Need to put my dog on a diet
February 28, 2012 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Took my dog to the vet today, she is part lab/retriever, 5 years old. She has always been stocky and wide, her height is 20" at her back, she weighs 66 pounds. Vet recommended I put her on a diet, she suggested to cut back on her food daily.

Right now I feed her 1 can (13.2oz) of Pedigree choice cuts in gravy (1/2 morning, 1/2 evening) and keep her about 1 1/2 cup of Purina Dog Chow dry food for her to eat when she gets hungry, which she eats at night, it is gone in the morning. I do give her dog treats, I could cut them down to one a day though and give to her just when I am leaving for work in the morning. My question is, should I be feeding her something different? I want to keep her healthy and prolong her life. She gets plenty of exercise daily, she has the run of the whole yard.
posted by just asking to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What you're feeding her sounds like an awful lot to me. How much exercise is she getting?

You might want to cut her back to maybe 1/2-3/4 cup of dry nuggets for breakfast, then maybe 1/3 of a can of wet + 1/2 cup of dry for dinner. You might want to try a weight management type of food. You might want to go to a good pet food store and ask whet they recommend. As far as treats go, instead of biscuits or something else, could you give her apple slices or other healthy snacks?

A 5 year old dog is considered on the young side. She should be going for at least 2 walks a day for at least an hour each (preferably one in the morning and one in the evening). If you have a day off from work, then maybe a longer walk or a hikes on the weekends.
posted by ATX Peanut at 2:53 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would cut out the wet food, and give her 1 3/4 cups of dry food daily, or 1 1/2 cups if your vet says that's fine. I would also switch her to a higher-quality food than Purina, like Blue Buffalo. The primary ingredient in most of the dog foods you see on TV is a filler, like corn or other grains. Dogs need a primarily carnivorous diet to be healthy. If you buy a higher-quality food, you'll notice that the recommended amount will usually be considerably lower than a food with tons of filler like Pedigree or Purina. That's because to get the right amount of nutrients per serving, they need more of the food, which leads to her getting more filler that she doesn't get any use out of. You'll probably balk at the cost of the better food, but it's really worth it.

And if you talk to the vet about changing food, don't let them sell you on Science Diet. Barring medical issues that require a specific formula, it's a crap food, too.
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:00 PM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

i second going to a good pet supply store and asking for recommendations. pedigree and dog chow are foods that contain mainly fillers rather than good, healthy nutrients. alternatively, this is a great site for researching good dog food.

She gets plenty of exercise daily, she has the run of the whole yard.

do you actually witness her getting a minimum of 20mins consistent exercise in the yard? just because a dog has use of a yard doesn't mean they are actually exercising. my dog spends a little time in the yard but he's not really running around in it, mostly sniffs around. he actually doesn't like to be out there playing unless i'm out there with him. if you could actually spend 20-30mins twice a day on a walk with him or at the dog park where he's playing/chasing other dogs/balls, that would be more ideal in terms of getting her real exercise.
posted by violetk at 3:01 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Does she run in the yard? My dogs just lie in the sun, or wait sadly next to the back door. :) They don't actually move much unless out on a walk (about an hour a day).

Did the vet say what the goal weight is for your dog? Where is she on this body condition chart?

You could try cutting the kibble down to 1 cup, or 1/2 of a cup per day and see if she loses a few pounds that way. You could also split that remaining kibble - leave some for her at night, and use the rest as treats during the day.

I don't have a picture in my head of how many cups a 1/2 can of Pedigree choice is, so I'm not sure if you need to cut that back or not. I've looked at the ingredients of Pedigree and Purina foods, and they weren't really what I wanted for my dog. My vet recommended against Blue Buffalo too.

Because my one dog doesn't do well on any type of kibble, I make my own dog food from hamburger, cooked veggies, and brown rice. There's quite bit of water content, unlike kibble which is more concentrated calories. My 60 lb dog gets 3 cups of homemade food a day, and my 50 lb dog get 2 1/4 cups. They get lots of treats, mostly cut up very small, but their (vet approved) weights have remained steady for the past 4 or 5 months on this diet.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:06 PM on February 28, 2012

and keep her about 1 1/2 cup of Purina Dog Chow dry food for her to eat when she gets hungry, which she eats at night, it is gone in the morning

In general, domestic dogs do not manage their hunger the way that humans do - if there is food out, dogs will eat it whether or not they are hungry.

Your vet likely determined that your dog is overweight based on a metric like this one - it has nothing to do with whether or not the dog is 'stocky'.

I have a skinny dog and when I'm trying to increase his weight, I increase is food intake by 1/2 cup at a time. If your vet didn't give you a metric, that sounds like a sensible one to me. I would cut out 1/2 cup of the wet dog food and just put the kibble down in the evening. I wouldn't let him free-feed - if my dog doesn't finish his food in 15 minutes, I pick it back up.
posted by muddgirl at 3:12 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, free-feeding is not good for dogs. They should have set meals that should be finished in a reasonably short amount of time. There should never be food left out for them on a prolonged basis.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:16 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, to answer your actual question - in general, there are different brands of dog food with different proportions of fats, carbs and proteins. If you have an active dog and are restricting food, you might want to look for a food that is higher in natural proteins (more meat, less corn) than Pedigree or Purina One. In general, you also want to look for a dog food that has moderate amounts of high-quality fats (which make dogs feel fuller per calorie). There are a lot of different brands out there, and you can often get good deals online. I got a lot of good information in this guide on how to read a dog food label. From the same site, here's a good article on Canine Obesity.
posted by muddgirl at 3:20 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the suggestions on adding more exercise as well. Retrievers are made for working and need to run a lot to stay healthy.
posted by JayNolan at 3:25 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have a Costco nearby, they sell a Kirkland brand of dog food that's actually rebranded Diamond food and has a great ingredient list. I also have two labs and feed them two cups (each) of the Kirkland food per day and it has kept their weight in good range. When they get into the cat food, they pork up.

Here's the analysis page for the food; that site has extremely high standards and has rated the food as reasonable. For the price, it's a heck of a bargain.
posted by Addlepated at 3:41 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did a lot of research before deciding on a dog food for our dogs; whats healthiest, best for the money etc. I decided that I definitely wanted to stick with a grain-free dog food, as people have said before. Since dogs aren't built to digest things like corn meal etc they don't get nutrients out of food like Purina that they need. There a looots of benefits to feeding grain-free even beyond your dogs overall health and longevity. Generally they will poop less, and have more solid poops when they do, it helps prevent them from getting food allergies, it also tends to give them a shinier healthier coat, and you will be able to feed a lot less and have them still get everything they need. Both of our dogs have done wonderfully on the grain-free, and look much better than they did when we adopted them. I know everyone has recommended Blue Buffalo for the most part, but after a lot of research I decided on Taste of the Wild. It is grain-free, comes in several different flavors that our dogs love, and is not much more expensive than something like Iams. (We generally spend about $25 every 2 weeks to feed our 2 approximately 50 lbs dogs). Also if it is convenient for you, you could also look into raw feeding. After all my research this is probably what I would most like to do as it is most like what they would eat in the wild, however it tends to be a bigger hassle and generally harder on the pocket book. The few times I have fed my dogs raw they freak out! I really wish it was something we could make work, but it would be a little too much for us now.

I would definitely suggest cutting back on the quantity though if you continue with the current diet, and as everyone has said most definitely eliminate free feeding completely. If it helps at all for comparison purposes, our dog Watson gained weight while on his heart worm treatment last year, so he was cut back from 1 cup twice daily to a ½ cup twice daily. And our other dog Agatha, that we are trying to get to gain weight, we still only give 1 cup twice daily and ½ a can of the i/d we get from the vet.

And of course definitely have to recommend more exercise, walks, or even just going out in the back yard and throwing the ball around with them a couple of times a day. That's pretty much what we do with our dogs (of course they also run around playing with each other through out the day as well) and it leaves them tuckered out. Hope this helps :)
posted by Quincy at 4:00 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another vote for the Kirkland super-premium, which has almost the same ingredients as Innova. (Because I can't hoist the bag and my husband doesn't work near Costco, we feed Innova. I should probably just get a back brace and deal with it.) They also have a "Healthy Weight" version, but I'd try just feeding recommended amounts of the regular to start.

The downside of cheap dog food is that you have to feed them more of it, and in the end you're not necessarily saving any money or achieving really great nutrition. So I'd make the switch *and* feed on the low end of the recommended servings. At first your dog is going to think you are STARVING HER TO DEATH OMG because of the small portions, but she'll get over it pretty quickly.

And you should probably stop free-feeding. Or feeding wet food. She's basically midnight-snacking on the kibble, which she doesn't need, and wet food is pretty bad for teeth. And Pedigree is kind of the Spaghettios of dog food, anyway.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:07 PM on February 28, 2012

I thought the "wet food is bad for teeth" thing has been pretty much debunked at this point, for both cats and dogs. There are benefits of feeding wet over dry to dogs, such as adding more water to a dog's diet, and wet food being higher in protein and lower in fillers like soy and corn. OP can add that issue to the pile of research ahead of them. :)
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:22 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feed the same homemade food as Squeak Attack (defatted hamburger, brown rice, cooked veggies, and I also add plain yogurt) to my dogs, and I managed to get my pug that I got from a rescue down from 40 pounds to 28 pounds (which is good for his frame). He gets 4 small meals a day, and I think that helped quite a bit, as well as regular exercise.
posted by bolognius maximus at 5:22 PM on February 28, 2012

My half-Lab, half-retriever is going on 9 years old and she weighs 55-60 lbs. She gets 1.5 cups of Wellness dry food in the morning and evening in addition to our morning and evening walks (20-30 mins, other walks are as needed but usually much shorter). The vet's always happy with her and she's never had a weight issue though, like all Labs, she does act as though I've never fed her in her life and she simply MUST have whatever I, or the nice man on the street, or the little kid outside the ice cream store happen to have in-hand at the time.

When she's getting treats more often -- if I'm working on some training with her, or the dogsitter is being overgenerous -- I notice her bulk up a bit. I'd definitely cut waaay back on the treats.
posted by olinerd at 6:34 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm still waffling between home cooked and raw. But since neither one comes in a measured can or bag, I just change the amounts slowly after reading the estimates of what she should have. She was overweight in kibble by a few pounds, so I knew I had to reduce her food. I went with the recommended amounts then just adjusted little by little, so she would not loose weight too quickly. I have gotten to know if she is at a good weight or not by knowing what her ribs feel like when she is at the right weight. I would just reduce your dogs food by 10% or so and let it happen gradually.
posted by Vaike at 6:58 PM on February 28, 2012

When we put our labs on a diet the vet recommended mixing in a handful of canned green beans or cooked carrots in with the reduced food. It fills them up without adding major calories.
posted by Cocodrillo at 3:22 AM on February 29, 2012

I'm a vet student, and I am able to get both Purina and Hill's Science Diet food for free, which is great...for donating to the animal shelter. With the exception of foods that require a prescription for certain conditions - kidney or liver disease, for example - I wouldn't feed them to my pets.

I did a lot of research a few years ago and have been feeding Taste of the Wild for most of my dogs' lives. Each dog weighs about 50 pounds. I feed each dog 1 cup in the morning, 1 cup in the evening. They would certainly eat double or triple that if I let them, so don't let a dog's apparent satiety be your guide.

I eschew canned food entirely, since I also give them treats, and the kibble is delicious enough that they destroy it. They also eat the (non-seasoned) vegetables that don't make it onto our plates, strawberry tops, ends of bananas, licks from the end of the yogurt container, occasional dropped almond, etc..

Feeding raw or home cooked is also great, if you have the time and can manage the storage and expense. The general principle is to avoid grain (corn, wheat) as it can not only add pounds, but can also cause skin allergies in some doggy individuals.
posted by Seppaku at 6:03 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dogs are in the 53-63 pound range. I have a 2 cup scoop that I use to measure their food. In the morning I give each dog between 1.5 and 2 cups of food, and in the evening I do the same. So normally, they probably get about 1.75 cups of food twice a day. I don't measure very precisely.

Depending on the season, their activity level, the caloric content of their treats, and how may treats they're getting, I notice their weight fluctuate. When it goes up, I reduce each meal to a square 1.5 cups of food. When I notice their hip bones jutting out, I increase each meal to an even 2 cups.

This is really simple, and it works like a charm. It takes a few weeks to see a difference, but the difference is made. :)

Other than that, I can tell you that I feed my dogs a pretty high quality dry dog food. Google for "dog food ratings" and you'll find 2 or 3 web sites that analyze the ingredients of most of the widely available foods. I only buy food that is in the 4 or 5 star range. (For treats, I'm happy to give them doggie "junk food" or whatever's on sale because, after all, isn't that what a treat is? If a high quality treat is on sale, I'll buy it.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:28 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

My previously 50lb dog that would only eat if he was really hungry, gained like 15+ pounds during my first pregnancy. He promptly when on a diet when we realized how big he had gotten (mostly because he had actually started eating all his food). We switched to the grain free Blue Buffalo dry food (from science diet), and he gets 2 cups a day, (1c morning, 1c afternoon), and he gets two small dog treats (ie. the small dog sized dog treats) in the evening. He loves the food and at first was a bit whiny about his lack of food, but he lost weight quickly and is back to where he should be and is much happier for it. So like everyone else I say, switch food to a better quality one (it's more expensive per bag, but you feed them less so it's not that more expensive overall), and give on the low end of recommended, or even a bit below that. And really cut out the treats, if you do give treats, factor that into their food per day and diminish the food appropriately. Anytime my dog gets unexpected toddler feedings, we take that into account and give him less food for the next meal.
posted by katers890 at 8:30 AM on February 29, 2012

I went grain free a couple of years ago, with Orijen, and I'd definitely research alternatives to what you're feeding now.

Add in unsalted (salt free) green beans - recommended by my vet. I get the salt free canned ones at Wegmans. I warm them just a touch and feed at the same time as her kibble, same dish and just mixed in. Very few calories but filling.

I have also changed what I give as treats - I literally give one or two kernels of her regular food and she's just as happy as with the fancier and bigger treats I used to give. So I give her a few less kernels of food with her meals and put some in a treat jar and voila, treats. She's a ridiculously smart dog and I did not think she'd fall for it, but she had no reaction other than her usual "treat, yay treat!!!"
posted by mrs. taters at 11:54 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Coming in to agree that Pedigree is the doggie equivalent of eating canned spaghetti for dinner. Blue Buffalo is going too far the other way - our dogs got really gassy and smelly when fed Blue Buffalo (I heard this from other dog owners as well). Costco dried dog food is a good middle choice. We use Nutro Max, which our dogs seem to thrive on. They may contain more filler than Blue Buffalo, but at least the dogs are regular!
Dry food is easier and less harmful for the teeth. Our vet advised us to move to dry dog food for our greyhound mix, whose teeth were awful when we adopted him. His teeth have improved a lot.

I also agree with the people here who observe that a dog does not exercise itself. Just letting her out into the yard will not get her to move. We adopted a second dog on the principle that our first dog needed more exercise. Doesn't work - they just sleep together all day. Now we get to walk two dogs twice a day, instead of one. If you can't find the time, hire a local kid to walk the dog. She'll live a lot longer with good cardiovascular health - just like a human being.

Nor does a dog exert restraint on free feeding. A cat will stop eating when it is full. A dog will gorge until all the food is gone. You should cut the food into two equal portions and try not to feed her dog treats. For snacks, try pieces of carrot instead of dog biscuits. Dogs really like these and they are much lower in calories than dog treats.
posted by Susurration at 7:01 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

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