Just like being overweight for humans can lead to serious health conditionsthe same applies to dogs. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP),55.8% of dogs are classified as over weight. To make matters worse, 95% of owners dont even know their pets are overweight, which the APOP refers to as the fat pet gap.
Dr. Alex Schechter, DVMatPure Paws Veterinary Care of Hells Kitchentells me, Dog obesity is a major problem with our New York dog population. Limited exercise, high calorie intake, and non-nutritious foods tend to be the major culprits.In general, most pet parents actually think an overweight dog is a normal healthy baseline.
The Farmer's Dog
Its very prevalent, Dr. Joseph Martins DVM and Certified Fear Free Professional atBelle Mead Animal Hospitaltells me of the dog obesity he sees in his practice. My guesstimate is over 50% of dogs and cats are overweight and over 20% are obese.So 70-80% of pets weigh too much and this problem is growing. Its getting worse nationwide every year and especially the past few years.
So what makes a dog obese, what kind of health issues can obesity cause, and with all the brands popping up promoting whole food diets for dogs are these a viable solution?
The American Kennel Club says that figuring out whether your dog is overweight or not is a matter of both appearance of the body constitution and touch. You should be able to feel your dogs ribs when you press the sides of their body. Extra weight can lead to a variety of issues including Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, a range of orthopedic issues, skin disease, heart and respiratory disease, and even decreased life expectancy.
The Farmer's Dog
While there arent many lifetime studies on dogs, Martins tells me, There is one on Labrador retrievers that shows that labs who are over fed get overweight and consequently get more painful arthritis at earlier ages. Many of these pets require life long arthritis meds for pain years earlier than if they were kept lean. Another shocking part of this study also showed that 50% of overweight dogs were dead by 10 years of age and that dogs kept at an ideal weight lived 2-3 years longer than overweight dogs. This is a huge statistical fact every pet owner needs to knowlean dogs on average live years longer.
Schechter is a fan ofThe Farmers Dog, a breed-specific customized dog food made from fresh ingredients thats delivered to your door, for his adult dog patients because he believes the nutritional value of fresh food is far superior than processed dog food. I recommend The Farmer's Dog for all of my adult patients. I think they have revolutionized the pet food industry with a simple conceptfeed our pets fresher nutritious foods. We vaccinate our patients to prevent disease and have them on monthly medication to prevent against gastrointestinal parasites and ticks. However, I think we often forget that food can also be preventative medicine!
Before and after pic of Jasmine
Pet owner Linda Glass transitioned to The Farmers Dog when her Dalmatian, Jasmine, who suffered from persistent diarrhea was diagnosed with various infections and put on antibiotics, but the diarrhea continued.I tried a variety of food changes and combinations, explains Glass. I added wet food to dry food. I even started boiling chicken and rice. Nothing worked. Then I came across an ad on Facebook for Farmers Dog. After the first week of eating their food, Jasmine went to the vet and she weighed 82 pounds. Two months later they weighed her at 64 pounds. The vet was so impressed. Her coat was shiny, she didnt have flaky skin, and she had very little shedding. I told the vet about the food change and provided them a leaflet with the ingredients, which is now part of her chart. Glass says the only thing that changed to achieve these results is the dog food and the diarrhea is gone. Its worth every penny.
Brett Podolsky, Co-founder ofThe Farmers Dogtells me, Weve heard thousands of success stories from customers over the years. Its one of the most rewarding parts of our day! Its a constant reminder that making a simple change from highly processed products to real, fresh food can have a transformational impact on health. We hear how easy it becomes for people to manage their dogs weight and help eliminate all kinds of other health issues like allergies and stomach problems.
The Farmer's Dog
Whats unique about The Farmers Dogs subscription-basedfresh food plans is that they allow people to tailor their dogs daily caloric intake to their very specific requirements based on breed, age, and a variety of other factors which are asked about during theonline questionnaire. Furthermore, the plan allows people to adapt their plan to their dogs changing needs.
A kibble bag offers broad, and vague guidelines that dont take into account an individual dogs needs, making it very easy to over-feed and kibble-bag guidelines will always err on the side of too much food, so you end up buying more, continues Podolsky. Dr. Ernie Ward who runs APOP has told us at Farmers Dog that hehears about so many pet owners feeding exactly what they suggest on the bag and those suggestions are too much.
The Farmers Dog is madefrom human-grade meat and vegetables that provides more bioavailable nutrients for a dog. Because our food is gently steamed, not processed multiple times at high heat like kibble, it also retains a lot of moisture and the natural nutrients from our whole food ingredients, which is another factor in keeping a dog healthy and satisfied, explains Podolsky. Kibble type dog foods, on the other hand, are dried and devoid of moisture, which is what allows for the long shelf life.
The Farmer's Dog
On why a customized diet is the way to go for our pets, Podolsky tells me, Customized plans allow people to precisely control their dogs caloric intake based on their very specific needs. If you have a 16-pound elderly Pug who needs to lose weight, thats a VERY different caloric demand than a 25-pound Rat Terrier who is younger and extremely active. Yet the guideline on a kibble bag might recommend that any dog between 16 and 25 pounds is fed between one and two cups. Thats a massive gap, and into that gap falls the health of too many dogs, even though the owner has the best intentions.
Martins is also a fan of whole food diets likeFreshpet,which creates meals from100% natural farm-raised poultry, beef and fish and incorporates fiber-packed vegetables and anti-oxidant rich fruits that are gently cooked without preservatives and kept refrigerated (and can be found at major retailers nationwide).
I am a fan of whole food diets like Freshpet that are properly nutritionally balanced using fresh ingredients that are prepared and cooked according to FDA and USDA standards, Martins tells me. Actually pets age 7-10 times faster than we do and dont live as long so maybe its even more important for them. So feeding fresh foods like Freshpet that are gently cooked but provide more moisture, high quality protein, more natural fiber, and highest quality antioxidants makes good sense and pets seem to feel better and look better.
Veterinary nutritionists know now more than ever that cats and dogs have their own species specific trace nutrient requirements different from each other and definitely different from humans, to keep their hearts and other vital organs healthy, continues Martins. Its imperative that owners know you cant just feed pets what people eat long term and keep up with their vital micronutrient needs.We are all constantly looking to keep our pets healthier, happier and living longer. One piece of the puzzle to do that right now is to keep pets from becoming overweight by feeding them the freshest, most balanced measured meals daily along with exercise.
Protein in the diet is essential for dogs. Dr. Gerardo Perez-Camargo DVM, VP of Research and Development at Freshpettells me,Freshpetdelivers to the pet twice the amount of protein and half the amount of carbohydrates than dry foods. Pets need protein to maintain, repair and grow muscle. Muscle is metabolically active, that means that it consumes energy.A dog with muscle will be able to burn more energy and maintain a healthier body weight than the same dog with a lower level of muscle in its body.
Like The Farmers Dog, Freshpet has heard stories from thousands of pet parents whove experienced incredible transformations once their pets have transitioned to Freshpet. Pet parent Melissa Stewarts 9-year old overweight Chihuahua Benji had a complete turnaround with his weight once she switched over to Freshpet.She tells me, After switching, he slimmed down and acts like he did as a puppy! It really is a miracle! He loves to go on walks and can jump on to the couch again. Benji is a happy dog and so am I!