Winter is coming! Is your dog prepared?

October 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s cold outside here in Crown Point and while we remember to bundle ourselves up before going out in the cold we often forget that our pets might not be equipped to handle the cold weather and snow that comes along with it.  Below are some good habits to get into during the winter months to keep your dog safe.

  1. Thoroughly clean and wipe down your dogs feet, legs and tummy after going for walks.  The salt and chemicals that are used to melt snow can be very irritating to a dog’s feet.  A good pair of boots for your dog to wear out in the snow and for winter walking will protect their feet from ice and chemicals.
  2. Make sure dogs have current identification secured to collars and microchips.  Snow can make it difficult for animals to follow scents back home and are more easily lost.  Keep cats indoors.
  3. Fur keeps a dog warm,  if you normally keep their coat short consider letting it grow out a bit to help keep them warmer during cold weather.  Dogs with thin or short coats may need the added help of a sweater or coat during the winter months to stay warm.  Older dogs and dogs suffering from arthritis will also appreciate the extra warmth that a sweater can provide.
  4. Puppies are very sensitive to the cold, if you are housetraining during winter months consider paper training the dog and then transitioning outside when it gets warmer.
  5.  Keep your dogs moving.  It’s easy to let our dogs become couch potatoes in the winter. Many dogs experience muscle atrophy during the winter which can lead to injuries when spring arrives and they are not physically ready to begin running and playing all day.

Leslie Cook

A video Dr Dan took of a client’s dogs walking on a treadmill


Anyone can get their dogs trained to do this. The little Frenchie begs to be on the treadmill several times a day. I know this is a post about safety and these guys are usually hooked up to a safety string that pulls a kill switch that shuts off the treadmill if the dog falls. The owner usually has this on when the treadmill is running faster. However, this was a quick video at a slow pace just to show you a treadmill in action. You can see the dog can hop right up on the treadmill and run up to the front with ease at how slow it is going.

A related post about winter safety in cats –

Fall and Winter Holiday Plant Toxicity in Cats

Flowers and plants add beauty to any holiday, and they make great holiday gifts. But if your family includes pets, you may want to learn which plants are safe and which ones you need to avoid.

Urinary Incontinence: A weak bladder sphincter problem

October 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

thpeeing_dogA dog that has a wet bed in the morning, a dog that dribbles urine throughout the day, a dog that seems to just stand up and then pee uncontrollably, or a dog that is licking itself continuously can all have the problem of urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence is a weakening of the sphincter that controls the emptying of the bladder, most commonly affecting females.

There is a lot to urinary incontinence and there is quite a bit that we do not fully understand about it but I am going to go over the most common issues and keep it simple. The first issue to contend with if you have a dog with a leaky bladder is be sure your pup does not have a urinary tract infection because this an cause inflammation in the entire urinary tract including the sphincter and your dog just is not going to be able to control itself. The best course of action when you first notice a leaking problem is to bring your dog to the vet for evaluation for blood tests and a urinalysis. If your dog has kidney issues, hormonal issues, or a urinary tract infection the cause of the leaking is secondary and treating the primary problem of the underlying disease should resolve the leaking issue.

Now if your dog does not have any illness found then it is most likely that yes your dog has a weakened bladder sphincter causing the urinary incontinence. To keep it simple there is two major reasons why your dog has a weakened muscle – neurologic or hormonal. If the nerve pathways are not optimal then your dog leaks because there is no or low nerve stimulation to the muscle. If the dog has been neutered, more likely if it has been neutered early in life, there has been a lack of hormones, which weakens the muscles in and around the genital area and specifically the bladder sphincter.

Traditional medicine typically uses two different types of drugs to correct this problem and there is a new surgical treatment available in some cases. The first drug is actually hormone replacement therapy using diethylstilbestrol (DES) in female dogs. It is used at low doses to try and avoid the side effects of the drug. Holistic practitioners have long been concerned with the use of this drug and its potential long term effects on the hormonal system and its possibility of causing certain types of cancer.  The other drug commonly used for urinary incontinence and this is used in female and male dogs is phenylpropanolamine (PPA). This drug is used to help stimulate the nervous system and increase tone in the bladder sphincter. This drug has many side effects although most are manageable or minor that they go unnoticed. It can have more side effects with drug interactions of commonly used drugs such as NSAIDs, some tick preventatives, and other drugs. It can cause anxiety in pets because it does stimulate a fight or flight response due to its effect on the nervous system. It also causes an increase in blood pressure for the first few weeks of using the drug so dogs with heart conditions should avoid using PPA. Many times vets will use both drugs together if they are not getting a response from either one and have some success with their use together, which usually indicates multiple system problems with urinary incontinence.

Alternative treatments focus on the same simple principles of either nervous system malfunction or hormonal system malfunction. The most common treatments I use are chiropractic, acupuncture, Chinese herbs and food supplements.

Chiropractic treatments usually focus on subluxations (joint dysfunction) at the Lumbosacral joint and/or the SI joints. Adjustments usually are needed at L6, L7, and Sacrum. I have had great success over the years with just chiropractic alone most of my patients will have to have return visits monthly to every other month to maintain urinary control.

Most of the time I will also place the pet on a nutritional supplement such as Symplex M (males) or Symplex F (females) from Standard Process. These are formulated from compounds extracted from glandulars. There are other products, which are direct glandular products that some holistic vets use instead of DES to lessen the risks associated with DES.

Many times I see immediate results using the chiropractic and the Standard Process supplements but if I see no results within 2-4 weeks then I will suggest adding acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs to see if we can stimulate the bladder sphincter to function better. Most chronic urinary incontinence is a Qi deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine and more specifically a Kidney Qi Deficiency so I choose points to help strengthen Qi. In western medical acupuncture terms, we try to stimulate the nervous system for the reproductive area of the body, similar points are used in both types of acupuncture. Common points used are BL22, BL23, BL26, ST36 and CV1

If all else fails there is a surgical treatment that is being tried. It is fairly new to use in dogs and has some success. Under anesthesia collagen is injected around the urethral opening causing a mechanical blockage, which then allows the dog to hold its urine easier. Some of these dogs still need to take PPA and many of them have to have the procedure repeated. Definitely not a first line of correction but when it means the life vs death because of urine leakage it is worth trying to find a vet to do the procedure.

There is a lot we do not understand about urinary incontinence. We do not know the true cause and why some treatments work for some dogs and not for others, but there are many treatments and hopefully if you have a dog with urinary incontinence, you can find one that works for your dog.

Controlling your dog’s allergies: The EDVS Approach

October 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Your dog is keeping you up all night scratching. In fact, your dog scratches all the time, its skin is red and raw and may have hair loss and lesions. Your dog could have allergies. The most common symptoms owners bring their dog into the vet suspecting allergies is itching and chronic skin infections. However did you know that there are other signs of allergies such as red paws, chronic ear infections, chronic loose stool, and even vomiting? All of these problems are very frustrating for the owner and also frustrating for the veterinarian to attempt to treat. Conventional veterinary care has a difficult time managing this disease and many veterinarians are just as frustrated with treatment as the owners of the allergic dog. So what can we do? In this series of posts I am going to explain how I manage dog allergies using an approach called EDVS.

First, every owner that has a dog that suffers from allergies needs to know that allergies is a disease that can be controlled and managed but most likely will not ever be cured. To control the disease, you need to support and balance the immune system and focus on the (E)nivronment, (D)iet, (V)accinations, and (S)upplements. Once explained to you it will make sense to use the EDVS approach and how you can live with your dog and your dog can have a good quality of life living with you for many years.

Basically, an allergy is a hypersensitive immune system. Unfortunately the immune system is one of the most misunderstood systems of the dog’s body. Although it is studied extensively and many components are well understood the actual cause and effect of how it actually all works is elusive. The immune system is a well trained and amazing war machine capable of identifying numerous foreign invaders, however it can make mistakes, especially when it is hypersensitive. If we could figure out exactly how the dog’s immune system makes mistakes we could easily prevent allergies. The mistakes that the immune system makes is on identifying foreign invaders. When the immune system is hypersensitive it can misidentify a substance as foreign and attack it. Most commonly the body misinterprets proteins and synthetic chemicals that are chemically structured similar to proteins.

When the dog’s immune system finds a virus or bacteria and identifies it as such, it goes into attack mode using lymphocytes and other white blood cells to kill it and remove it from the body. Viruses and bacteria are essentially protein molecules and dna molecules that the body understands and the system of attack is usually quite effective in removing these proteins and abnormal dna molecules from the body. When the body misidentifies a different protein or chemical substance as an invader and attacks it using the same defense mechanisms it is unable to clear it. The immune system becomes confused especially if the dog continues to be exposed to the substance. The dog’s immune system attacks even harder and with more ferocity, continuing to try and exterminate the substance that it can not destroy; which explains why over time the dog’s allergies are worse and worse. It explains why every year the dog’s allergies are worse than the previous. Using immunoglobulins, mast cells, basophils and other white blood cells, the weapons of the dog’s immune system, the immune system continues to fight creating havoc by releasing histamine and destroying surrounding normal cells in its attempts to clear the allergen it sees as a foreign invader. The symptoms of allergies, red inflamed skin, inflamed ears,  diarrhea, vomiting, etc is caused by this destruction and histamine release. Many dogs have chronic ear infections and skin infections because the body is so busy trying to destroy the allergen that it is not able to take care of other bacteria and yeast.

Conventional veterinary treatment seeks to decrease the immune response and help the symptoms using corticosteroids such as prednisone and antibiotics. The problem is that this only provides temporary relief and does not address the underlying issue of the hypersensitive immune system. However, even holistic medicine can not cure the issues of a hypersensitive immune system it can only manage the problem and that is by managing (E)nivronment, (D)iet, (V)accinations, and (S)upplements. More to come in future posts.

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

September 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Golden retrievers have some of the friendliest, most lovable dispositions out of any dog breed. Many owners consider their golden retrievers to be important members of the family who provide everything from companionship and entertainment to boundless love and selfless devotion.

Through its Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, the Morris Animal Foundation has come up with a wonderful opportunity for golden retriever owners who are at least 18 years of age and living in the United States to give back to the pets who give us so much. Cancer is the leading cause of death in all dogs older than age two, and it sadly kills over half of all golden retrievers. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study hopes to drastically lower these numbers and improve the health of golden retrievers everywhere by studying them, as the study’s name suggest, over the course of a dog’s lifetime.

Participation is limited to golden retrievers that are healthy, less than 2 years old at the time of application and that have a three-generation pedigree, and it extends throughout the life of your dog. If you participate, you are responsible for selecting a veterinarian, completing an online questionnaire about your dog’s habits and temperament and annually visiting the veterinarian for exams and sample collections.

While participating is certainly a long-term commitment, the study’s findings have the potential to be incredibly valuable in improving the health of future golden retrievers. Participating will allow researchers to help identify how certain factors such as genetics and diet could affect a golden retriever’s risk of getting cancer and other major health disorders, and can assist researchers in developing more effective methods of dealing with cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

The study is an easy, minimally invasive and inexpensive way to give back to future generations of golden retrievers in a big way. If this seems like an opportunity that you or any other golden retriever-owners you know may be interested in, visit the Morris Animal Foundation online to learn more about the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study and get started on the registration process. Sign up today and help make the world a better, healthier place for your golden retriever!

Alternatives to NSAIDs: Rimadyl, Previcox, Metacam, Deramaxx, etc

July 28, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

I am asked almost daily about alternatives to using NonSteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Rimadyl, Previcox, Metacam, Deramaxx. People are afraid to use these drugs because of their possible side effects. The most common side effects include digestive upset (vomiting/diarrhea), stomach ulcers, and liver disease. One of the worst possible side effects is death caused by these drugs. Never thought death could be a side effect of a medicine that was supposed to help your dog feel better but it can happen…luckily VERY RARELY!

This article is not to bash NSAIDs because, to be honest, it still is one of my most prescribed drugs. Why? Because they work! Dogs with acute injuries may require a controlling of inflammation and so for a short duration will need to be on an anti-inflammatory. These products work well and on most occasions are safe for short term use. A dog at the end of its life may have aches and pains that prevent it from having a good quality of life, a daily NSAID may be just the answer to provide that quality of life.

Even if your dog has to take one of these products there are some other products that can be of assistance in reducing the side effects. A couple of products S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) and Milk Thistle have been known to help prevent the liver toxicity of NSAIDs. Aloe Vera can help reduce the chance of ulcers with NSAIDs.

However there are alternatives to NSAIDs that do not have the side effects –

Herbals and Nutraceuticals – Many of my older patients are already taking some form of nutraceutical for joint health in the form of glucosamine and /or chondroitin sulfate. There are other products which can help with inflammation similar to that of NSAIDs such Boswelia, Curcumin (Tumeric), Bromelain, and Devil’s Claw are the most common. Using plant enzymes an hour before or after a meal so that they are absorbed and not used to digest that meal have an anti-inflammatory effect. Even Omega 3s and 6s found in fish oil and krill oil have a good anti-inflammatory effect. I usually have a dog start on products such as these before going to an NSAID they may not be as potent as an NSAID but they also do not have the side effects either.

Acupuncture – This is a favorite of mine and helps many dogs with pain. It is a little time consuming and can be more expensive but it does help. Using acupuncture and Chinese Herbals together can really help out a dog so that it does not need NSAIDs or even my severely painful dogs that acupuncture and herbals can get them off steroids and Tramadol!

Pulsed Electromagnetic Therapy (PEMF) – This is a machine that uses an electric current to make a magnetic field which increases the blood circulation and reduces the inflammation of the area of the body that has inflammation. It works great for animals that have a specific area of inflammation that needs to be treated. It also has little to no side effects. I am starting to use a small portable take home PEMF device from Assisi for a variety of patients, especially for the pets that can not tolerate acupuncture.

Laser Therapy – Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is the use of light emitted by a laser machine to effect tissue. It increases circulation, reduces inflammation and produces an anti-inflammatory effect. It is painless so it really works well for the dogs that are painful and can not tolerate acupuncture. It does take several treatments and would require a couple trips to the veterinarian each week for a few weeks, depending on what is being treated. It works well for muscle pain and inflammation from arthritis and works exceptionally well on wounds.

From herbals and nutraceuticals to historically used acupuncture to the latest and greatest Laser therapy or PEMF or to even just using NSAIDs with some supportive help of other products, the answer to your dogs pain can be found. There are many alternatives to NSAIDs you just need to know they are available and use the one that works best for you and your pet.

Neutering Your Dog – 3 Problems with Neutering Early

June 13, 2013 by · 4 Comments 

With the push from the Humane Society, rescues and dog shelters to neuter as early as possible it may not be politically correct and seems even anti-overpopulation to suggest that we are not doing our dogs right by neutering them, especially when we neuter them early. However with concern for each dog as an individual and taking into account what early neutering does to a dog’s long term health, I will suggest that neutering must be done after a dog is finished growing. There are many problems with early neutering but 3 really stick out as significant health issues that owners should be aware of before they decide to neuter their dogs before their growth plates have closed.

A study from veterinarians at University of California-Davis gives support to being concerned about early neutering.

Golden retriever study suggests neutering affects dog health :: UC 

http://news.ucdavis.eduWed, 13 Feb 2013 22:00:00 GMT

Neutering, and the age at which a dog is neutered, may affect the animal’s risk for developing certain cancers and joint diseases, according to a new study of golden retrievers by a team of.


Problem #1 – Increased orthopedic injuries – the growth plates need to have optimal hormonal balance to close properly. Obviously neutering causes an imbalance in the hormonal system by removing a major hormone contributing organ, so the growth plates do not close and allows the long bones of the legs to grow longer. On average dogs that are neutered early will grow longer and taller. Growing longer and taller changes the biomechanics and movement of the dog and places extra stress on tendons, ligaments and muscles. This may explain the increased incidence of cruciate ruptures in dogs that are neutered early.

Problem #2 – Increased arthritis – the changes in biomechanics and stress on the tendons, ligaments and muscles will also increase stress on the action of the dogs joints thus increasing the incidence of joint osteoarthritis. Another contributing factor could also be the average increased weight in neutered dogs placing increased stress on joints as well. The UC-Davis study found an increased incidence of hip dysplasia in male dogs neutered before a year of age doubled that of the of dogs neutered after a year of age and non-neutered dogs.

Problem #3 – Increased incidence of certain cancers – Cancer is difficult because there are so many contributing factors but hormones play a large part. Dogs that are neutered late have higher incidences of mammary tumors, mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma in females. However early neutering has increased incidence of osteosarcomas and lymphosarcoma. These incidences are greater than in non neutered dogs.

You are your dog’s advocate but you are also responsible for your dog and if you choose not to neuter your dog or to wait to neuter your dog. It is your responsibility to keep him/her safeguarded against accidental breedings and contributing to the overpopulation problem. With research and information becoming more apparent that early neutering is not ideal for the health of your dog, it is important to be proactive in the health of your dog and choose the time of neutering your pet wisely.

List of Common Household Items Toxic to Pets

May 10, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

We often forget how hazardous common items and foods can be for our pets.  Below is a comprehensive list of items to keep away from your pets.  This is a great list to keep on your refrigerator or someplace accessible to the whole family.  In addition to this list keep the phone numbers for your local veterinarian and emergency veterinarian visible as well.  It is important to stay calm and act quickly when a pet has consumed something toxic.  Even after ingesting many of these items, it can take several hours for your pet to show symptoms. If you have witnessed your pet ingesting something or just suspect that your pet has consumed something dangerous contact your veterinarian immediately.

Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Avocado

  • Chocolate (all forms)

  • Coffee (all forms)

  • Fatty foods

  • Macadamia nuts

  • Moldy or spoiled foods

  • Onions, onion powder

  • Raisins and grapes

  • Salt

  • Yeast dough

  • Garlic

  • Products sweetened with xylitol (most sugar free gum contains xylitol)

Other Household items

  • Citronella candles

  • Cocoa mulch

  • Compost piles Fertilizers

  • Swimming-pool treatment supplies

  • Fly baits containing methomyl

  • Slug and snail baits containing metaldehyde

  • Prescription medications

  • Antifreeze

  • Liquid potpourri

  • Ice melting products

  • Rat and mouse bait

  • Fabric softener sheets


Guest post by Leslie Cook – Lifelong animal lover and pet boutique owner of Woof Life in Crown Point, IN, with a passion for proactive pet care. If you are in the area please stop by and visit our store –

Performance Dog Play

December 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Should I let my performance dog play with other dogs? My dog may suffer an injury.

This is a common concern for canine athlete owners and trainers; injuries in general are concerns, so why take a risk with an athlete that will have to perform? The thought about not letting them play with other dogs to reduce the chance of injuries is common however is it right? In one study performance dog play with the human handler is important especially right before an event. It helps with keeping the dog focused during the event. But how about dog on dog play? Should you let your prized performance dog play with that other dog?  – You want the short opinionated answer, yes you should allow your performance dog to play with other dogs.

Let’s go through my reasoning for allowing performance dogs to play.

First – your fear here is injuries,right? Why are you letting your dog do an athletic event in the first place? It is much more likely to be injured in its sport than playing with another dog. The most common type of injuries in performance dogs are repetitive stress injuries – shoulder instability, carpal strains, cruciate ruptures, and tendon/ligament strains/tears.The most frequent type of injuries that veterinarians see are broken bones from car accidents and other equally severely traumatic events and then the next most common has to be cruciate ruptures. In canine sport medicine practices cruciates and other tendon/ligament injuries are the most common – the repetitive stress injuries. Besides lacerations to ears and the skin on other areas of the body, dog play does not cause very many injuries and the injuries that it does cause are not likely to affect performance.

Second – dogs are pack animals. The nature of a dog is to be and interact with other dogs and that includes playing. Apologies to my single dog family homes for the next statement, but dogs that are not allowed to interact with other dogs are more likely to have behavior disorders. So for the mind of the performance dog, it would be best to allow the dog to have its natural tendencies and then control/moderate the activity. Dog play is going to help the dog in other aspects, such as relaxation (we all know – all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy), develops coordination and muscle development utilizing different muscles than the normal routine of training which will help balance, and can learn from the other dog such as restraint and impulse control.

Lastly – is your dog a superstar, and no, not in your own mind? Is it one of the top dogs in the nation? Are you going for your second national title in your chosen canine sport? If you are, then you are in the top 1% (and I am being generous) of canine performance dog owners. So then why do all these owners do it, when only a select handful make it to the top? Very few are making money from it, even some of the top are spending money not making it. It must not be about being the top or about making money, it has to be about something else. For the majority, it is about having fun with the dog. OK, then how about it? You are going to prevent your dog from having fun, because you have a fear that it is possibly going to injure itself so that it will not miss out on the opportunity to perform something else that is fun but is more likely to cause injury? How does that make any sense?

Let the dog be a dog and let your performance dog play! There is much less of a chance of injury playing than in the sport itself, it helps the behavior and mind set of the dog and its fun!

Do you really want to prevent performance related injuries, then stop worrying about your performance dog playing with other dogs and condition your dog against the repetitive stress injuries by purchasing (and then using) one of  Dr. Chris Zink’s Canine Sports Production books,  Clean Run’s Canine Fitness and Conditioning videos,  or Dr. Debbie Gross Saunders’ Strengthening and Stretching the Performance Dog  videos. You will have a happier and healthier performance dog!


Lepto Vaccine: Should I or Shouldn’t I

November 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

I am asked quite often if a dog owner should be giving a Leptospirosis vaccine to their dog. In typical non-committal the owner makes the final decisions about their dog fashion I usually answer – “it depends”.

lepto raccoonTo be honest I am on the fence about it. In Illinois and in Indiana, which is where I live, it is endemic. Meaning it is all over the place here. There are estimates of 50% of the raccoon population carry the disease. Lepto is transmissible to humans and you can get it from your infected dog. Your dog can die from the disease or it can cause permanent kidney disease in dogs and humans. For those reasons it is important to vaccinate. In fact most veterinarians stop right there when describing lepto in order to convince you how necessary it is for your dog to receive the vaccine. It can be a scary disease.

So why would I be on the fence about such a horrific disease? Well, Lepto is a bacteria (spirochete) so the vaccine is not as long lasting as vaccine that protect against viruses, and it has to be given every year. In the past, the vaccine produced some significant side effects, the vaccine is cleaner now which has reduced some of the side effects, but it seems that some dogs are still experiencing them. Lepto has numerous strains more than 20, the vaccine protects only against 4 (the most common ones), so even if your dog is vaccinated it still can contract lepto, become sick and possibly transmit it to you or your children. 

So if you have a healthy dog and you have wildlife in your backyard or you have a dog that does spend time out in the woods, ponds, or areas that are known to have a lot of wildlife then the Lepto vaccination would be appropriate. However, if your dog has allergies or other immune system issues then you need to consider that giving an annual vaccine is not the best for the health of your dog. Also one thing to know is that lepto is not a death sentence. It is a bacterial infection and if caught early can be treated successfully with no long term effects. It has to be caught, tested for, and treated. There in lies the problem. Many owners are slow to bring the dog to the vet and many vets do not think of lepto first when the dog comes in lethargic with signs of a urinary tract infection, because it usually isn’t. Most of the time symptoms like that  is a simple bacterial infection not a kidney destroying life threatening zoonotic (that means humans can catch it) disease. The main difference is usually lethargy, if the dog is acting sick and has a urinary tract infection it is important to test for Lepto especially in endemic areas.

If you have more questions then ask away in the comment section below.

Here are a couple of articles with other opinions –

Epidemic Canine Obesity: Killing Them With Kindness

November 6, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

Fat dog ObesityEveryday I see it, the pudgy dog whose owner just loves them to death literally. There is an epidemic in this country with obesity and that includes our dogs. Obesity in dogs, as in humans, leads to several health problems such as diabetes, respiratory issues, skin conditions and most important from my perspective on canine movement is osteoarthritis. Yes, osteoarthritis can be caused by canine obesity. Your dog being overweight puts more stress, strain, and ultimately more inflammation on joints and leads to destruction of the cartilage. So these owners with the little pudgy dogs that can’t help themselves and just have to feed that cute little face are killing them with their kindness.

What is very interesting is owner’s perception of their dog being overweight versus what we as veterinarians perceive as overweight. It is a sensitive subject for owners that their dog is fat. A British study published last year shows “Although a high proportion of owners claimed to have discussed the dog’s weight with their veterinarian, some discrepancies were apparent between owner perception of animal weight and the veterinarian’s evaluation of body condition score. Owner disagreement was significantly greater for the veterinarian-defined overweight dogs (P=0·005). Owners often provide personal narratives to account for their dog’s weight status.” The study concluded that verbal communication should not be the only information given to an owner of an overweight dog.

There have been several other studies recently in regards to the prevention and/or the decrease in progression of arthritis in dogs that were fed restricted calorie diets. A diet of only 25% reduction in calories has shown to decrease the incidence of arthritis in elbows, hips, and shoulders of dogs and it was noted in one study that it increased the average age of the dogs by almost 2 years!

Talk to your vet, talk to a canine nutritionist about how to feed your dog appropriately. Realize that the dog food companies are trying to sell you food and that the amounts on the bag that they recommend feeding are only estimates and of course they are on the high side for most dogs because the more your dog eats the more food you will buy. If your dog is already overweight do not treat him like a human and feed a diet high in fiber that will just produce gas. I know that those of you that have tried the store bought “diet” foods have experienced the problem with high fiber diets and your dog really is the one to blame for clearing a room. The first order of business is to talk to your vet, have an exam and possibly some blood tests to be sure your dog does not have an underlying condition causing him to be overweight; however in my experience it usually is the amount and quality of food being fed.

The best steps to take (after the visit to the vet) for the overweight dog is to go to a diet that is species appropriate which means for your dog a carnivorous or meat based diet with no grain. Similar to people some dogs have a problem with grain and especially gluten and no not celiac disease but rather grains being pro-inflammatory, meaning it promotes inflammation. Increased inflammation in the body can lead to weight gain, similar to people that have a puffy appearance. It makes it very difficult to lose weight. It is best to feed your dog a meat based, grain free diet and count the calories. Use the following formula for an estimate of what your dog requires for calories per day Calories = 132 x (body weight in kilograms) X 0.75

For example the daily energy requirements of a 20 lb dog –

Convert pounds to kilograms ( 1 lbs = 0.454 kg)
20 lbs x 0.454 = 9.08 kg

Determine the metabolic body weight (kg0.75)
9.08 x .75 = 6.81

Multiply metabolic body weight by 132 (for the average dog)
6.81 x 132 = 898.92 or 900 kcal per day

So a 20 lb dog needs only 900 kcal per day total. To do a reducing diet you need to reduce the calories by 25% which is 75% of the total 900 X .75 = 675 kcal per day.

You can calculate an estimate of calories of the food you are feeding by using University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine formula of 3.5 kcal per gram of protein and carbohydrates and 8.5 kcal per gram of fat. Just use the percentages found on the side of the bag and weigh a cup of the food to determine how many calories are in each cup. You will find some interesting results and that maybe, just maybe, you have been overfeeding your dog.

Remember a thin dog is a healthy dog and a long lived dog, one that is not as likely to have arthritis or other diseases. So the next time you go to give that begging fat face a treat just because he wants it; realize he doesn’t know what you know – he doesn’t know you are killing him :-)

Another great article with even more specifics – Pet Food Calorie Mis-Information

A dog food calculator – Dog Food Calculator