A healthy weight is key to a dog’s overall good health. As dog obesity is on the rise, pet food manufacturers are targeting the issue with special weight management formulas and are taking the lead in addressing the role that exercise plays in the weight management equation.
Eating Better, Moving More
“Diet and exercise go hand in hand for dogs, too,” said Brent Mayabb, DVM, vice president of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA. “For weight loss, we always focus on controlling the caloric intake, but we often ignore caloric use side of the equation. This is where increased exercise can play a role.”
“Many pets lead less active lives today, and just as with people, this can result in weight gain,” Mayabb said. “For that reason, combining increased activity with controlling calories can improve the effectiveness of a weight loss program. And it’s a good idea to discuss both a weight management and exercise problem with the dog’s veterinarian, so that the advice can be tailored to your dog’s specific needs.”
According to Mayabb, obesity is more common in small dogs.
“Our mini formulas have decreased caloric densities compared to our medium and maxi formulas,” he said. “However, it’s possible for any dog of any size to become obese, so we have weight control diets for each size class.”
“Also, certain breeds, such as dachshunds, English bulldogs and Labrador retrievers, are prone to obesity,” Mayabb added. “For this reason, we formulate our Breed Health Nutrition for these breeds with lower caloric intake, kibble designed to slow down ingestion and L-carnitine to help their body burn fat.
The newest products on the shelf from Merrick Pet Care are the Merrick Backcountry Ancestral Diet and their Limited Ingredient Diets, which feature different proteins.
“Choosing a grain-free, high-protein diet for your dog can often lead to improved energy levels, helping to naturally maintain their active lifestyle and healthy weight—a virtuous circle,” said Betsy Berger, communications manager at Merrick Pet Care.
“Feeding a diet rich in quality animal protein and choosing more nutrient-dense recipes allows pet parents to spoon out smaller portions overall,” Berger said. “That’s why even recipes like our Merrick Backcountry Ancestral canine diet, or our Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet recipes for pets with food allergies, can still contribute to optimal weight for your dog.”
According to Chanda D. Leary-Coutu, senior manager of marketing communications for WellPet, the company has seen a shift in consumers’ purchasing habits.
“Pet parents are becoming hyper-vigilant when selecting the right diet for their pets, often looking for ingredients that mimic their own or one recommended by a veterinarian,” Leary-Coutu said. “Some qualities pet parents look for are lean meats from quality protein sources like turkey, duck, salmon and lamb; wholesome fruits and vegetables; no corn or soy and no added artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. As part of this trend, we’ve seen a growing interest in many of our grain-free and raw-inspired recipes as well as our weight management formulas for dogs of all sizes.”
“All our Wellness CORE recipes are protein-focused with controlled levels of fat, carbohydrates and calories,” she continued. “However, the Wellness CORE Reduced Fat formula has 25 percent less fat than the original CORE formula and is recommended for weight loss [and] management in pets. This formula includes antioxidants, omega fatty acids, glucosamine and probiotics.”
The Holistic Select Weight Management food from WellPet is specifically formulated with the company’s Unique Digestive Health Support System, which includes active probiotics, healthy fiber and digestive enzymes that supports absorption and utilization of vital nutrients throughout the dog’s entire body.
According to Leary-Coutu, the company’s food labels are a good source of nutritional education for both retailers and pet owners looking to better understand what they’re feeding their pets.
“We also recently rolled out an educational campaign for retailers and pet parents alike called The 5 Signs of Wellness,” she said. “This effort aims to educate our partners and customers on the visible indicators of overall health and wellbeing in their pets: skin and coat health, digestive health, energy, immunity, and eyes, teeth and gum health. Balanced nutrition through quality ingredients like protein-rich meats and whole fruits and vegetables is the key to a long, happy life for pets and their parents alike. We also work with retailers to encourage pet parents to talk with their veterinarians about what food and treat recipes best cater to their pet’s dietary and nutritional needs.”
Leary-Coutu added that the company’s research into canine weight management has highlighted that fact that if a dog is leading an active lifestyle and eating a nutritionally balanced diet, they’re less susceptible to weight issues, no matter the breed.
“As dogs age, their activity levels tend to decrease, making them more prone to weight gain,” she said. “It’s also important for pet parents to work closely with their veterinarians to determine the correct portion size for dogs. Despite getting high-quality nutrition, dogs will be likely to gain weight if they’re regularly consuming larger portions than what their body requires.”
Frequently, dogs that eat too quickly are also eating too much because the moment they put on their “hang-dog” look, the owner will replenish the food bowl.
Food cubes are an excellent alternative to a regular food dish because it slows down the consumption of the meal because dogs have to work for their kibble, which gives them a chance to digest and feel full.
Kruuse, the Danish company well known throughout Europe for their inventive pet product lines including innovative food bowls and food cubes, recently established nationwide distribution in the United States. Consequently, their BUSTER SoftCubes are now available in America. The cubes look like large dice and come in a variety of bright colors and sizes.
“If you feed your dog dry food, the BUSTER cube can be an excellent substitute for a food bowl,” said Lars Lund, sales director for the Americas. “The BUSTER SoftCube can be filled with a dog’s daily meal portion. The way in which a dog can push and roll the BUSTER Softcube around allows it to hone its natural instinct to work for food. And because of the way the kibble is dispensed, they are forced to eat more slowly.”
“The SoftCube is made of a non-toxic and recyclable material and is easy to rinse to keep clean,” Lund said. “They work well on all floor surfaces and are not noisy when used on a wooden or laminated surface.”