You know how easy it is for us to overeat and indulge? Well much like us humans, when it comes to some of our favourite foods, dogs also don’t have an off switch. You may have experienced this if you’ve left some food on the bench that your dog gained access to, or they got into the big bag of dog food behind your back. Our furry friends have a habit of eating as much as they can because it tastes good, not because they’re actually hungry or need it. So, if we take these accidental situations out of the equation when it comes to our pets, it then rests on us as to how much we feed them.
Over time, if we as humans continue to overeat and indulge, what happens?! Well, we gain excess body fat, loose cardiovascular health and the overall burden of being overweight or obese takes its toll on our health, including our mental and physical wellbeing. The same happens for dogs if they overeat and indulge, and it all comes down to us, understanding portion control, and making sure we aren't killing them with kindness.
I’ve spent over 15 years in the health and wellness industry working with all shapes and sizes helping people become happier and healthier in their skin through the meals, mindset and moves. And, if there is anything I have learnt, that also resonates with animals, is that everyone is different. Much like all dog breeds are different. There isn’t just a one size fits all approach to the health and wellbeing of our pets.
Which brings me to my lovely lady Chia. As you guys know by now, Chia was what we would consider obese or equivalent when comparing her excess weight for her size in human terms. And it wasn’t because I was leaving food on the bench or she was getting stuck into the dog-food bag herself, it was because I was over-feeding her, and over-treating her for her breed, size and activity level.
It hit home for me when I posted a photo of her on social media, and someone replied with the term, 'what a dumpling'. Sounds cute at first but with a second thought, I realised lots of people had nicknamed her terms relating to being larger, round or tubby for her size. What was I doing wrong? And what impact was this having on my precious dog?
The first step was actually to understand how much to feed her. And being that I had always cooked for her in some way, I hadn’t made the right portion size conversions switching from the cooked food to the Black Hawk range. I realised I couldn’t merely replace gram from gram what I was serving her in home-cooked food with the Black Hawk kibble, as the nutrient density of Black Hawk was so much higher, she needed less to feel fuller for longer and get way more nutritional benefit.
I checked the side of the pack, took Chia’s breed, size and weight into account, and fed her what the recommended serving size was. I won’t lie; it really shocked me due to my previous feeding habits of obviously serving her way too much, which is what got us into this mess. At first, I thought she would be hungry, but she never seemed like she needed more, and in fact, settled better after dinner with what looked like a sense of calm satiation.
The other element I needed to take into account was, of course, her activity level. An overly active dog would require an increase on the recommended serving size to make up for the extra energy expenditure. Then, of course, a more sedentary dog with a reduced activity level for any reason, may not require the full amount if not moving as per an average healthy dog.
Much like the advice I give to my training and nutritional clients, it would be the same for pet owners. Follow the best possible guidelines of advice, then adapt to your own individual requirements, and stick to it with structure and routine. This way you’ll get the best possible results and outcome over an extended sustainable amount of time. I find the higher protein proportion in kibble, the less I needed to feed Chia, waking me up to the realisation that Chia’s health relied on incredible nutrition + wellbeing
So if you think your dog is overweight or obese, don’t be alarmed, with local statistics showing that 2 in 3 (or 66%) Australian adults are overweight or obese and 40% of dogs in Australia are also obese.
Have a think about how much you’re feeding your dog and if you’ve got the portion control correct. If not, take into account the breed, size and weight of your dog, account for its activity level, and start from there for a healthy and happy pet.