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Measure your dog's food for weight control PDF Print E-mail

N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column - 5/1/11
By: Gail T. Fisher


Kochi, our little 23 pound Sheba Inu mix, has put on some extra pounds. In a dog his size, one or two pounds makes a visible difference in his “waist.” He gets the doggy equivalent of “love handles,” easily viewed in the bird’s eye view of his silhouette. I blamed his weight gain on his dad, who fed the dogs while I was traveling, but when it didn’t get better with stricter portion control, there had to be a different issue—and there was. Kochi was pushing Cannon away from his dish, and finishing his meal. Despite being twice Kochi’s size, Cannon is half as determined when it comes to eating, so Kochi’s been getting extra food for a few weeks. The solution is simple: Kochi is being fed in his crate.

I wish trimming down an overweight dog were this simple for everyone. The fact is that overweight has become the new normal for most dog owners, and saying a dog is fat is the social equivalent of telling new parents their baby is ugly. Sometimes when I gently advise a client that their dog could stand to use a few pounds, their response is often, “Really? I had him at the vet’s last week and the vet said he’s fine.” Vets have told me that they often feel as if they’re fighting a losing battle. That being the case, I’m joining the fray, hoping that readers will take this seriously and view their dogs objectively—for the sake of their health and longevity. And I have new information that will help!

Studies of people’s eating habits have demonstrated that people will eat less when they’re served smaller portions on a smaller plate. Interestingly, a recent study at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine shows that it is the same in feeding our dogs. The researchers followed 54 dogs divided into four different approaches to measuring the dogs’ food: large scoop and large bowl, small scoop and large bowl, large scoop and small bowl, and small scoop ad small bowl. The results are significant. Measuring food with a small scoop into a small bowl resulted in smaller portions by as much as 23% less than the large bowl and large scoop. In other words, you’ll feed less—a healthier amount—if you use a smaller, standard-sized measure such as a cup measure, rather than using a larger, 16 oz. mug, and calling it “a cup,” and giving your dog a smaller bowl from which to eat.

I get that it is hard not to fill a dog’s food dish. I have downsized from feeding 150-200 pound Mastiffs for over 20 years to feeding a 45 pound Beardie and a 23 pound mixed breed. When I feed them—especially Kochi’s little dish—it feels like way too little. But it’s not ... not for his size. For the sake of his health and longevity, I carefully measure, adjusting the amount depending on his condition. I recommend measuring your dog’s food, and adjusting it for your dog’s optimal weight.

What about treats or snacks? My cousin recently guiltily admitted to me that his dog is fat because he shares his snacks with her. I have no problem with this—I give my dogs treats all the time. The issue isn’t snacks; it is simple over feeding. Consider that there are less than 20 calories in a few teaspoons of vanilla ice cream, so letting your dog lick your bowl is not the end of the world. You can give your dog snacks and use treats in training a dog and it won’t make your dog fat. What makes a dog overweight is feeding too much. So get a smaller bowl and a smaller measuring cup, and throw away the guilt.

Copyright © Gail T. Fisher, 2011. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this article or suggestions for future topics, please contact us.

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