I always start my new puppy exams with, “How long have you had him?” “How is she doing at home?” I am always surprised to hear the owner enthusiastically explain that they have started a grain free diet. Are you expecting a gold star for pet parent of the year? Once I hear grain free diet, I automatically refrain from putting in my two cents. Yes, of course I am an advocate for the animal and give recommendations for the best interest of the animal, but how could anyone compete with Blue Buffalo commercials and the True Blue Test? I have learned that no matter what I say to defend grain diets that owners have already made up their mind and believe the commercials over the veterinarian; the trained individual.
Out of all the questions I have been asked in my short career, it has never been, “Well, what do you feed your dog, Doc? If grains are so bad, why do I feed a grain diet to my dog like many other veterinarians I know? On the occasion I can discuss grain diets, without receiving looks from owners that I am suggesting they feed their dog poison, I plug away at the benefits of grains (specifically corn).
Now that your mind is at ease about corn, hopefully, let’s talk about how NOT to feed your dog people food.
It is always upsetting to me when I see an obese animal walk through the door. They struggle to barely make it to the exam room, panting excessively and plop down on the cool floor and collapse in exhaustion. Just this week, I had an obese Labrador mix that came in at a whopping 125 pounds which should have weighed 70-75 pounds. When you choose to feed your animal “whatever I eat”, you are leading your dog/cat down a shorter life span and a miserable one at that. Dogs or cats that are obese are prone to diabetes, breathing difficulties, and making pre-existing conditions such as arthritis or heart condition worse.
I know it is never easy to say no to those dark brown eyes staring intently at you as you take the first bite of that juicy steak. Trust me when I say I know. I have a boxer mix that drools at the sight of food. When you are sitting down to eat, have a few pieces of the dog or cat food with you so you can give that instead of the people food.
Like with any rule there are exceptions. Green beans, carrots, and apples are all acceptable people food which can be fed.
For feeding, use a measuring cup and get one from your veterinarian. Look on the back of the bag or the side of the bag of dog food and listed will be break down of weights, look at the weight that your animal SHOULD weigh. If you are unsure of what your dog or cat should weigh, ask your veterinarian. The amount listed on the bag is the daily requirement, so give half in the morning and half at night. For cats, consult your veterinarian as cats should lose weight gradually.
For those of you that say, “Well, my dog won’t eat the dry dog food.” When dogs get hungry they will eat. If they know they are going to get people food, of course they aren’t going to eat their dog food. To entice them to eat their dry food, you can add a small amount of canned food or low sodium chicken or beef broth. Also, make sure you are feeding a good quality dog food and ask your veterinarian for recommendations if you are not sure.
Keep your dog or cat active. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t want to get their dog spayed because it will get fat, but in the next sentence tell me that they take their dog to McDonalds for a hamburger once a week…hmmm. So what really causes their dog to get fat? Keeping your dog and cat from becoming obese, intact or altered, is going to be dependent on making sure they get exercise along with the proper amount of food. Take daily walks with your dog or get your cat moving by investing in a laser pointer so they can chase it around.