Category: Nutrition

Weight Management – A Pet Owner’s Perspective

Guest Post by Kelly Harding

 

I recently posted about my visit to Royal Canin Canada where I spoke to a group of veterinarians about how I felt as a pet owner being told I had an obese pet, how I reacted and what I did about it.  My post did not go into detail or answer any of the below questions, I only wrote about my experience on this day.  Dr. Ryan Llera asked if I would discuss in detail what it was I told the vets attending the weight management session, in the hopes it would help others understand what I did, what I didn’t do, and why.

Why I didn’t take my vet’s recommendation the first time I was confronted with Edie needing to lose weight?

before side view

Edie before losing weight

I was aware that Edie was getting larger, bigger, yes, fatter.  But when it was suggested “the first time” that I should switch her food to a product that would address her weight, her constant hunger and begging for food I hesitated.  I believed I could manage it on my own and thought I could continue to give her the same food, the food that I still had almost a full bag of at home, but just give her less.  I also felt that if Edie was still hungry I could just supplement her with carrots and green beans.  And largely, I couldn’t see how changing to a different food, a food that I now had to purchase from my vet’s office, would make any difference

What made me change my mind?

Edie’s begging and constant demanding of food!!  Not entirely, but it was a large part because she always seemed hungry.  She seemed frustrated by my restrictions on her food and I also became desperate as she began to scratch furniture and dig up carpets until she got food.  There just never seemed to be enough green bean or carrots to satisfy her!  The final straw was that Edie’s weight continued to climb.

What didn’t work for Edie’s weight loss?

I couldn’t keep up and thought I could manage Edie’s weight loss on my own but it wasn’t as easy as I thought.

weight management in progress

Before, during, & after the journey

What did work for Edie’s weight loss?

Well, if you’ve seen recent photos of Edie, you know that we’ve since succeeded in getting her weight to a healthy level.  Ultimately, I took my vet’s advice.  I switched Edie to a prescribed food (Royal Canin Satiety Support) that addressed her weight issues and her need to feel satisfied.  Aside from the food change, learning how much was the right amount to feed Edie (weighing and measuring food portions properly) was key.  And of course, taking Edie in to my vet’s office for regular weigh-ins so that she could be monitored.

How did Edie’s vet support me and make me feel comfortable with the decisions that I made along the way?

Although my vet had mentioned Edie’s weight on a couple of occasions, she never made me feel bad for not doing it earlier.  I was embarrassed enough about Edie’s weight but my veterinarian never did anything to embarass me further.  While most people focus on the numbers on the scale, my vet never overwhelmed me with the big picture (need to lose 10 or 12lbs).  We boiled it down to taking small steps, each weigh-in at a time.  I was welcomed and encouraged to drop in to have Edie weighed anytime.  Each loss was a success, no matter how small!  Veterinarians assess each patient and give them a Body Condition Score (BCS) so the numbers are often just a measurable goal but as weight loss happens, the endpoint of an ideal BCS could change.

Things that helped me along the way and my tips for you:

  • Ask your vet for a weight chart print out.  My vet was able to print out a chart that documented Edie’s weight starting with her very first vet visit.  Seeing the weight climb to its highest was an eye opener; seeing it reduce to a healthier weight was encouraging
  • Have your vet teach you how to do a body condition score on your pet.  There may be a time when you think your pet has lost enough weight, but learning to “feel” your pet’s body helps to understand
  • Pictures!  Take lots and lots of pictures of your pet!  I can’t stress this enough!  When you’re with your pet day in and day out you can’t always see what your pet “really” looks like.  Take photos from all angles.  Take photos from above to see if your pet has a waist.  Compare the photos over time and if you are like me, you will be surprised, shocked and amazed by the changes along the way.
successful weight management

Edie at a healthy weight!

I finally started to notice a difference in Edie’s attitude and hunger issues within a month of being on Satiety Support.  The begging, the scratching of furniture, the digging up of carpets subsided.  Edie became more content and of course that made me happier and encouraged. The Satiety Support was working just as my vet said and Edie lost 1.3kg/2.86lbs in the first 4 months!  We were on our way.  Today, Edie is a healthier, happier dog, weighing in at 9.3kg.

Have you ever been told by your vet your pet needs to lose weight?  What did you do about it?

 

Kelly Harding is the human at the end of Edie the Pug’s leash.  She is better known as “Edie’s Humom” and is the voice behind Edie the Pug.  Kelly acts as typist for Edie the Pug on her blog and social media outlets – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

All opinions about Edie, her weight loss journey and how it affected Edie’s health are my own personal experience.  Edie has been on Royal Canin products since she was a puppy and continues to be on Royal Canin Satiety Support Small Dog dry and  Satiety wet.  Edie is an Ambassador to Royal Canin Canada, but this in no way influences my opinions of the product.  Edie is, and always has, monitored by her veterinarian to ensure her health, her healthy weight loss and maintenance.

Something to Chew On – Raw Diets

Something to Chew On – Raw Diets

Pet nutrition is unarguably one of the largest areas that people spend on their pets.  While the majority of people feed a commercial pet diet, there is a portion of the population that chooses to feed a raw food diet.  This is not necessarily a good or bad thing as there are pros & cons to this argument that both have validity.  Raw diets come in both home prepared forms as well as commercial forms.

People advocate that raw diets have many benefits.  Among these are the arguments that pets will have a better coat, less dental problems, “it’s more natural”, and that in general they will have better health.  The unfortunate truth is that there isn’t a whole lot of research behind raw diets to substantiate these claims.  They are subjective opinions rather than research based science.  Now this isn’t to say that there aren’t some benefits to raw diets and I think that over time as more information becomes available, there may be more proven benefits to raw food.

Raw organs (img from premiumblend.net)

Raw organs (img from premiumblend.net)

Raw diets were found to have a higher digestibility overall and reduced fecal output.  Improved digestibility can lead to better use of the diet and may help with some individual patients, particularly ones with food allergies/sensitivities.  This better digestibility is also the likely cause of the reduced fecal matter as more of the nutrients available are utilized.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (Wikipedia)

Dilated cardiomyopathy (Wikipedia)

So if these are the benefits, what are the drawbacks?  Nutrient deficiencies is one of the first things that comes to mind. In previous studies of cats eating raw diets, a significant lack of taurine was found to be the cause of the development of heart problems.  Taurine is needed by cats specifically to prevent dilation of the heart chambers and can be found in lesser quantities in muscle meat.  The additional problem with home formulated raw diets is that if research by the pet owner is not done before just feeding a raw piece of meat, other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals may be lacking.  Commercial raw food diets have been formulated to have appropriate levels for specific life stages.

Another argument for raw diets has been better dental health for pets fed a raw diet.  As raw diets contain some boney material or there is an actual bone to chew on, the amount of calculus (tartar) has actually been found to be reduced in multiple studies.  What is essentially unchanged though is the development of periodontal disease which is likely secondary to trauma from these bones to the gum tissue.

Salmonella bacteria

Salmonella bacteria

Lastly, let’s touch on contamination issues and microorganisms.  Would you eat raw chicken or beef?  Surely the human food supply has been inspected and kept healthy but it’s not advisable to eat raw meat primarily due to concerns over Salmonella.  The same concern exists for pets.  Bowls must certainly be cleaned and disinfected more regularly and people who are immunocompromised should not handle the feeding of the pets.  Even if your pets don’t get sick, they can still shed bacteria in their stool or saliva so proper hygiene on your part is paramount.

a commercial raw diet

a commercial raw diet

In short, raw diets can help but also not help…and this is one of the conundrums of raw diets.  I don’t doubt that there is some validity behind their use.  Use of a commercial raw diet (often times pre-frozen) is what I would recommend if you chose to go this route as it will meet AAFCO standards (discussed last time). It would also be beneficial to consult the Food & Drug Administration’s website on safe handling as well as potentially contacting a qualified nutrition service such as Pet Nutrition Consulting or through a veterinary college.  If you’re opposed to commercial diets, I would suggest cooking the food, rather than straight up raw, after consulting with a veterinary nutritionist.  Ultimately, it’s best to have a discussion with your veterinarian and do some research before any diet changes for your pets.

For further perspective on raw diets from a veterinary nutritionist, visit Dr. Weeth’s nutrition blog on the topic as well as many other great nutrition related posts.

Disclaimer: All blog posts are my own opinion and do not reflect that of my current or previous employers.  Info for this post was accumulated from multiple sources including North American Veterinary Conference notes from a talk by Dr. Andrea Fascetti.  This post is intended to help people become informed.  I do not receive compensation from any food company.

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Pet Food Labels – What Do They Mean?

Pet Food Labels – What Do They Mean?

Who’s hungry??  I am…and so are my pets sitting next to me!  With all the recent talk about the Beneful issue (which was reference by Pawcurious), I thought we should discuss a little bit about those labels on pet foods and what some terms mean.  There is much  more detailed information in the links at the end as it would difficult to cover everything here concisely.  In the exam rooms with my patients, the talk about food is often briefly covered and often doesn’t even get too far particularly if we can’t know what food Rover or Fluffy are eating.  This is where it gets tricky.

The question is: “What is Duke/Mittens eating?”  Oh, I love these answers…

    • “I don’t know.  My wife takes care of it.”
    • “It’s the purple bag.  It’s all-natural and grain free.”
    • “I can’t remember but it’s expensive and a holistic diet.”
    • “I make their food at home because it doesn’t contain by-products.”
Princess_Bride_That_Word

meme from imgarcade.com

People’s food choices for their pets often boil down to cost, past experience, or the power of marketing.  When it comes to the marketing aspect, I’m not sure if consumers (pet owners) truly know what the labels on these food bags/can are saying.  So coming up, the truth behind these words.

By-products

Hooves, beaks, and hair – oh my!  NO!  By-products are typically the organ meats which in North American society are not commonly eaten.  Therefore, they are what’s left after the muscle has been stripped away from the carcass.  These parts of the animals being used for domestic pet diets are actually chock full of nutrients.  By-products are regulated and defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO) so you know I’m not making this up.  The label below is from the food I feed to my own dogs and have also recommended to my patients.

ingredient list from a veterinary prescription diet

ingredient list from a veterinary prescription diet

Grains

Oh those wicked farmers just selling us fillers for our pet foods…wrong again!  Grains aren’t bad.  What is bad are grains that are overly processed or broken down.  Whole grains actually contain valuable nutrients that would otherwise be in the diet from fats & calories.  Grain allergies are also quite rare as the protein source is more likely to be accurately implicated.  Again, “grain-free” is another marketing term to ride on the wave of human concerns over some health conditions that can be complicated by grains.

Natural, Holistic, & Organic

These words are often tossed around to sell a food as being better, or healthier.  The truth is, only one of these words is actually defined & regulated – “natural,” meaning that synthetic ingredients are not included with the exception of vitamin and mineral supplements.  While the term “organic” is defined, it is difficult to control the production & certification methods so there is a high chance that some of this foods are mis-labeled.  The term “holistic” does not have any official definition.

Formulated for AAFCO standards

Formulated for AAFCO standards

Lastly, I’ll touch on one other aspect of food labels.  The AAFCO statement.  Every food will say it is either tested or formulated to meet the AAFCO standards for a given life stage.  A food that has been “tested” is going to have undergone more strict regulation and successfully passed a feeding protocol whereas one that is “formulated” has been controlled to meet to meet the expected standards but the company has not specifically tested that food.  One other caveat is that if a food is for “all life stages” rather than “kittens/puppies”, “adults”, or “seniors” it is not going to necessarily be as specific for your pet and they may be getting inappropriate ratios of the nutrients.

AAFCO statement from the same bag above I feed my dogs

AAFCO statement from the same bag above I feed my dogs

I hope this has been enlightening and informative.  Have you gone to take a look at your pet’s food label yet??  If you’re not sure about ingredient lists or nutrient profiles, it is best to take the bag or label into your veterinarian.  One last thing, you’re probably wondering about raw diets but I promise we’ll have that conversation another time.

Helpful links:

http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/vwapj/ct02273e.pdf/$FILE/ct02273e.pdf (Guidelines for Labeling & Advertising of Pet Food)

AAFCO http://www.aafco.org/

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.  Posts are for advice and information but do not replace the need for regular veterinary care.

Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest! Also on the right side here you can subscribe to my blogs so you always get the latest post delivered to you!