Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions yet? After the excesses of Christmas what better time of year to eat healthier food and start a diet to shed those few extra pounds you might have gained? Now is also a good time to assess your dog’s weight, consider his feeding regime and general care.
Our dogs are carnivores – meat eaters – and have teeth designed for this purpose. Their jaws are hinged upwards only and can do no sideways grinding. They also have a very strong stomach acid with a pH of 1-2, which breaks down harmful bacteria and fully digests animal proteins, bones and fats. Our dog’s digestive system is not designed to cope with large quantities of cereal-based foods. Good quality packaged foods will clearly list all the ingredients in decreasing amounts – check labelling carefully!
Obesity is very common in dogs. Find out from your vet what your own dog’s optimal weight is. I look for a narrowing of the waist and like to be able to feel the ribs just under the skin in my dogs.
If you can’t get out for a winter walk you can enrich your dog’s environment with puzzle-solving feeding activities to engage the brain’s seeking circuit. Why not scatter your dog’s kibble around the garden, allowing him the pleasure of foraging? Kibble-filled activity balls can keep your dog amused, providing exercise and mental stimulation. Stuffed Kongs are another firm favourite. (Remember to soak your kibble-filled Kong in water first to prevent the biscuits falling out.) To avoid weight gain, use your dog’s daily food portions in this way rather than feeding from his bowl.
Keep a close eye on claws. Long nails can affect posture and if you hear them tapping on the ground they are ready for a clip. Claws should be trimmed back to the blood supply or ‘quick’. Very long nails need a little trimmed off regularly so the ‘quick’ recedes. Don’t forget to inspect the dewclaws, whose function is to prevent torque on the leg when cantering or galloping. Feet require regular maintenance since excessive coat between the toes/pads can trap moisture, cause skin irritation, mat to form hard ‘stones’ and catch grass seeds etc. Excessive fur can also cause the toes to splay. In winter, wipe paws clean after a walk to avoid road grit becoming an irritant.
Wishing you and your ‘best friend’ all good wishes for a prosperous and healthy New Year.
The comments in this article are the views of the author. Please seek veterinary advice if you are concerned about your pet’s weight or considering a change in diet. Please ensure your dog can safely be left with interactive toys.
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Sources of reference:
5 Star Dog (2013). Dog Food. Important information about dog food. www.5stardog.com/dog-food.asp
Becker, Dr K DMV (8 November 2011). What’s wrong with the newest grain-free craze? http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/11/08/new-trends-in-pet-food.aspx
Billinghurst, Dr I (1993) Give your dog a bone, Warrigal Publishing, Australia.
Olson, Lew PhD (2010) Raw & Natural Feeding for Dogs
Symes, JB DVM (2002). Gluten Intolerance and Your Pet. http://dogtorj.com/what-is-food-intolerance/gluten-intolerance/
Zink C (unknown). Do the dew (claws)? http://www.caninesports.com/uploads/1/5/3/1/15319800/dewclawexplanation.pdf