If only human diets were as easy to follow as doggie diets!
You guys might recall that I was so shocked last year when the veil across my eyes lifted and I saw my dogs as the little sausages they had become (My Dog Got Fat, Now What?!). They had become a little more rectangular in shape with hardly any definition, or inward taper by their hindquarters. That is the first sign of obesity in dogs!
The Signs of Obesity – Know the Dog Body Condition Chart
Take a good look at your dog’s waist against the chart below to see if they are over-, under- or at correct weight for a dog.
I was rather shocked as I thought I was a good mom that paid attention to how much I fed them. Turns out that the weight gain was due in part to inconsistent exercise and mostly all those treats I wasn’t even paying attention I was feeding them! A cheesy here, a cookie there… Read my previous article (My Dog Got Fat, Now What?!), which also delves into why obesity is bad, and things you can do to get their weight back on track.
What I did – Dog Diet Routine
It’s been a little over 3 months since I first noticed that my dogs got a little chubby, and they have been on a better feeding routine (dog diet if you will) as well as exercise schedule, and I’ve been keeping far better tabs on what I feed them as well as how much exercise they get every day.
Now, mind you, Christmas was also thrown in the mix, and during festive season, although we tried being good, they got a lot more treats than they had (just) become used to: doggie advents (a cookie per day), and of course a lot of their Xmas gifts were treats & food related. They were probably getting three times what I had just got them used to over festive… I did taper their food intake a little bit to make up for Xmas indulgence, and we were still sticking with our exercise routine, but they did (like all of us tend to do) pick up a little over Xmas, but really not much in the big picture.
So here’s what I did, and what I continue to do:
- Tracking Food – I started by creating a chart (spreadsheet) for food (including treats) they got each day as well as exercise. This works well for me when I want to watch what I eat, so I thought, well – perhaps I should do the same for my dogs. Be accountable for what I put in their systems and really, honestly know for sure how much & what I’m feeding them. Every snack, treat, food & food accompaniment is tracked.
- Dog Food – I bought them a dog diet food – we got Acana Light & Fit. Now this you don’t have to do, but I wanted to give them the best chance possible to lose the weight, hence investing in good quality, diet dog food. I was very hesitant at first as I was concerned that they would not get their normal nutrition from a “diet” version – but they adjusted really well. Their coats are shiny & they LOVE the food.
- Food Quantity – I paid attention to what the dog food bag said their allowance really should be. Now here, I had to do things a little differently because I had also chosen to start them on a diet food. The way the diet food works best is to start them off on their existing weight and feed them against that as opposed to feeding them the weight you want them to be. Just like humans, dog diets are also psychological and they too “eat with their eyes”. You don’t want to give them a huge fright in thinking that they are getting a lot less food – so you start them off where they are at (ito weight). Then taper down (I tapered monthly by about 10 grams at a time) This helps them lose the weight consistently, and gives their bodies time to adjust – without feeling like they are ‘starving’. (Tip: If you feed them the same food and have been for a while, check in on the feeding guidelines from time to time. The food that I had been feeding Shiva & Shakti had changed! Which also attributed to their gain…)
- Treat Quantity (& Quality) – I decided to only give them natural, or healthier treats. No more biscuits. They can have Dentasticks, doggie droewors, hooves and, for biscuits, I actually buy them Orijen Biscuits (massive treat, and smells so good!). The nice thing about Orijen Biscuits is that they are only 4gsm calories per biscuit! So it really doesn’t interfere too much with their daily intake. I roughly decided that they are only allowed to have 2x treats per day, and occasionally we go to 3. 🙂 When giving treats now, they must also “work for it” – whether this is just a sit, lay-down, paw or fetch – as opposed to “hey, we’re in the kitchen, it’s treat time!”
- Daily Exercise – I committed to walking the dogs once per day for 40 min, every day. In the beginning it was hard for all of us – fitting in this new routine, plus they used to be pooped after only 20 min walk. I did start off slowly and only did 20 min for about two weeks, then made it longer to 40 min, and now stick to 40 min every day. They LOVE it, and I love it. It gets us out and about, I get exercise, they get exercise. If you’re unable to walk your dog, the other options are to increase play time with them, or get a dog walker once or more a week. Dogs really do need the stimulation as well as exercise!
How the Weight Comes Off – Dog Diet Expectations
I was surprised how quickly the weight came off. Consistency really is key! They say they are only meant to lose about 3-5% of body weight per month. Both of them lost a little more than that some months, and other months (like December) not so much. But try and see this as a slow process, and don’t rush it as it can also be detrimental to your dog’s health. If your dog is very obese in fact, speak to your vet before attempting to diet your dog.
Starting Weight: 22kg Goal Weight: 18kg
Shiva & Shakti are medium size dogs. I am aiming to get them to around 18kg. When we started this process they were at 22kg.
It’s been roughly a little over 3 months, with Xmas festivities in between, but they are now at about 19kg. Generally the recommendation is to lose the weight over 3-6 months, so we are on track.
Over this process I’ve also seen them go from very sedentary to far more mobile, playful and energetic. This in part I’m sure to the daily exercise, but also being a little lighter on their feet.
For anyone interested in my spreadsheet, here is a link to download my spreadsheet for free. Free Doggie Diet Tracker download.
(First row is example of data entry.)
Below: Shiva & Shakti happy little faces eating – and having lost some of their weight!