One of the many benefits of raw feeding for dogs is a healthier weight for the dog. Feeding a biologically appropriate diet – one that doesn't contain grains and an overabundance of carbs – helps our dogs reach and maintain a healthy weight and metabolism.
But that doesn't mean that a raw fed dog can never get fat.
For the remainder of October, I'll be writing about helping our dogs reach a healthy weight. Yesterday, I shared my experienced weighing my dogs at home. Today I want to explore the reasons two of my dogs are overweight.
1 – Overfeeding Raw Meals
Believe it or not, I had a lot of trouble with the raw food calculators. Initially, I thought that when feeding a dog 2% of their body weight – I was to feed this per meal, not per day. So when I first transitioned to DIY raw, I was overfeeding my dogs until I began paying attention to discussions in raw feeding groups and realized that I misunderstood the calculators.
Another mistake that I made was not adjusting how much I fed my dogs based on their individuality. The raw feeding calculators are great, however, they are there to get us started. We then need to take the next step of customizing what we learn to meet our individual dog's needs. If a dog is low energy, even temporarily, we should decrease the amoun to of food they're eating. If we walk our dogs less in the winter months, we should decrease their meal sizes.
2 – Unauthorized Snacks
In August, our apple trees are bursting with fruit and the dogs love them. I usually allow the dogs to have an apple, always taking them away when they get close to the core and apple seeds which contain cyanide. Initially, I wasn't taking those impromptu snacks into account when I was weighing their evening meals. Plus the apples are a snack that breaks down to sugar, which may not be a problem for an active dog, but it's not a snack that I want a sedentary dog eating too often.
Also, let the family know that additional “treats” and table scraps are not okay. I'm constantly reminding J that he cannot share his meal – even a small bite – with the dogs.
3 – Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid glands aren't producing enough hormones to help a system maintain a healthy metabolism. A dog that is diagnosed with hypothyroidism has an underactive thyroid, which means that the metabolism operates more slowly than it should if it were functioning normally.
Sydney was diagnosed with a thyroid condition that bordered on hypothyroidism two years ago; this means that if left unchecked, she could develop hypothyroidism. I switched to a new holistic veterinarian and when he saw her, he knew. Her diagnosis was confirmed after he sent her blood in for testing. Her condition doesn't require medication, because it isn't that far gone, however, I do have to watch her diet and it's a challenge to get weight off of her. She lost 10 pounds in the first year and has plateaued at 75 pounds for the past year.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Now that we have a diagnosis and I know more about hypothyroidism, it all makes sense because Sydney was experiencing many of the symptoms but none of her traditional vets made the connection. As some people say, vets are so used to seeing fat dogs that they don't see them as fat anymore.
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
- I've always described her as a couch potato because she seems to prefer napping to playing
- Sydney stopped showing an interest in playing with her siblings or going for walks
- She had dry skin and small patches of hair loss; she also had yeasty skin at times
- She used to have yeasty ears
Other symptoms that we didn't experience with Sydney include aggression, anxiety, seizures, or inability to handle cold temperatures.
Feeding my dogs a raw food diet helps and learning which foods to feed to support a healthy thyroid is key, therefore, I add the following to Sydney's diet:
- Ocean Kelp for the iodine
- Cruciferous vegetables*; which I also feed to help Sydney lose weight
- Milk Thistle** to naturally detox the liver and boost liver functions
*If you do additional research, you'll find that some people advise us to avoid adding cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, and cauliflower to a dog's diet if hypothyroidism is a concern. I do feed my dogs kale along with spinach, celery, parsley, brown mushrooms, and sometimes collard greens. According to Dr. Jean Doods, “the goitrogenic properties in these green leafy vegetables are minute and should not cause concern if fed in moderation.” Vegetables make up less than 5% of my dogs' raw diet.
Vegetables make up less than 10% of my dogs' raw diet and I add them in addition to the 80/10/5/5 ratio; I don't take away muscle meat to account for the vegetables.
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4 – Joint Health Issues and Arthritis
When Sydney was diagnosed with a partial cruciate tear, she was placed on rest for several weeks. Sydney used to be a dog that loved zoomies and she kept reinjuring her knee – over and over again. So several weeks turned into a few years and the subsequent weight gain (because my dumb butt didn't adjust her meals enough) became another hindrance.
Joint issues and arthritis can make getting enough exercise a challenge, which makes losing weight a challenge for my dog.
To help Sydney with her joint health, I've added the following to her diet:
- Canine System Saver – at least 4 days a week
- golden paste – at least 4 days a week, in both meals
- bone broth – I feed as a food topper several days a week
- fermented fish stock – I split a container between all four dogs for one week a month
- In Clover Connectin Chews** – Sydney gets two chews at least 5 days a week
I prefer chews to powder because I don't like adding all the powders to her meals; I worry about the extra calories and some of the inactive ingredients. With the chews, it's easy to control how much she gets, because she's on such a healthy diet with whole foods that support joint health (duck feet, beef trachea, bone broth), she doesn't need a lot of the Connectin chews.
The BONUS is that Sydney thinks these are treats, so I can make her happy while giving her a “snack” that supports her joints instead of cookies and other dog treats that just add to her waistline.
**In Clover has generously offered 10% off purchases to Keep the Tail Wagging® readers when you use code KTTW10 at check out. Shop now at InClover.com.
5 – Lack of Exercise
Sydney is a couch potato. She loves being outside with us, but if I'm not watching her, she'll find a place to sit or lay down and chill. So I'm always encouraging her to follow me as we walk around the property or else she won't get her exercise.
I've tried taking her on solo walks or walks with another dog, but she prefers to be at home and with her history of joint issues, I'm taking it easy on the exercise. We'll be starting short walks away from the property this weekend.
Another challenge is having four dogs that have different activity levels.
Scout is our most active and all we have to do is throw a ball and he'll chase it. If we don't throw the ball fast enough, he'll head to the pond for a swim. Rodrigo loves to run, play fetch, and roam. His exercise session involves a lot of recall training – the combination of fitness and training do a good job of wearing him out and keeping him trim.
Zoey loves to chase Rodrigo around but she bores easily of their games. And Sydney will sometimes wander off on her own (or with Zoey), but mostly, she'll only walk if I walk with her.
It's easy to get wrapped up in making sure Scout and Rodrigo get enough exercise because they are so active. We have to make sure that Sydney and Zoey are getting a workout that is right for them as well. So J handles the boys, I walk the property with the girls.
Helping My Dogs Lose Weight
Two of my dogs are at a healthy weight. Two are overweight, but thankfully they aren't obese so helping them lose weight should be easy and, in fact, I'm already seeing a difference since committing to their exercise and diet routine.
Having four dogs is a lot of work and I'm thankful to those in the dog lover community who have reached out to offer guidance and support. My goal is to see leaner dogs by the end of the year, avoiding additional health issues brought about by the extra weight they're carrying around.
Dr. Karen Becker on Canine Obesity