My second dog is an older Labrador Retriever named Temo, affectionately called T, who we brought home when I was fifteen. He was the most adorable, and rotund, puppy ever. He joined our family when my older dog, Duke, was six years old. My parents decided that with two dogs, we could no longer fit the expensive Nutro food into our budget, and started buying Kirkland Signature (Costco brand) dog food. Temo grew from a cute, chunky puppy to a obese, lazy adult dog. I loved Temo so much, but it was hard to spend time with him. He constantly smelled and had flakes all over his fur. We couldn’t go on a walk without him overheating, even if it was a cool day.
Temo at 128lbs, he needed help getting up
I was determined to help Temo lose weight, after all, I wanted him to live the best life possible. I started by buying Temo the diet recommended by the vet (Hills Science Diet). It was expensive, and he only lost about 8 pounds. I didn’t get much help from my vets, in fact, they never even brought up that he was overweight, until I asked them about diet food. When I did some digging online, I was shocked. According to a survey put out by the Association for Pet Obesity that 48% of pet owners said their vet failed to recommend a maintenance or routine diet. I had to do my own research, and I started looking at DogFoodAdvisor.com. I started buying Orijen and Acana, and tried some Natural Balance. Temo still remained overweight, weighing in at around 95 pounds. I started reading online forums, and one person recommended the raw diet, but I didn’t think much of it. In 2016, I finally made the plunge for raw, and Temo lost half of the weight. He currently weighs in at a healthy 62 pounds, all thanks to his raw diet! His fur became much nicer, he no longer had dandruff, he could move faster, and his hip issues went away.
I was surprised that Temo had lost so much weight, and over the course of only 8 months. According to the Association for Pet Obesity, in 2017, about 56% of dogs were overweight or obese. The numbers have been steadily increasing as the years go on. Although many factors play into obesity (breed, age, activity level) the diet your dog eats is key. Your average dog is eating a dry food (otherwise known as kibble) diet, which contains a lot of carbs. Even grain-free diets contain some sort of starch to bind the kibble, which usually contains carbs and fiber. Complex carbohydrates require slower digestion. Starches specifically require “additional breakdown by enzymes” before they can be used by the dog’s body. Dogs’ saliva does not produce amylase, unlike koalas, who eat a diet of mainly eucalyptus leaves, the enzyme used to break down starches. They do produce amylase in their pancreas, but not in high enough amounts to support a diet that is high in carbs. Not only do starches make up about 50-60% of a kibble, but kibble diets are highly heat processed. This process kills lots of digestive enzymes, probiotics, and most living organisms in the food. Most kibble is coated with synthetic vitamins, minerals, and enzymes because of this. Processed foods cause dogs (and people!) to gain weight.
Baby Kiwi and Temo (current weight: 62lbs)
Even if your dog is just slightly overweight, you can help your dog lose those extra pounds. The first step is identifying your dog’s body condition score. This will help you determine whether your dog is in shape, a bit overweight, or obese.
This chart is specifically for medium sized dogs (average 40-50lbs), however, can be translated to small and large dogs as well. However, certain breeds, like sighthounds, an ideal score is much lower.
This body condition score ranges from 1-9, 4-5 being the ideal score for a dog. With the ideal score, you can feel the dog’s ribs and spine. When the dog takes a breath, you can see their rib cage. You can see their waistline from above, and can see a “tuck” where their abdomen is. An overweight dog has a body condition score of 7, the tuck and waistline is barely visible. Excess fat covers the ribs and spine. The fat deposits are noticeable. Obese dogs score 8-9, there are fat deposits around the neck, back, stomach, and there is no visible tuck or waistline. The abdomen often suffers from distension and looks swollen.
Although genetics and lack of exercise can play a huge role in a dog’s weight gain, a great way to help your dog get to a healthier weight is switching to a fresh food diet! Here are a few tips on how to change your dog over, or even just cut down on processed foods.
Change your dog from a processed diet to a fresh or raw diet. Doing a 100% switch is a great way for your dog to lose weight! The nutrients will then be coming from fresh foods and are much more bioavailable to your dog than in processed foods. You can purchase raw diets from the store (commercial raw), or you can make your own at home.
Partial switch to fresh foods. If it isn’t possible for a full switch to a fresh diet, you can change your pup’s diet to even 25% fresh food! The benefits will take longer to see a result, but it still makes a big difference! You can incorporate fresh meats, but even a bit of fresh veggies and fruits help!
Substitute processed treats or chews for fresh treats or chews! Lots of dog owners enjoy giving their dogs chews or food stuffed toys. Instead of using fatty peanut butter, or heavily processed and carb heavy treats, you can use greek yogurt mixed with fresh, single ingredient meat treats! Instead of serving cook bones or chews that are made with grains, you can feed meaty raw bones instead!
Refrain from giving table scraps! We love giving our pups table scraps, and it’s hard not to, especially on holidays or when they’re begging us with those sweet faces! However, if you absolutely want to give your dog table scraps, make sure it doesn’t have any extra flavoring or oils on it! A few examples of a table scrap that is safe and healthy for dogs, is a little bit of cooked liver or boiled chicken.
Although exercise can help, incorporating a fresh food diet will also help! If you were to go to the gym, but continue eating tons of junk food, you wouldn’t make as much progress, or be as healthy on the inside. By switching your dog to fresh foods, or adding even a small amount into their diet helps tremendously and a healthier dog is a happy dog!