My dog is fat. It happened, seemingly overnight. One day, I looked down and noticed that my usually slim and svelte pup had become a sausage. The once beautiful inward sloping line towards her hips was no longer there. How did this happen, I asked myself? My dog is raw fed! As the realization crept in that even raw fed dogs can get fat when they are out of balance or are fed incorrectly, I realized I had only myself to blame.
Life very quickly gets in the way of some of the most mundane tasks. Whether it be COVID, house renovations, a new business startup, or all of them at once, the things that seem so commonplace can take a back seat before you even realize they crawled back there. In my case, what was commonplace was regular exercise and a feeding schedule for my all-too-willing-to-eat Plott Hound mix.
With mounting to-do lists, I realized that I had altogether stopped exercising. For me, a little extra flab is a relatively easy thing to overlook or dismiss. Yet, my dog, who relies on the family for every part of her life, missing out on exercise meant the calories from her food were being stored as fat rather than being burned off through play. Couple this with our guilt of seeing boredom seep out of every one of her hair follicles. Now she is being fed extra treats. Not just the usual biscuit, mind you, but the extra special super delicious and fattening marrow bones. Bisou is all too willing to take any type of treat from me and this eagerness played in her favor when she would polish off a savory goodie just to stare longingly at her treat box for what was next.
To make matters worse, we recently switched her food to a much more nutrient dense brand that suggests a smaller portion for each meal. We would often forget what we had fed her in the morning resulting in her receiving 33% more than the recommended daily amount for an ACTIVE dog. I started to question why I was ever allowed to have a dog and how could I be this irresponsible?
The good news is not too much time had passed since slim dog became fat dog. It is important to address weight gain as quickly as you can. If your dog remains chubby for too long, they become more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or a host of many other problems.
The first, and easiest, change we made was to her feeding quantities. We feed her one patty in the morning and a half a patty at night. It is safe to assume that while dogs are awake during the daytime, they will be more active than when sleeping at night so providing the larger portion in the morning seemed logical.
Once the food was under control, we switched the amount and type of treats being fed each day. Again, this was an easy change to make that did not take any extra time. Instead of her high fat treats, we purchased treat dispensing puzzle toys that we placed savory, low fat jerky into. Many puzzle toys require your pet to move about while challenging their brains on how to get the cookie out. Our absolute favorite puzzle toy is called The Snoop by Planet Dog. This toy satisfies two problems in one: our desire to get Bisou moving and her desire for stimulation. As a bonus, it was also entertaining to watch her humorously attempt to extract the treats.
Lastly, we had to address our exercise problem. With everything we had going on this summer, exercise was the easiest sacrifice with the most detrimental outcome for all of us. While we knew that hours-long hikes were out of the question, we decided to do multiple shorter hikes that would satisfy our collective need to be out in nature and clear our heads as well as our lungs. This was not an ideal solution, but it gave us the much-needed time together without feeling like tasks were overflowing as a result. Even a stroll down to the end of the driveway to get the mail would be coupled with a diversion onto a trail that led to the backside of the house. I took every opportunity to make the simple, mundane chores a time for interaction and fun with the dog who could care less about the chore so long as it meant being out in the world with one of her favorite people.
Just two weeks after these changes we are starting to see her ideal figure return along with her happiness…and, quite frankly, our own happiness as well. The beauty of this lesson is that no matter how much our chores in life get in the way, our pets reflect how we feel on the inside and on the outside. If your pet is chubby and sluggish or anxious and hyper, sometimes it is only a matter of looking at what is going on in your own life and making the appropriate adjustments to bring everything, and everyone, back into balance.
Be well and stay healthy, if not for you, for the sake of your pet!