QUESTION: We have a female Lab 4 years old and a male Golden Retriever 3 years old. The Lab's weight is 60/65 pounds and the Golden 115/120 pounds. Our Vet was here last week and told us we needed to get some weight off both or they could face serious health problems in the future, especially in their joints. He advised we feed each dog no more than 8 ounces of dry food a day We have been feeding them each about 16 ounces of dry (topped with a hand full of raw green beans# a day. We trust our Vet, but when we put 8 ounces #and no green beans)of dry on a plate its really small. We wonder if cutting back this drastic all at once is wise. I can tell you this the dogs don't like it. Your thoughts would be appreciated and any advise on weight control would be appreciated.
ANSWER: Hey David,
Weight control is a popular problem with many dogs today. There are obviously two ways to reduce weight for a dog or a person. Reduce calories and/or exercise more to burn calories.
We love our vets for what they do and that's medicine. But the mistake that most people make is believing the automatically know all about nutrition. That's just not true.
The majority of vets may have taken one elective nutrition class through their vet schooling and if so, that class was put on by the big grain companies. The manufacturers of the not so healthy dog foods.
So basically, you're doing a very good thing by not just blindly following the vets advice but doing some of your own research. Your dogs will benefit from your efforts.
First, I have to question the integrity of any vet who tells someone to put their dog on a dry food only diet. That is the worst thing for them.
Dogs by nature are meat eaters. In other words a high moisture diet. This along with the live nutrients available from raw foods are what sustains them.
Dry foods have little moisture. Typically around 10%. So basically dogs on a dry only or mostly dry diet will actually live in a mild state of dehydration. This will effect their internal organs over time. This is the reason why many cancers form, weight problems, arthritis, skin conditions and more. For females, many UTI's are the result.
I wish you would have told me what dry you are feeding now. That makes a big difference. Too many carbs and your dog gains weight.
The best diet in the world for any dog and one that returns them to their natural state is the raw food diet. This is the way nature intended our dogs to eat and thrive on. If you take away what nature intended for any animal to eat and thrive on, health problems will occur.
Look at feed stock cattle. They do not eat their nature grass diet and are fed dry corn to fatten them up for slaughter. The cows cannot sustain health with this diet so they are pumped full or antibiotics and growth hormones and this is passed along for us to eat.
You would do very well for your dogs to learn about the raw food diet. There are many manufacturers of raw foods for dogs and most make them complete balanced as they grind in bone and organ meat. They are frozen and conveniently packaged to feed.
I understand having big or multiple dogs that cost can be a factor. So you can feed a part-time raw diet and they will still benefit from it.
Dogs were never meant to eat a cooked food diet. This type of diet is incomplete and not balanced as many needed nutrients are destroyed during the cooking process.
Labs and similar breeds are our number one customer with skin and coat issues, sensitive stomachs and weight problems. They just seem to be more sensitive than other dogs.
It all comes down to the diet. You, or them, are basically what you eat.
I don't know what your experience level is in determining commercial dog foods from premium dog foods. But basically, we define premium foods are ones that are free from wheat, corn, soy, by-products, chemical preservatives and artificial colorings for starters. There are more bad ingredients but these are the major players.
To get the weight off we are going to have to reduce some calories and up the exercise some. I would not do anything drastically fast as your vet suggested or they will have stress problems.
A gradual approach is best. I don't know what your exercise program is with them if any but we are going to have to up that the best we can. If you can take them to a dog park and play ball or go jogging with them or other activities, you need to up this amount.
A great program we've used in the past is a treadmill. Many trainers like the use of a treadmill to burn off energy and to aid weight loss.
Playing in the park is great, but you need to get them going at a fast pace for a length of time to burn the calories. Walking is good but not as effective for weight loss. Bigger dogs need to keep moving and cover some distance.
The treadmill works great as you work with your dogs to learn to walk on it and then work up to a light run. You can cover a lot of ground in a hurry this way.
You basically stand over them with a leash on and the treadmill going at a walking pace. You slowly up the speed over the next session or two. Then you work on standing beside them as they walk on it. Eventually you will have them at a good pace with you just in the area. NEVER tie them to the treadmill.
Swimming is another great exercise if this is possible. But the basic thing is to get them moving. They enjoy this as this is their natural way to be and their weight will come down and their joints will remain healthy.
That the exercise part. Now for the feeding. I would like to hear back from you on what you are currently feeding so I can help make some recommendations. We can analyse if this makes sense or to switch to another dry. We'll definitely have to get them on some wet foods. I can make some recommendations for that to help cost.
If you are interested in the raw diet either full or part time, let me know. I can make suggestions on how to transition.
The last thing we need to look at is supplements. These are critical, especially for bigger dogs.
As I mentioned before, any cooked foods have destroyed some vital nutrients. Two of the most critical are enzymes and probiotics. In my opinion, these are the most important thing you can do for any dog or cat is adding these to a diet no matter what you are feeding. These are what's missing out of most pets diets and what is causing so many health issues.
We feed exclusively raw to our dogs and cats and we still add additional digestive enzymes and probiotics as they are that important.
There are a few others we can add to their diet that will help them in the long run. I can go over these once I hear back from you as to what all is in their diets now.
So if you would like an evaluation and recommendations,just write back to this same question and let me know everything that is in their diet including name brands and supplements. Also let me know as to how much cost plays a role in this. From there I can help make some recommendations to move forward and help them to reduce calories.
I look forward to hearing back,
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thanks for the prompt and detailed response. I will try to answer some of the comments in your reply: (1) The brand name of the dry food we feed them is Nutri Source Lamb Meal & Rice for large breed adult. And as I said we feed each dog twice a day, AM and PM, they had been getting about 8 ounces at each feeding with a hand full of green beans on top of the dry food. We have now cut down what they get by half. They get no supplements. (2) Exercise, we do have a fenced in back yard for them to run in. We do have a dog park nearby but my wife and me will be turning 70 soon and handling two big dogs can be a chore for us. I will consider the treadmill. (3) Cost, besides the two dogs we also have 4 cats (we love animals) food for the dogs runs about $50 to $60 a month the cats about $35 to $40 a month. We would like to keep total food costs around $100 a month or so. Looking forward to your evaluation and recommendations.
The Nutri Source is a decent food. Not the best but far from the worst. They do contain artificial flavors and the are a huge distributer of dog foods so their source proteins are not always the best.
But this is still far better than other commercial brands like Science Diet, Iams, Purina, Beneful, etc.
One of the lowest cost premium foods we carry is a brand called Skoki. It does contain some healthy grains but the price point is just over a dollar per pound.
Another very good one is Chicken Soup for the Dog Lovers Soul. This is usually around $1.30 per pound in the big bags.
Your Nutri Source is probably around $1.50 per pound. Not a bad price but I think you would do better finding one of the other brands. You may save some money and they are a better food.
You can typically find these foods in the small, independent natural pet food stores. Look in your local yellow pages under dog food.
My wife and I did write and book and is available on Amazon. It deals with finding good dog food to feed on a budget. In that book we showed a quick study we did. We took the cheapest, worst rated dog food like Beneful and compared it to a premium grain free food called Natures Variety Instinct.
We took the 25lb dog feeding recommendations and divided it by the cost on each product. The cost "per feeding" study is what we wanted to get out of this.
The cost per feeding between the bad food and the premium food was close to nothing. One was I believe, $.33 per feeding and the other was $37.
This is because with the premium grain free food, you feed less per serving. They absorb more from the food so you can feed less and the bag goes further. And of course it is a much better food so your dogs would be more healthy.
So don't always rely on cost per a bag of food. Make sure it is a good food. Do your own comparisons as to the "cost per feeding" and see what you come up with. I'm sure you will be surprised.
Premium grain free dry food brands are like from Orijen, Accana, Taste Of The Wild, Natural Balance, Before Grains, Instinct, The Great Life, and Core to name a few.
Dogs do better without the grains in their diet, especially your breeds. Grains can cause inflammation and that is hard on joints, add weight and can potentially cause skin and coat issues.
Find the small natural dog food stores that I talked about and go talk to them. They can provide most information as I do and give you samples.
I really don't believe in restricting your dogs food that much. They will not be satisfied and can lead to behavior problems. They are also not getting a balanced diet which will lead to health issues.
As I mentioned before, dogs MUST have a high moisture diet to thrive the way nature intended them to do.
Dry food only diets lead to weight gain, UTI's in females and is the leading causes of cancers in dogs over 10.
You must get some moist foods into their diets. If you strive to feed at least half dry and half moist foods, they will be consuming less calories and thus, loose some weight.
You can usually purchase can foods by the case and save some money. Most places will offer a discount for case purchases. You can look for sales and specials.
One of the lowest price point premium canned foods we carry is from Chicken Soup For The Dog Lovers Soul.
If you want and can go grain free, you can choose Natural Balance products. It's by far the more popular one for labs. This is because it is limited ingredients. That helps them from developing allergies. It is grain free but it is also a little higher in carbs than other mentioned grain free brands. Remember, we need to reduce the carbs as these are the weight gainer ingredients.
With a little research and help from a local supplier, you can find the right match between cost and quality.
Another helpful tip for weight loss is a fish oil product. Nordic Naturals is a good one we carry for dogs. Adding good quality fish oils will help them with their appetite, metabolism for burning calories, help with their joints, eyes and brain function. I is a very important supplement.
As important fish oil is, there is nothing to compare to the enzymes and probiotics I talked about. This IS the most important thing you need to do for them. These will help them live longer and healthier. They will provide the missing nutrients from the processed foods to help make their meal more complete.
Animal Essentials makes a good one we carry and use ourselves. It contains both enzymes and probiotics in one powder that you just sprinkle on their food at each meal.
You must try to find a way to up their exercise. Their just isn't much alternative to keeping their weight down, their minds at a better level and for their joint health.
If you can't get them to the park yourself, maybe you can find an inexpensive dog walker or family member who could do this a couple times a week.
The treadmill works great. Many trainers like to use them. You could call a couple trainers in your area and see if any utilize a treadmill. If so, you can take your dogs to them and they will give you instructions on how to exercise them on a treadmill.
As I mentioned, the walks are fun but they will just not get their heart rates up to where they need to be.
These are young dogs and the must be ran to stay healthy. If not on a treadmill, look for local help.
If you don't have a treadmill, look on Craigs List in your area. You can usually get a good used one fairly cheap.
I hope this all helps some and you can begin to understand the difference in some foods and what are some very needed supplements.
Some up front cost for these product may be a little overwhelming but consider what cost health issues are at the vets office.
You can pay a little more now as you go and more than likely pay a vet for degenerative type health issues many dogs face these days because people just don't know any better.
You want your dogs to be with you a long time and remain healthy, then you must do some of these basic things they need. You just can't feed them a very little amount of dry, processed food with maybe a little green beans on them and expect them to remain healthy. It's just not going to happen.
You have to look at an animals nature diet for them to remain in good health. If you ate nothing but dry cereal like Wheaties or something, yes, you may survive on that for a while but you will not thrive.
If you have more questions or need clarification on any of this, please feel free to write back and ask. I'll be happy to help if I can. Just let me know.