FitDog Friday #4 – Keys to a Fit & Healthy Dog
Happy FitDog Friday and thanks for stopping by! Today we want to discuss the two primary keys to having a fit and healthy dog: exercise and diet. (You can also link up to the Saturday Pet Blogger Blog Hop at the bottom of this post).
We often say that “movement is life”, and it’s true! Both humans and dogs (and most living creatures) were meant to move as a way to stimulate growth and metabolic functions. Thus, it is pretty easy to understand why exercise is so important. Whichever types of exercise you choose to do with your dog, the benefits (to both of you) are numerous. By exercising regularly, you both will:
- Build strength, endurance, and agility
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Aid joint function and pain management (e.g. arthritis and other muscular-skeletal issues)
- Burn calories
- Feel better – exercise can lead to a feeling of euphoria through the release of Endocannabinoids (eCBs), chemicals produced naturally by the body during high intensity training – “runners high”
- Have more opportunities to bond with each other
As great as exercise is for us all, it is only one part of the story. The other key is:
We think of diet in two ways: how much to feed your dog and what to feed your dog.
How much to feed your dog
We have two expressions that we use in the human fitness community that are appropriate here: “you can’t out exercise a poor diet” and “She
didn’t get those abs from doing crunches”. Both of these sayings are meant to convey the simple fact that diet can impact body weight and leanness more than anything else, even exercise.
Why is this true? Basal metabolism. Basal metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories just to stay alive and perform the most basic and necessary functions like respiration and circulation. Believe it or not, just being a dog (or person) takes a lot of energy (calories). In most cases, a dog’s basal calorie burn will be far greater than their daily exercise burn. Some numbers might help illustrate this point.
A normal 50 lb. dog will burn somewhere around 725 calories per day even if they were bed-ridden and immobile, just to remain alive. They would burn somewhere between 50-100 calories a day extra if they exercised by walking or jogging for 30 minutes each day, depending on the pace. (Note: the dog would also burn some calories with daily movement- walking around the house, going outside to the bathroom, etc.)
Of course if your dog is very active, they can burn a lot more calories. SlimDoggy Jack has days where he burns 30% or more of his basal amount. That said, in most normal cases, calories burned directly though exercise, while important to achieving and sustaining long term optimal weight, are not enough to justify unmeasured feeding. Make sure to measure your servings and account for treats!
What to feed your dog
This is can be a tricky question and we will be devoting a lot of future posts to this topic. With respect to short-term weight loss, in theory, it doesn’t really matter what your dog eats as long as they consume the correct number of calories. So if your dog is targeted to eat no more than 1,000 calories per day for their weight loss program, they could theoretically eat a bag of potato chips (or at least 1,000 calories worth) and still lose weight as long as they burned more than 1,000 calories total for that day.
But this would not be a sustainable scenario. The dog’s body, like the human body, needs a balanced diet including adequate protein and other macro and micro nutrients. To best achieve this, your dog should eat as much ‘real’ food and as little processed and artificial food as possible – sort of like the Paleo diet- which focuses on eating real recognizable foods in their pure, not processed form.
Sound simple, right? Unfortunately, it is not always so straight forward. Commercial dog food labels can be a challenge to interpret. For example, there are foods on the market that use chicken in the food’s name even though they may have little or no real chicken in the recipe! And what about those mystery proteins that are often included in some dog foods? When was the last time that you saw a “meat” grazing a pasture or “poultry” laying an egg? Lastly, did you know that some foods contain artificial colorings, which have no health benefit and are believed to be detrimental to health…just because the food company wants you to like the way the food looks?! Trust me on this, your dog does not care what the food looks like! They see food, they eat food. It doesn’t matter if the food is brown, yellow, purple or any other color.
We will be doing a long series in the future on dog food ingredients so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, tell us what your favorite food brand and recipe is. Have you read the label recently? Do you know what is in your dog’s food?
Please enjoy our FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and our co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Join the Hop or just enjoy the links below – lots of fun fitness tips and advice!