Dietary Concerns

  • Dog Weight Control

    Between 25 and 40 percent of dogs are overweight, but owners often don't know it until they take their dog to the veterinarian for another reason.

    Even veterinarians, however, can't tell if your dog is fat just by its weight. Ideal weight varies by breed, and quite widely within breeds. There's no ideal weight chart for all dogs.

    You can judge your dog's condition by placing your hands on each side of his rib cage. Are the ribs protruding? Your dog may be too thin. Can you feel individual ribs easily, and is your dog's abdomen slightly tucked up when viewed from the side? That's the sign of ideal weight. If you can't feel the ribs easily, your dogs has no waist, and his abdomen drags, then he's too fat.

    Your veterinarian can help evaluate the finer points of your dog's weight.

    What Causes Canine Obesity? 
    Dogs gain weight for the same reasons that people do. They eat more calories than they use. Today's dogs share another problem with their owners - lack of activity. Most owners are gone all day, and come home too tired to play with the dog. 
    As your dog ages, or after she/he is spayed or neutered, their metabolism will also slow, causing the dog to require less food. 
    Owners may also give frequent high-calorie treats. And sometimes more than one family member may be feeding the dog - and the dog certainly won't tell. 
    Dog Body Condition Description
    Thin Dog 
    Ribs, lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones easily visible
    No palpable fat
    Obvious waist and abdominal tuck
    Prominent pelvic bones
    Underweight Dog 
    Ribs easily palpable
    Minimal fat covering
    Waist is easily noted when viewed from above
    Abdominal tuck evident
    Ideal Dog 
    Ribs palpable, but not visible
    Slight waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above
    Abdomen tucked up, flank fold present
    Overweight Dog 
    Slight increase in fat over ribs, but still easily palpable
    Abdomen slightly rounded, flanks concave
    Flank folds hang down with moderate amount of fat-jiggle noted when walking
    Obese Dog
    Ribs and backbone not easily palpable under a heavy fat covering
    Abdomen rounded; waist barely visible to absent
    Prominent flank folds which sway from side to side when walking
    How Can I Help My Dog Lose Weight? 
    Losing weight isn't easy. Changing your habits and your pet's is the key. Here are some ways you can help. 
    Do a family survey to be sure who feeds the dog, what, and when. Don't be embarrassed to admit you give your dog treats - dogs are expert beggars! 
    Substitute affection for treats by giving your dog a pat or by throwing a ball when he noses your hand. 
    Take the dog for a walk more often. Even 10 extra minutes a day can help. 
    What to Feed Your Dog 
    If your dog is more than 15 percent overweight, your veterinarian may recommend a special food. "Diet" foods should be low in fat (under 20 percent of calories from fat) and calories. 
    Your goal is to return your dog to a healthier weight, so select his food carefully. Some foods just add fiber to try to make the dog feel full. This can result in reduced digestibility, large stool volume, frequent defecation, and decreased skin and coat conditions because the dog may not be getting enough fat and nutrients. 
    You'll want to find a food that has normal fiber levels to keep your dog's digestive system working properly. It should have high-quality protein, so your dog doesn't lose muscle, too, and an adjusted fatty-acid ratio to help keep his skin flexible and coat glossy throughout the dieting process. Once your dog reaches ideal weight, select a maintenance food to keep weight steady. 
    Last Thing
    Remember, your dog needs your help to lose weight and stay healthy. Your efforts to follow the program recommended by your veterinarian can make a real different in your dog's health and lifespan. 
  • Feline Obesity

    Helping Kitty Lose the Weight
    An obese cat is not a pretty sight. Cumbersome and clumsy, a cat suffers a marked deterioration in mobility and appearance. His decrease flexibility leads to an inability to thoroughly groom himself and he becomes subject to skin problems. Obese cats also face an increased risk of contracting diabetes and are poor candidates for surgery and anesthesia. 

    Obesity happens when an animal consistently takes in more calories than needed. Some contributing factors include overfeeding, inactivity, reproductive status, environment, body type, age, and genetic predisposition. 
    Assessing Your Cat's Body Condition 
    Assessing your cat's body condition is an important first step in the overall evaluation of your cat's nutritional well-being, and can especially help in determining feline obesity. The Cat Body Condition Chart below shows the different body conditions of cats. 
    Cat Body Condition Descriptions
    Thin Cat
    Ribs, lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones easily visible
    Thin neck and narrow waist
    Obvious abdominal tuck
    No fat in flank folds, folds often absent 
    Underweight Cat
    Backbone and ribs easily palpable
    Minimal fat covering
    Minimal waist when viewed from above 
    Slightly tucked abdomen 
    Ideal Cat
    Ribs palpable, but not visible 
    Slight waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above
    Abdomen tucked up, flank fold present 
    Overweight Cat
    Slight increase in fat over ribs, but still easily palpable
    Abdomen slightly rounded, flanks concave
    Flank folds hang down with moderate amount of fat-jiggle noted when walking 
    Obese Cat
    Ribs and backbone not easily palpable under a heavy fat covering Abdomen rounded; waist barely visible to absent Prominent flank folds which sway from side to side when walking 
    Visit Your Veterinarian
    Weight problems are one of the leading issues veterinarians deal with on a daily basis. Therefore, if you suspect that your cat is either overweight or obese, a complete evaluation by a veterinarian is not only recommended, but a good idea. 
    Your veterinarian will probably ask you some questions about your cat, such as what and how much your cat is eating, and how much physical activity your cat gets. Answering these questions honestly will help your veterinarian recommend some simple changes that may help improve your cat's weight. 
    Your veterinarian may also perform some tests. A few medical conditions may contribute to obesity. You will want to rule these out before you proceed with any weight loss or weight management program. 
    Weight-Loss Diets
    Your veterinarian may suggest you change your cat's diet to one specifically designed for weight loss. Portion control will still be necessary. Your cat, however, will most likely be able to eat more of the special food than if she was consuming her regular diet. 
    A diet based in replacement of some fat with highly-digestible carbohydrates is a good low-calorie alternative. Digestible carbohydrates contain less than one-half the calories of equal quantities of fat, and do not have the disadvantages of indigestible fiber. High-fiber foods may reduce the digestibility and absorption of many nutrients. High-fiber diets may also result in large and frequent stools, and decreased skin and coat conditions. 
    Feeding a diet that contains the carbohydrates corn and sorghum can result in lower blood-sugar and insulin levels, as compared to feeding a diet that contains rice as the primary carbohydrate source. Lower blood sugar and insulin levels can also help with maintaining a proper weight. 
    In addition, a diet that contains L-carnitine will help to induce weight loss. L-carnitine is a vitamin-like compound that helps with fat metabolism. Vitamin A is another nutrient that can help with the "battle of the bulge." Boosting dietary intake of vitamin A has been shown to decrease the likelihood of weight gain in cats. 
    Changing Diets 
    Changing diets can be a stressful time for pets. So if you veterinarian recommends changing diets, proceed slowly. 
    Begin by mixing a daily portion that includes 25% new food with 75% of the old food. The next day, increase the amount of the new food with 50% and decrease the old food to 50% of the daily portion. Continue increasing the proportions during the next few days until the daily portion consists entirely of the new diet. 
    This method increases the likelihood of acceptance of the new diet and decreases the occurrence of gastrointestinal upsets. 
    Play Ball! 
    Another way to help you cat lose weight is to increase your cat's activity level. Provide cat "trees" for climbing. Teach your cat to play fetch. Buy or create your own toys that encourage exercise. Many cats enjoy chasing lasers or lights from pointers or flashlights. One ingenious owner throws her cat's dry food ration, a piece at a time, to get her cat moving! Many enjoy learning to walk on a leash. You can also use your cat's natural hunting instinct to help her lose weight. Hide several small portions of her daily food ration around the house. If you have a multi-level house, make your cat use the stairs. 
    Use your imagination, but be cautious. Don't let a fat cat become exhausted, overheated, or out of breath. Also keep in mind that older cats may not be able to exercise vigorously. 
    Use playtime, grooming, stroking, or conversation as rewards instead of food treats. If you cannot resist the fat cat who begs for food at the dinner table, remove the cat during dinnertime. 
    If yours is a multi-cat household, the consistent winner of the food competition sweepstakes is often obese. If this is the case, separate the cats at mealtimes if at all possible. 
    Obesity is easier to prevent than to cure. It is never too late, though, to reverse obesity, though it requires long-term patience and commitment. Weight reduction in cats is a slow process. If food intake is too severely restricted, other health problems in your cat can arise. 
    Increased activity, behavior modification - for both you and your cat - and calorie restriction are your weapons against feline obesity. With all these things, it is important to expect a few setbacks and plateaus as well. It will take at least four months for an obese cat to realize a 15% weight loss. 
    At that point, you can reassess your cat's body condition and proceed from there. And congratulate yourself and your cat for success.
  • Switching Diets

    SWITCH-UPS - How to Get Your Dog or Cat on a New Diet  

    Why Switch Diets? 
    At some point in your pet's life, you will probably be faced with the challenge of switching your pet's diet - usually for your dog's or cat's health. Whether it's to change to adult food, to senior food, or for weight-loss purposes, or if you just want to introduce a new pet food, it's important to make the switch as easy as possible for your pet. 
    Introducing a New Diet 
    Most pet owners switch their dog or cat's diet to enhance their pet's health. Your pet's health, however, will most likely suffer if he resists change and stops eating; so switching your pet's diet to a new food takes planning. 
    Dogs and cats, like people, are creatures of habit. And like humans, they may become accustomed to certain foods and not welcome a disruption to their routine. With the following tips, you'll increase the likelihood of a smooth transition. 
    Introduce the new food gradually. This is the most successful way to ease your pet into the change in his diet. Begin by mixing the new food with the old a little at a time, as seen in the chart provided below. Slowly change the proportion throughout four days or so by gradually increasing the amount of new food and decreasing the amount of old food until you are feeding only the new food. 
    Use positive body language. Introducing the new food using a pleasant tone of voice and gently encouraging your dog or cat to try it is far more enticing than bringing a new food into your home, placing it into a bowl, and declaring that your dog or cat had better eat it. 
    Patience, patience, and more patience. It is important not to give up too soon! During the initial four-day period, do not give your dog or cat treats or table scraps! Pets often train us as much as we train them. Giving in to their demands only reinforces their bad behavior, and will make it more difficult to make a nutritious dietary change. 
    Some pets pick out only the old diet in the mix, while others will pick out only the new diet. In either case, keep mixing the two diets. Some dogs and cats may refuse to eat. A healthy pet can miss a few meals or eat a little less with no ill effects. If you are concerned, however, don't hesitate to contact your veterinarian. 
    Change the presentation without changing the nutrition. Sometimes it helps to make the new diet more attractive without changing the nutrition. Some ideas include mixing a little warm water with the food. Or, you may even want to put the moistened food in the microwave for a few seconds. 
    If you mix food and water, however, it is important to discard any uneaten portion after 20 minutes to prevent spoilage. After the dog or cat has become accustomed to the new "moistened" food, you can begin switching slowly to dry food. This approach is also helpful when switching from a canned food to a dry food. 
    It's Important to Remember... 
    Regardless of what food you choose, dogs and cats must have plenty of fresh, clean water available at all times. Placing the water three to five feet from the food will help prevent your pet from gulping water and air in addition to food. 
    Dogs and cats thrive on a routine. Feed them at the same time and place every day to establish a comfortable eating pattern. 
    And remember, dogs and need to visit the veterinarian regularly. Regular visits help to keep your pet happy and healthy.
    Diet Changes May Invoke Other Changes.
    When a dog or cat is switched to a new diet, pet owners may notice other changes, too. Behavioral and physical changes may be evident during and after the diet transition period. 
    These changes may be due to difference in nutrient content or to the minor stress of a change in routine. These may changes in coat color, water intake, or energy level. Additionally, vomiting, diarrhea and gas may occur as a result of a diet change. These and similar changes aren't usually harmful to pets. 
    Yet you should never hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you are concerned about changes in your pet's behavior or appearance. 
    Tips for Success
    Mix new food with old food, and increase the new while decreasing the old for at least four days.
    Maintain your normal feeding routine.
    Don't give treats during the transition!
    Have fresh water available at all times.


  • Treats for Dogs & Cats

    Looking for a way to do something just a little special for your favorite pooch or kitty? How about making some treats that are not only special, but easy to make? We've found the following homemade food recipes for treats that are not only tasty for your cat and dog: They're also healthy!  

    For Cats: 
    Tuna Patties (from Healthy Recipes for Pets, 
    What you need:
    1 can tuna 
    1/2 cup boiled rice 
    1/4 cup pureed liver
    2-3 sprigs parsley, chopped
    How to make the patties: 
    Drain the tuna and mix everything together. Make six to seven balls and then pat them into patties. Store in the fridge and serve to your cat. This is one cat treat recipe that your feline friend won't be finicky about! 
    For Dogs: 
    Easy Cheesy Treats (from Doggy Bistro, 
    What you need:
    1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
    1 3/4 cups grated cheddar cheese, room temperature
    1 stick margarine
    How to make the treats: 
    Blend cheese with margarine and flour. Shape into 2 logs, about 2 " wide. Chill in the refrigerator. Cut into 1/4" slices and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake in 375F oven for 15 minutes or until brown and firm. Allow to cool completely before serving.