managing the amount of food we feed by weighing it. As well as weighing your dog’s food, we discussed the importance of weighing your dog too! However, sometimes, simply being strict about the amount of food fed doesn’t have the impact on the weight of your dog that you would like. Sometimes we have to think about the actual food we feed our dogs and how we feed them as this can also have a huge impact on weight control and management!
We know that scientifically, fat is an important source of energy for dogs. As a result, many dog foods are rich in sources of fat. However, for many pet dogs, their day-to-day activity levels mean that they might not need the same amount of fuel as a more active, working dog for example. Just as when we eat excess fatty food, we can be predisposed to an expanding waistline, the same applies to our dogs. As a result, looking for a food that has a reduced fat level can be a good start to managing our dog’s weight! Field and Trial Light and Senior is a diet specially formulated to achieve this compared to other diets within the Field and Trial range. Such diets are a great idea as part of a weight management strategy as they are otherwise nutritionally complete, meaning your dog gets everything they need to be happy and healthy, while still having a reduced level of fat overall.
Another key point to these specifically formulated diets is that they are energy dilute – this essentially means we can still feed an amount of food to our dogs that looks like a “decent meal”, rather than an amount that might, to us, seem too little. Equally, we can almost “trick” our dogs into thinking they have had a good meal, rather than only a few pieces of kibble!
To treat or not to treat?
Our dogs are our buddies and we like to treat them, sometimes for training and sometimes because we just want to treat our dogs! Often those treats are tasty and high in calories. If we don’t carefully balance our dog’s daily food and treats, it is easy to overfeed. If you are managing your dog’s weight, consider using their “normal” daily food as treats instead of special, high calorie treats or even human food. Remember to weigh out the normal amount of your dog’s food however and use only that, no more! You can also be creative with treats – some dogs love vegetables as treats and they are often healthier overall for weight management. Try small pieces of carrot, cucumber or sweet potato as healthier treat options.
How we feed!
As well as thinking about what we feed, we can think about how we feed! It’s worth exploring some of the different ways to actually feed your dog, some of which mean forgetting about the bowl! A simple action for dogs on diets is to increase the number of meals per day (but not the amount fed overall!) – several, small meals can help dogs feel “fuller” for longer and actually help ongoing weight loss strategies. Explore feeding options that make you dog “work” for their food too. Essentially, these mean that your dog burns off calories while eating! Scatter feeding, using interactive food toys, snuffle mats and puzzle feeders/bowls are great ways to slow your dog down while eating but also mean that your dog has worked for their food, rather than just bolt it down! You can even just use your dog’s daily ration as their training treats, meaning you feed, reward AND bond with your dog!
So, in addition to monitoring and measuring, think about what you feed and how you feed! Next time we will consider exercise and how to manage weight by combining nutrition and exercise