Why is this information important?
It's estimated that over HALF of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. YIKES~! Not only does extra weight decreased your pet's lifespan, it also reduces the quality of their life as it puts extra stress and strain on their joints.
In this blog post, I wanted to touch upon how to identify if your pet is overweight and also go over some tips and tricks for weight management that you can implement at home (of course, please always ask for your veterinarians advice.)
How do I know if my pet is overweight?
Beyond just gawking at a scale, there are other ways to know if your pet is "a little chonky." Your pet's weight doesn't tell us much about your pet's body condition. Some pets weigh more because they are of a larger or are more muscular in stature. This is where body condition scoring comes into play.
A body condition score is used by most veterinarians. Some use a scale of 1 to 5 (ideal score being 3) whereas others use a scale of 1 to 9 (ideal score being 5).
I personally use a body scoring system of 1 to 9, so the information below will reflect this:
What does my pet's body score mean?
1 to 2: pet is extremely underweight and hip bones, ribs, and boney prominences are easily visualized and extremely easy to palpate.
3 to 4: pet is extremely lean and hip bones and rib bones are mostly visible and easily palpated.
*IDEAL* 5: pet has a nice tapered and tucked waist looking downwards and from the side + last 2-3 ribs may be visible and other ribs are relatively easy to palpate
6 to 7: pet has a hard to visualize waist looking downwards and minimal tummy tuck + ribs are somewhat challenging to palpate
8 to 9: pet has no waist and may have fatty deposits along the rump, waist, and back part of the neck + ribs are near impossible to palpate
How to utilize body condition scoring
A body condition scoring system can be used in addition to or in absence of a traditional scale. I love using body scoring as it is a standardized means of knowing how a pet is doing with their weight management.
The condition scoring system can be somewhat subjective, but I highly recommend keeping a regular eye on your dogs waist and their ribcage to make sure that are not carrying extra fat where they shouldn't be.
How many calories does my pet need?
Your pet's caloric needs are based upon math. Nobody likes math... but there are several dog food calculators on the internet that make this process stupid easy: you can type in your dog's ideal weight, your pet food's kCal count and BOOM! You have an unemotional number to target for your pet's daily requirements.
Dog food calculator links:
Now, you may be asking... how the heck do I use these tools? What do I put in?
In your dog's weight section, put in the ideal weight in lbs or kgs that you think would be healthy for your dog. If you are unsure, ask your vet at your next visit what they think would be a healthy weight for your dog and use that number.
In the activity section, be honest: is your dog a weekend warrior, couch potato, or a working dog? With most house pets, it's safe to say that your pet is probably pretty sedentary and needs less instead of more calories.
In the kCal section, look at the packaging on your pet's food. you are looking for the analysis section. You may see "crude protein" and other scary words. Look for an objective number that says CALORIES. Most pet foods are in the ball park of 300-500 kCals per cup.
This dog food bag is "475 kCals pet cup" as indicated by the red bar below
Do note: you can also financially budget and see which food is costing you more. Usually, the less nutritious the food the more you have to buy / the more you have to feed.
Tips for weight management
Now that you have an idea on how MUCH to feed, now we can talk about some strategies to work within our "calorie budget" for your animal.
Have you ever considered slicing up extra veggies and feeding them to your pet? For treats or for toppers, veggies can add bulk and decrease calories.
Ask your vet what veggies to try and which to avoid.
You usually can't go wrong with cucumber or carrots!
No free feeding
As challenging as it may be, we have to set boundaries on when (and how much) our pet is allowed to eat.
Grazers beware! It's time to pick up that bowl and only allow your pet to eat when you decide it's time
Consider limiting your pet's food intake only to certain times so your pet can learn and get into a routine. For pet's that like to steal from other animals in the home, it's a good idea to put them in another room, a kennel, or supervise them while eating.
Weigh the food
Volume is a poor guide when it comes to answering the question on if your pet is getting enough (or too much) food.
I recommend pet parents invest in a food scale and measure their pet's food by weight so they can exactly and reliably calculate how much their pet is eating
Your pet food measured in ounces will ALWAYS be more reliable than food measured in cups.
Slow them down
Encourage your pet to work for their weighed and rationed food by investing in puzzle toys.
A snuffle mat, a wobble toy, or a slow dispensing toy filled with your pets food can engage your pet's mind and slow down their caloric intake If you don't want to buy something new, consider a muffin tin or hiding food around the house for your pet to find.
This blog post covered body condition scoring, calculation of your pet's caloric needs, and some ideas for at home weight management.
I hope you consider utilizing this material to enable your pet to get back to (or stay at) a healthy weight so that they can live a long full life.
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In Stride Chiropractic is an animal chiropractic provider in Dallas, TX. We operate out of several locations and are a referral ONLY practice.
We are certified by the AVCA which is a top notch and rigorous certification program of 200+ hours class time followed by a written and practical board exam. We take 10 yearly hours of continuing education because we value knowing the most in order to provide the best.
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