Pet NutritionYou know that good nutrition is important to your own health, and it’s no different for our pets. What if we all ate nothing but cupcakes, chips, and ice cream? We shudder to think! Being obese is as unhealthy for pets as it is for people, but sadly, obesity in pets is quite common.

Research also shows a correlation between keeping your pet lean and lifespan. In fact, a study conducted by Purina found that the lives of leaner pets can be longer by up to 15 percent. At Bayside Animal Hospital, we were so impressed with this result that we knew we had to delve deeper into the importance of pet nutrition.

The Study

Nestle Purina conducted the first ever lifetime diet restriction study in 2001 using 48 dogs from seven litters. Eight week old sibling labrador retrievers were assigned to either a control group or a lean-fed group. Each dog received a nutritionally complete, balanced diet for the duration of the study. However, the control group was fed an unlimited amount of food during the daily 15-minute feeding window. The lean-fed group was fed 25% less than their counterparts.

The study was conducted over 14 years. Amazingly, the lifespans of the lean-fed dogs were, on average, nearly 2 years longer than those who were fed an unlimited amount. In addition, the lean-fed dogs exhibited age-related symptoms later than the control group, such as greying muzzles, impaired gait, and decreased activity.

This study is significant because, for the first time in a large mammal, it proved a relationship exists between lean or ideal body condition and good health.

Good Pet Nutrition for Life

You already know that good nutrition is important. Now, let’s look at how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight for your pet.

It starts with knowledge. How do you know if your pet is overweight? When looking at them, you should be able to feel – but not see – the ribs. From above, you should also be able to identify a defined waist where the body tapers in behind the ribs and before the hindquarters.

Veterinarians use a measurement called a body condition score to assess your pet and keep track of weight loss or gain through the years. We can show you this scale and exactly what we look for in determining body condition.

Measure your pet’s food. The Purina study makes the case for measuring your pet’s food – including main meals and treats. It can be a challenge when there’s more than one person involved in feeding, but measuring the main meal is a good place to start. We can even provide you with a complimentary measuring cup for your pet’s food.

Choosing the right food. Although measuring is important, it’s just as important to feed your pet the right type of diet depending on age, breed, and size. The annual wellness exam is the perfect time to talk about your pet’s specific needs. We can help you choose the right diet, as well as discuss how much and how often to feed. Even though many pet food labels give guidelines, each pet is an individual.

Treat them right. Limiting treats and training rewards can be tough, but those little nibbles can be full of fat and calories that can sabotage even the best intentions! Make sure you’re counting those treats in your pet’s total daily calories; limit them if needed.

Stay away from people food. In addition to increasing the risk of pancreatitis, feeding table scraps is a sure path to obesity for your pet. Even though it’s hard to say no to those puppy dog eyes, be strong and save the people food for…people.

There are many different diet options when it comes to our pets and a lot of conflicting information. Your veterinarian is the best resource for deciphering the pet nutrition puzzle. Assessing your pet’s overall health and body condition score is a good place to start. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please give us a call.