July 2, 2015

“To support overall healthy weight, it’s important to make every calorie count,” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations at Merrick Pet Care. “The best way to do this is to feed high-quality calories that contribute to a healthy diet and that at the same time fuel the energy needed to maintain your pet’s active lifestyle.”

Digging into Diet

“Dog owners looking for specific weight management solutions should seek recipes that feature fewer calories per cup, increased fiber and lower fat as compared to recipes designed for all life stages. For example, Merrick’s Grain Free Healthy Weight Recipe for dogs offers a protein balance comprised of lean meat plus animal and plant protein. Because this recipe starts with real deboned beef as the first ingredient, it’s also highly palatable, so dogs enjoy eating it,” added Brace.

Serious health problems are related to pet obesity, including diabetes.

“With extra weight on our pets comes a huge escalation in diabetes diagnosis,” said Rob Cadenhead, vice president of sales and marketing for Spring Naturals.

The company’s line of Dry Dinners for dogs was recently certified low glycemic and diabetic-friendly by the Glycemic Research Institute’s Pet Food Program.

“Feeding pets a certified low glycemic, diabetic-friendly pet food can help regulate blood sugar levels and may help prevent obesity,” explained Cadenhead. “And because it’s low glycemic, the pet naturally digests it slower, so all of the nutrients are properly absorbed. This helps pets remain fuller longer and thus supports a healthy weight.”

There is no question that ancestral-styled diets are trending in the food aisle right now.

Merrick recently introduced their Backcountry Raw Infused recipes, which feature real whole pieces of freeze-dried raw meat in addition to high-protein, grain-free kibble.

Sojos Wild is the line of grain-free, shelf-stable raw pet foods from Sojos. The products are made with freeze-dried venison, wild boar, or wild-caught salmon as the first ingredient. At home, it’s a matter of just adding water, soaking and serving.

“We describe it as a forager-fresh, home-prepared meal made in minutes,” said Ward Johnson, owner of Sojos. “We’ve found that all of our shelf-stable foods are effective weight management alternatives because they’re made entirely with raw ingredients. Raw foods are packed with natural enzymes and nutrients that help dogs reach optimal health in addition to shedding unwanted pounds.

The company also focuses on weight control with regard to its treat line.

“We figure ‘healthy indulgence’ shouldn’t be a contradiction in terms,” added Johnson. “Our Sojos Simply Meat treats are made with just one delicious ingredient, offering a choice of freeze-dried turkey, beef or lamb.”

When it comes to weight management, Royal Canin has a product line called Weight Care, with formulations for small, medium and large dogs. It features a proprietary blend that includes fiber to promote satiety (a feeling of fullness) and help reduce begging behaviors.

“It has been shown in published studies to help keep pets satiated, stabilize weight and improve pets’ overall quality of life,” explained Brent Mayabb, DVM, vice president of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA.

According to Chanda Leary Coutu, senior manager, marketing communications for WellPet, more pet owners are becoming interested in grain-free alternatives and “superfood” ingredients in their own diets.

“And we see this trend affecting the pet food space as well. Our Wellness CORE Reduced Fat and Holistic Select Weight Management brands tap directly into this health eating trend,” said Leary Coutu. “Wellness CORE is based on the nutritional philosophy that pets, due to their primal ancestry, thrive on a diet mainly comprised of meat. Each formula is packed with a high concentration of quality animal protein, without fillers or grains, along with a proprietary blend of botanicals and nutritional supplements.“

Specifically, the Wellness CORE Reduced Fat formula has 25 percent less fat than the original CORE formula and is recommended for weight loss/management in pets. And Holistic Select Weight Management is specifically formulated as a weight control diet.

Rethinking the Bowl

Even if you have the right food, a food bowl can often sabotage weight management in a multi-pet household if animals have carte blanche access to edibles all day.

The Wireless Whiskers AutoDiet Feeder is sophisticated but easy to program.

“The feeder is designed to calibrate how much each pet eats and then sets a designated food amount. It’s easy to reduce the set food amount in 10 percent increments,” explained Steve Whelan, president of Escaya Corporation. “It operates on a very lightweight tag that reads which pet is at the bowl.”

A dog requiring a specialized weight management food will need its own designated feeder. However, pet owners can control the situation by simply locking all other pets in the household out so that they are unable to access this particular food source.

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