Ignore the label on your bag of dog food

 

Question: Hey Breedfreak…”My dog is fat and I swear I do not feed him treats and I follow the directions on the bag. Heeeelp….”

Answer: Following directions and your dog is still fat is frustrating isn’t it?  More annoying than the new Facebook Timeline? More painful than listening to anything by Bjork you say? You are not alone.

The recommendations on dog food bags are for “average” dogs. The problem, if you think about it, is that a stocky, mellow, Labrador Retriever  might weight the same as a thin as a rail Greyhound but their food requirements are likely as different as those of a 5 foot tall body builder who weighs 185 lbs. and a 6 foot 4 inch tall cyclist who also weighs 185lbs. As we learn more and more about nutrition we are learning that the old “calories in vs. calories out” notion of weight loss does not quite work out the way we were taught.  Calories are not created equal and all dogs are not created equal. Different dogs have different caloric needs and those needs do not always directly correlate to body weight.  As you can guess, this creates a huge problem for the pet food industry because marketing different diets for  different breed is utterly impractical.  For now, pet food companies guesstimate about how much you need to feed your dog. From there, it is up to you to tweak things. Stated another way, pet food labels are just a starting point.

One of the most respected veterinarians that I know discounts all food label recommendations and tells their clients that they should feed 25% LESS than the low end of the recommendations as a place to start. His clients are not tuning into Fiona Apple look alike waif dogs, so he must be on to something.

The problem with many dogs is that if you take 25% of their food away from them, they might not be satisfied after their meal and an unsatisfied dog will drive you nuts by sitting there staring at you as if to say “Look dude. I poop outside,  I wag my tail when you get home, I put my chin on your leg and pretend I like you, and do all of the normal dog stuff and now you are starving me out. Keep your skinny jeans bro. Those 20 little pellets of kibble are a joke and I  am gonna sit here staring at you for the next 12 hours until you cave in and give me some more to eat.1

Helping dogs feel full when they are on a weight loss diet is the driving force behind the explosion of  dog foods marketed as “weight loss diets.” To make a long story short, pet food manufacturers are monkeying around with the nutrient ratios in these diets in order to develop a food that will minimize hunger, optimize satiety and reduce the pet obesity epidemic. In most cases, these foods are “high fiber” when compared to their full calorie counterparts. The fiber produces a bulking effect that makes dogs feel full.

The bottom line with all of this is that you need to feed your dog according to your dog’s needs and not what it says on the bag. Our “no fail” feeding recommendations that even an 8 year old can follow are:

  1. Step 1: Weigh your dog. All dog food labels are based on weight.Weigh them once a month and adjust the diet accordingly.
  2. Step 2: Take all those sugary treats and dump them in the trash
  3. Step 3: Go out and buy a measuring cup. Do not estimate how much you are feeding your dog. A cup is not a handful or a glass or anything else but a properly measured cup.
  4. Step 4: Read the pet food label and feed 25% less than what is recommended on the bag.
  5. Step 5: If your dog does not lose weight skip to step 7
  6. Step 6: If your dog stares at you like you are starving them to death skip to step 7
  7. Step 7: Try a weight loss diet. At this point, we recommend contacting your veterinarian for more information about weight loss diets.
  8. Step 8: Get out and do something with your dog. Dogs were meant to run, or guard, or something but sit on the couch watching reruns of Lipstick Jungle on Hulu.  Might we recommend the 5K9 series by Petco. Good times. Good people. Good cause. Good luck.

 

Notes:

1. If you own a Basset Hound or a Beagle and you try to cut their diet they will beat you in to submission. Beagles and Bassets never lose this game. Never.