Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to get your dog to lose weight

The last post brought this subject to mind. Many people out there have fat dogs. This is not a normal state of affairs for canines; ever see a documentary with a pack of fat wolves? Or even a pack with one fat wolf in it?

How do our dogs get so fat? By sitting in front of the television eating potato chips? Perhaps from midnight trips to the refrigerator? Nope. They get fat simply by eating what we feed them.

I once had a little mutt that looked rather like a white Lhasa Apso. I fed her cheap dry food from the grocery store. She got fat. Concerned, I switched her to a brand that claimed to be "diet" dog food, and followed their recommendation for feeding amounts. She got even fatter. Alas, she was doomed to remain fat to the end of her days, because I didn't know how to make her thin. That's right, I was the one who made her fat, and it was my responsibility to make her thin.

For many decades, we've had pounded into our heads the idea that a balanced diet is the best for us, and I suppose, by extension, it seems that a balanced diet must therefore be good for our pets as well. After all, our dogs are practically people, right? So dog food companies provide appetizing-looking illustrations of what goes into their dog food. Meat, grains, carrots, other vegetables, they often look like ingredients for stew.

Vets, regular people, dog food companies, all debate the kind of grains that are best in a dog food. Some say corn is best, some rice... But the thing is, all of them seem to miss the point entirely. The grain should not be there in the first place. It is only in there because it is a healthy-sounding cheap filler. Carnivores don't eat grain in the wild. You won't find a wolf, for example, trying to decide between what's in a corn field and a wheat field for dinner, except to decide which will provide the best hunting. The natural order of things is that herbivores eat the grains, and carnivores eat the herbivores. By introducing grains in the diet of dogs, we upset the natural order of things, and our dogs get fat.

Years ago, I hooked up with a gal who had two large dogs. One was a very large Doberman, the other was the stereotypical fat lab. By then I had learned how to make dogs thin. We found a canned dog food that was 79% protein. Ironically, it was a good deal less expensive than some of the well-known brands that were only 20-30% protein, and it was available by the case from Costco. I also found a brand that was very similar in our local supermarket, for when we hadn't quite made it to Costco in time to restock.

Simply by switching their food, without changing the amounts, giving them more exercise, or anything else, we were able to quickly get the lab to her ideal weight. What a change that was! She went from looking like a cocktail sausage with too many toothpicks stuck in, to a magnificent example of her breed. The Dobie had not been obviously fat, but it soon became apparent that he'd had a thin layer of fat spread over most of his body. He was an old dog, and was happier and moved better without it. In fact, both exhibited more energy and were a good deal happier.

As these were large dogs, they spent a good deal of the day outside. Although we lived in a temperate zone, it sometimes did get quite cold out during the winter months. We therefore learned to control the dogs' weight. In the fall, we would start to replace some of the protein in their diet with carbohydrates. The dogs would put on fat, which is insulation. Once the worst of the winter had passed, we would switch them back to the high-protein diet, and they would lose the fat layer, and emerge into spring lean, happy, and healthy.

You're probably thinking this sounds too easy. It almost is too easy. Far easier than feeding them the expensive "diet" dog food your vet recommends, and far easier than taking your dog for that nightly long walk, which sounded so reasonable, and even fun, when you promised yourself you'd do it, but now seems a chore, especially since it doesn't work.

If you have a fat dog, I invite you to try my method, and prove me wrong.

Of course you have to shop carefully, find the highest protein content you can, and only feed your dog this. No high-carb dog biscuit treats, or bowls of macaroni and cheese from the table. If you must give your dog treats, buy some beef jerky. The people kind. Even this is usually not nearly as high in protein as you might think, so give these treats sparingly.

However, if you have a fat dog, and adhere to my method, in a surprisingly short time you will have a thin, healthy and happy dog, who will probably live longer, and not be susceptible to a lot of horrible, and horribly expensive diseases like doggy diabetes.

This is also the diet to feed if your dog already has diabetes, unlike what many recommend, like: "The current recommendation for the dietary management of diabetic dogs is to provide a diet high in complex carbohydrates (starch and fiber), low fat, and no simple sugars."

THIS IS ABSURD! Well, at least except for the simple sugars part. What, some people are feeding their dogs candy? Anyway, this diet is what caused the diabetes in the first place, and will only make it worse, not better. Carbohydrates, even complex ones, turn into glucose in the bloodstream much faster than do proteins and fat. Excess glucose in the bloodstream is the problem with diabetes, and also makes your dog fat. Get rid of the cause of excess glucose, and you eliminate the problem, both with the diabetes, and with your dog being overweight. And that cause, of course, is a diet high in carbohydrates, whether simple or complex.

What this diet is good for is allowing your vet to take your money. Your dog won't get better, and your vet will be assured regular visits from you, at least until your dog dies a very early death. Am I saying your vet is intentionally robbing you? Not necessarily, but if they are advising this diet because they don't know any better, they're not very bright, either. I'm really not sure which is worse.

The people who give such advice also tend to classify dogs as omnivores. Apparently they disbelieve the following scientific categorization given to dogs:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Caniformia
Family: Canidae

Just as wishful thinking can't make chocolate cake good for you, neither can it make dogs into omnivores. So, if your vet recommends a diet high in starch and thinks dogs are omnivores, get a smarter vet. One who relies on logic and fact instead of rote learning and rumor.

And feed your dog proteins and fats, and watch the pounds melt away.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Balanced" Dog Food

This is one that annoys me. I see Rachael Ray has even gotten into the game now, with her new line of dog food, called (of course) "Nutrish."

She touts it as being "balanced" nutrition for dogs. A lot of dog food manufacturers do the same these days, not just Rachael Ray. Somehow I always seem to find things more annoying when she does them, though.

Dogs are carnivores. Carnivores eat meat. A "balanced" diet for dogs is meat. End of story. Oh, sure, we've bred them over the centuries to be goofy enough to want to eat whatever we eat, or whatever we give them, but they are still carnivores, and the best thing for them to eat is meat.

They say that a balanced diet for humans includes grain, fruits and vegetables. Humans are onmivores, meaning we are equipped to deal with the glucose such things pour into our bloodstreams, more or less. Carnivores are not well equipped in this regard. This is why there are so many fat dogs out there.

I suppose it's good that the dog food companies who claim their food is healthy don't pour a bunch of chemicals into them, but the grains and vegetables they do put in them aren't good for dogs, either. The reason they do it, of course, is that compared to meat, such things are cheap.

I was curious about the nutritional Q&A on the Nutrish site, so I had a peek. One of the questions was "Why is it important that meat is the first ingredient?" "Oho," I thought, "If she replies that dogs are carnivores and need meat, how will she justify the vegetables?"

The answer, of course, was that she didn't really answer at all. "Nutrish lists either chicken or beef (depending on the variety) as its first ingredient, which guarantees a high-quality, super premium dog food that you can trust." She should be a politician. No doubt someday she will, too, more's the shame.

I've read things online, where vets sweep this whole thing under the rug by claiming that dogs are not true carnivores (whatever that means.) I've also heard vets say that dogs should not have too much meat. Which is patently absurd, and one step away from saying fish shouldn't have too much water.

If your vet tells you things like this, it's time for a new vet, and if you truly care about your pet, at least find a dog food that is very high in protein, and forget about all this "balanced" b.s. Of course, ideally you'd feed Fido meat every day, but some of us can't afford to feed ourselves meat every meal, much less our pets. :)