As I sit at my kitchen table enjoying dinner, I look down and see a pair of big, puppy dog eyes staring back at me. Our eyes lock and his tail begins to wag at an immeasurable speed. I look away quickly, thinking he will forget I am eating. Not a chance! Next comes a paw scratching at my leg as more persistent pleading begins.
Sound familiar? Do not be embarrassed if you have found yourself in a similar situation. Many people, myself included, have fed their pets from the table. Why do we do this if we know it is bad for them?
Of course we want our pets to live long, healthy lives. We must therefore show them tough love and focus on feeding them appropriately.
What does “feeding appropriately” mean? It is more than not feeding them human food from the table. You can over feed your pet with its own food, too. In fact, this is how my husband and I found ourselves entering one of our own dogs in the Delphos Animal Hospital’s “Biggest Loser” competition. Both of us were filling his bowl inappropriately and, after a short amount of time, our poor dog fattened up. Our hearts sank when we finally weighed him.
Our plan of attack was to gradually wean him on to a “light” or “reduced calorie” dog food. Each meal is now carefully measured as well. I am happy to say that in just a few weeks we have seen progress and are certain that our dog has a chance at winning the Biggest Loser competition.
Please don’t make the same mistake we did. Take action now and be smart when it comes to feeding your pet. Eliminate human food, limit treats, and increase your pet’s exercise.
Also, read the feeding guideline on your pet’s food bag if you are unsure how much to feed. Keep in mind these guidelines are designed for what pets should weigh. For example, if your dog weighs 100 pounds, but should weigh 80 pounds, be certain to use the 80 pound dog feeding guideline.
If you are not sure what your pet's ideal body weight is you can use some visual clues to help you determine if it is over (or under) weight.
1) Is it difficult to feel/see the ribs and/or spine?
2) Can you see a waistline?
3) Does your pet have a sagging belly?
Veterinarians also use a weight grading system called a Body Condition Score (BCS) to determine a pet’s healthy weight on a numerical scale of 1-5. Your veterinarian will weigh your pet at each visit to help you adjust its diet and lifestyle to achieve an optimal BCS.
Where does your pet fall on the BCS scale? An easy way to tell is by feeling and looking at the rib cage.
1 (emaciated) = ribs are visible from a distance
2 (thin) = ribs are easily felt and may be visible
3 (moderate) = ribs are palpable without excess fat covering them
4 (stout) = can feel the ribs, but have to push hard
5 (obese) = large fat deposits cover the ribs
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s health or weight, seek the advice of your veterinarian. Tip the scale in favor of your pet living a longer, healthier life by making it a Biggest Loser, too.
Author: Dr. Tracy Lee Strauer