A dog’s diet – tackling the obesity epidemic in the nation’s dogs

Today’s domestic dogs are naturally carnivorous and scavengers and have the same nutritional requirements and dietary needs as their ancestors, who thrived on a diet made up predominantly of meat. Their bodies are designed to digest meat, with a short digestive tract not suitable for a high carbohydrate diet, a strong acidic stomach to break down meat and sharp teeth and strong jaws designed for ripping and shredding. However, a dog’s diet today is varied.

Pie chartOwners are now able to choose from an array of brands, types, formats and flavours as well as tit-bits that are offered or scavenged. Alongside this there is also often a lack of knowledge about how much a dog should eat and how much exercise they need. This in part may be to blame for the rise in obesity among dogs with one in three believed to be overweight or obese (PDSA 2011 national statistics report).

Earlier this year, Butcher’s released the findings of its Healthy Happy Hound report which studied the habits of 2,000 dogs and their owners. The report highlighted that there is a big gap between reported data on canine obesity (1in 3 dogs) and the perception owners have of their dogs’ weight (just 3 in 100), with a third of dog owners in the UK not knowing how much their dog weighs.

And whilst a dog is naturally carnivorous, 20% of owners rarely or never give their dog meat – arguably the most natural thing for them, with their teeth, digestive systems and behaviour clearly confirming that meat is best for a dog. Perhaps one of the most telling findings from the report was that over a quarter of dogs had never had a bone – one of the most iconic and natural things for a dog to enjoy. The report also identified that only 3% of owners think their dog is overweight which is in direct contrast to the national statistics which state that over 30% of dogs are actually overweight.) It goes on to identify that a staggering 32% of owners don’t have any idea how much their dog actually weighs, and subsequently nearly 30% are simply feeding their dog as much as he wants or just filling the bowl.

Many people don’t realise that dry food can be up to 4-times more calorific than meaty food, and will subsequently over-feed their dog. A dog fed regularly on a ‘complete meal’ such as Butcher’s Lean & Tasty will not only enjoy dinnertime more, but will also be dining on a more balanced and controlled diet which is full of meaty goodness. In fact, may people just don’t realise that meaty dog food, such as Lean & Tasty is actually a complete meal.

dry food fact box

Overweight dogs, just like overweight people, may struggle to get the most out of life, and just like people, when dogs go on a diet it can be hard work and difficult for owners to manage. Butcher’s Pet Care understands the importance of managing a dog’s diet and has developed Lean & Tasty which has 30% less fat and 15% fewer calories (than standard Butcher’s products) plus added L’Carnitine which converts fat into energy.

L&T cansClare Scallon, from Butcher’s Pet Care comments: “The Lean & Tasty range offers healthier, leaner and nutritionally balanced meals for dogs to help owners to keep their canine companions fit, active and full of life for longer. During a recent four-month feeding trial held here at Butcher’s, nine dogs fed on Lean & Tasty all lost weight, collectively losing 26kg, helping them reach their target weights. The star loser was a 10-year-old Labrador/Rottweiler cross, Trog, who lost just over a stone in total and now has a new lease of life.” To find out more about the trials see www.butcherspetcare.co.uk/realdogstories

For dogs that are currently overweight, exercise and play is also an important contributing factor to assist weight management. In the wild, dogs would spend an average of 4.5 hours exercising daily, however the Healthy Happy Hound Report found that more than half of our domestic dogs get less than 30 minutes exercise per day.

Before and afterDog behavioural expert and Crufts judge, Mike Mullan adds: “The pressures of modern life mean it’s difficult to exercise and play with our dogs as much as we would like. If they don’t get the right amount of exercise, mental stimulation and play they need, this can not only lead to obese dogs, it can also cause behavioural issues like chewing on slippers and, in extreme cases, acting aggressively. The reality is that dogs need daily energetic and active time to run free and do what dogs are supposed to do!”

Mike Mullan
Mike Mullan

Mike has been working with Butcher’s to develop a programme of training tips and exercises to help owners to cement their relationship with their dog in a loving, caring and respected way, which also goes towards keeping them happy and healthy. These expert tips are available at: www.butcherspetcare.co.uk/trainingtips.

There does appear to be an increasing knowledge gap when it comes to feeding dogs and how to ensure they get the right amount of exercise. More education is required to guide owners to make the right choices to ensure their dog eats healthily. A dog’s natural meaty diet is best and should be at the centre of their diet. With Lean & Tasty, owners get the best of both worlds, a meaty meal which can be used to either manage weight loss or maintain a dog’s appropriate weight.

Clare Scallon from Butcher’s Pet Care adds: “Our dogs are an integral part of our lives but they rely on us to ensure they live happy and healthy lives. By making small changes, such as managing their diet and ensuring they get enough exercise, we can ensure they live longer and are as Fit as a Butcher’s Dog!”