How Much to Feed Your Dog: Importance of an Ideal Weight
Far too many people are not aware of the amount of food their dogs really require each day to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), a majority of dogs in the U.S. are overweight. Just like with people, an overweight dog will have a shorter life span— up to 2 years shorter— and a lower quality of life.
There are numerous health problems related to canine obesity, including arthritis, kidney and gastrointestinal disease, and even cancer. Furthermore, having an overweight dog can be a costly proposition to the pet owner. Extra food and medical bills can easily surpass $1,000 per year or more – expenses that you would not incur if you had a leaner, healthier pet.
Determining the proper amount of food your dog needs to achieve or maintain a healthy weight requires several steps and a few calculations. Although I have written about this topic in the past, I thought it would be worthwhile to review these steps again. However, this time, I will break the process down into a series of smaller posts and provide some simpler ‘rules of thumb’ that can be used as alternatives to some of the more complex calculations. The end result, hopefully, is that by the end of the series, anyone will be able to quickly ascertain proper portion sizes for their dog.
Determine a Dog’s Ideal Weight
It is impossible to determine proper portions without first knowing if your dog is overweight, underweight, or at their ideal weight. Based on the research performed by APOP, a little more than one out of every two dogs in the U.S. are being over fed and need to lose weight. That means that there is a greater than 50% chance that your dog is being fed too much! (In actuality, if you are a regular SlimDoggy.com reader, you have probably taken steps to make sure that your dog is not overweight, so those odds are probably a lot lower).
Knowing your dog’s ideal weight is important because it will tell you two things: 1) does the dog need to lose or gain weight, and 2) portion sizes should be based on the ideal weight and not a dog’s current weight (unless the dog is already at their ideal weight). Many dog owners incorrectly think that their dog is at an ideal weight already when, in fact, their dog is actually fat. APOP calls this phenomenon the ‘fat gap’ and it is a big reason why we have a pet obesity problem. I have personally spoken with many dog owners who fall into this category. I have also frequently encounter another ‘type’ of pet owner, the owner who knows their dog is overweight, but rationalizes this with thinking that is something like: “yes, my dog could stand to lose some weight, but they are only 5 lbs. overweight”. Obviously, this is an example and you can swap any number for the 5 lbs. The important thing to point out is that a few extra pounds can be a big deal on a dog’s body. Because most dogs will weight a lot less than do humans, the percentage that a dog is overweight is the critical data point, not just the amount that the dog is overweight. Below are some examples comparing a 20 lb. dog to a 150 lb. human.
|Dog Ideal Weight (lbs.)||20|
|Human Ideal Weight (lbs.)||150|
|Lbs. the dog is overweight||2||5||10|
|Human equivalent overweight lbs.||15||38||75|
So a 20 lb. dog that is overweight by ‘just’ 5 lbs. is the same thing as a 150 lb. Human being ‘just’ 38 lbs. overweight.
The best way to determine your dog’s ideal weight is to consult with your veterinarian so that they can assess the overall health of your dog and help determine the dog’s ideal weight. Make sure to inform your vet of any previous orthopedic issues or other health issues if they do not have your dog’s full history. Be sure to ask the vet for their honest opinion on this! There are many vets who are uncomfortable informing their clients that their client’s pet is fat.
For those who would like to get a general idea of their dog’s weight, the canine body condition guide is a useful visual guide of how a dog’s body should look.
Once you have your pet’s ideal weight, the next step is to determine how many calories they will need at this weight. I will explain how to do this in the next installment of this series.