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Is My Pet Overweight?

By Dr. Alison Birken

It is the New Year, and just like with us humans, it is a great time to ensure your pet is at their optimal weight and best health. One of the most important lifestyle and health decisions you can make for your pet is to ensure they stay at their recommended weight. Obesity in pets an increasing problem. Being a small animal veterinarian, I see so many overweight pets, and I am always working with pet parents to create ideal diet and exercise plans for their pets.

With over half of all the pets in the United States being overweight (56% of dogs, 60% of cats), it is more important than ever to make sure pet parents are well informed about obesity in pets and maintaining a healthy weight for dogs and cats. When you know there is a problem, you can take the appropriate steps to rectify any health issues that may be present.

Your pet’s weight can say a lot about their overall health.

Obesity in pets is an epidemic in our country and poses dangerous health concerns for our pets. Just like with us, obesity in pets can lead to multiple diseases and health concerns, including the following:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin disease
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Seizures
  • Heart and respiratory disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Some cancers
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

Where to start?

So, how can we ensure our pets are fit and help them live longer and healthier lives? First, it is important to know if your pet is overweight.

Start by determining if your pet is at the ideal body weight using the Body Condition Scoring (BCS) method. Once we all have a better understanding of how your pet should look, your pet may have to lose some pounds. Always have your veterinarian evaluate your pet with BCS. Your veterinarian is your best resource for creating a proper diet plan and exercise regimen for your pet.

Help stop obesity in pets with these tips from the vet! 

  • Have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian and routine bloodwork performed to rule out systemic disease. Many times, weight gain can be from systemic illnesses such as hypothyroid.
  • Come to the vet prepared. Make sure you know the exact food type, the way in which you feed your pet, and how many and what type of treats your pet receives throughout the day. This information is helpful for the veterinarian to assess your pet’s general diet. Many times, veterinarians will have a form to fill out with your pet’s exact feeding schedule. This schedule is important in establishing how many calories your pet is eating daily and whether you need to cut back.
  • Your pet’s diet is the most important factor in keeping them healthy and at their optimal weight. Food choices and the ways in which pet parents are feeding their pets are evolving and improving. Pet parents and veterinarians are becoming more aware of the importance of whole food nutrition and feeding your pets high quality ingredients with no artificial additives or preservatives. Studies show that replacing 25% of your dogs current diet with real whole food, can decrease the probability of obesity in pets (along with reducing the risk of disease and even cancer). We suggest adding these foods that you can find in your fridge or try out our freeze dried patties
  • Measure meals. Have your veterinarian establish your pet’s ideal body weight then feed your pet the recommended amount of food according to their ideal body weight. With obesity in pets, some transitional goals may be more appropriate. Your veterinarian is the best resource to establish the goal weight for your pet at any given time. It is important to utilize the correct measuring tools when feeding your pet. Make sure your veterinarian knows exactly how you are measuring your pet’s food to ensure the correct amount.
  • Establish a feeding schedule. Many pets graze on food that is left for them all day. With overweight pets, we do not recommend grazing. Measure out the exact amount of food your pet should get, and give it to them at scheduled times throughout the day.
  • Cut down on treats. I know this is a tough one, but people do not realize how many calories treats can contribute to your pet’s diet. Just cutting out the treats alone, or switching to low fat treats, can result in weight loss for your pet.
  • Exercise! Just like we need to maintain an active lifestyle to stay in shape, our pets need to exercise to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Regular follow-ups are crucial in tracking your pet’s progress and the results of any new diet. Have your pet evaluated regularly with weight checks once the diet has been established. This evaluation is crucial in assessing the effectiveness of the plan and adjusting the diet, if needed.
  • A low-fat diet may be necessary to shed excess weight. If your pet does not respond to decreasing treats or receiving proper amounts of food and exercise, speak with your veterinarian about additional diet changes.

With obesity in pets on the rise, it is up to us to give our furbabies the healthiest lives possible. Our pets depend on us to make the right choices for them and to keep them healthy and strong. Our pets give us so much love, devotion, and loyalty, so let’s give them the benefits of health, happiness, and a long wonderful life!

If you haven’t already, sign up for our 30 Days Whole Food Challenge now!

Dr. Alison Birken is a small animal veterinarian in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. She owns Victoria Animal Hospital, is the co-founder of Forever Freckled, wife to her amazing husband Rob & mom to her 3 greatest accomplishments Luke, Leah & Hayden.

8 Dog Friendly Fridge Foods

Whether you are supplementing your dogs diet with whole foods or a high-quality freeze-dried food, replacing 25% of their food or completely transitioning – here are 8 Fridge Friendly Foods that you can add to their diet today!

Fruits

Apples & Blueberries

Apples are rich in Vitamin C as well as a host of other unique antioxidant and botanical compounds such as flavonoids. Apples provide soluble and insoluble fiber, some vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium and boron. They help reduce internal heat, moisten dryness (especially good for the lungs) and are very healing to the liver and gallbladder. 

Feeding Tip: Chop up & serve! Just make sure to remove any seeds before feeding

Blueberries are a source of powerful antioxidants that help support health and vitality. They help reduce the risk of illness, destroy free radicals (which are responsible for cell damage that can lead to diseases like cancer & heart disease). Additionally, blueberries are especially beneficial for older dogs as they increase and improve cognitive function. 

Feeding Tip: Try feeding them frozen, adding to their meal or feed as a treat! Be mindful that when giving your pup blueberries, it can turn their poop very, VERY dark…so use sparingly!

Leafy Greens

Kale & Spinach

Kale is one of the most nutrient dense dog-friendly vegetables. It is loaded with tons of vitamins and minerals that support your dog’s health and wellbeing. Kale contains high levels of vitamin A (supports eye and skin health), vitamin C (improves immune system function), and vitamin K (helps blood clotting and healing). It also contains loads of calcium to support bone health and potassium for heart health!

Spinach is another leafy green powerhouse. It contains a ton of vitamin A for clear eyes and healthy skin & vitamin C to bolster the immune system. Spinach also contains a sufficient amount of iron that improves energy!

Feeding tip: it is easier for dogs to digest leafy greens if they are lightly steamed, but if you don’t have time feeding them raw is fine!

Super Foods

Broccoli & Chia Seed

Broccoli is high in vitamin C, calcium, and soluble fiber, and also contains multiple nutrients, making broccoli a “super food” perfect for supporting health and wellness. Broccoli has high levels of vitamin K (for blood support), vitamin C (for immunity), vitamin E (for a healthy skin and coat), and vitamin B6 (supports brain and nervous system function). Broccoli also has chromium which helps dogs regulate their blood sugar and manage their weight!

Feeding tip: lightly steam broccoli before giving to your dog. 

Chia this little powerhouse has 3 times the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids as salmon! Omega-3 is important to balance out Omega-6 fatty acids and promotes healthy: Cells, Immune system, skin and coat, joints, brain development and maintenance, eye development and maintenance, and growth. Additionally, chia can absorb 10 times its own weight in water and generates a gel which can be consumed. The gel slows the conversion of carbohydrates into sugars and by doing this, chia supports normal insulin function and sensitivity, blood sugar regulation and glucose tolerance. (BONUS – slowing down digestion allows for the full absorption of nutrients which means dogs feel satiated longer). Chia also contains more calcium than whole milk, more iron than raw spinach and more magnesium than broccoli.  Yeah, this little, tiny non-allergenic seed has got it all going on. 

Feeding tip: We recommend feeding 1/8tsp for every 10lbs. Just sprinkle on top of their food!

Breath Fresheners (No more puppy breath!!)

Celery & Parsley

Celery is very low in fat and cholesterol and is an excellent source of fiber; vitamins A, C, and K; folate; potassium; and manganese. This crunchy veggie also might freshen up your dog’s breath! #score

Parsley is an herb that serves as a dietary source of antioxidants, chlorophyll, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. It’s nutritive and rich in protein, fiber, and vitamins (A, C, B1, B2, and K). In addition, it also contains trace minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. I think most people know that parsley can freshen a dog’s breath and can treat canine halitosis (bad breath).

Feeding tip: Perfectly fine to feed either raw!

We recommend replacing 25% of your dog’s diet with a combination of a few of these foods – no dog wants to eat a bowl of parsley (well, ok some MIGHT…). Add a few fruits, some superfoods & maybe a sprinkle of chia seed! Bone Appetit!

If you haven’t already, head over to www.thewholefoodtruth.com to take the 30 Day Whole Food Pledge now! You’ll get tips, tricks, info from our sponsors, industry articles & all the tools you need to help your dog have their happiest, healthiest, most tail waggin’ year ever. 

This Year, Help Your Pet Get Healthier & Live Longer

Ahhh New Year’s Resolutions – a time to eat healthier, cut the sugar, ditch the booze, sleep more, get to the gym, floss (your teeth not the dance, but if that’s one of your resolutions… that’s cool too, you do you!) Every year millions of people make a commitment to themselves to get healthier, but what about our pets? Often times we forget to apply these same philosophies to our beloved fur babies, but not this year! This year is going to be the year your dog will feel better than ever, jump higher, run faster & add years to their life. Seem crazy? It’s not. The length & quality of their life starts in their bowls and in their bellies. 

Whether you have a 6 month old puppy or 14 year old dog, a seemingly healthy dog or one with a variety of ailments, food can be used to help them live longer, fight illness, prevent disease & heal from within. 

It starts with diet

Eating better is SIMPLE – for us & it’s easy for our pups. So often we think of eating healthy as all (just salads & grilled chicken) or nothing (an XXXL Pizza with onion rings & wings please) & that same thinking sometimes gets passed on to our pets. 

It’s 2019 people! It’s time we change our mindset to “every little bit helps” because helping our pets eat better & get healthier doesn’t have to mean going to find duck necks & grinding up bones…(although if that’s what you’re looking for, we have some amazing raw food gurus that can help!). It is small, simple, easy long-term changes that have the biggest impact on their overall health & wellness.

Let’s dig in

That’s great! Easy, simple… better health.. sounds great! Now what? Here are 3 things you can do TODAY to immediately improve their health:

1. Make the switch from kibble

If you’re feeding kibble, begin to transition your dog to a high-quality freeze-dried food with minimal processing and whole food ingredients. Removing chemicals, fillers & highly processed foods from their diet will help their body absorb all the amazing nutrients you are feeding! In addition, it can also help heal any ailments or illness they may be experiencing, boost their immune system & can help prevent disease. A health body nourished with REAL food is a happy & strong one!

2. Supplement their diet

If they eat 2 meals a day, replace one of their meals with real food or a freeze-dried food with whole food ingredients! 

3. Incorporate whole foods

We get it, making a change to your dog’s diet can seem overwhelming…especially with all the choices. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing though! By replacing 25% of your dog’s diet with whole foods or a freeze dried food, you can lower their chances of diabetes, obesity & cancer and they could live up to 2x longer! (If you maintain this long term). All you have to do is measure their normal serving size, remove ¼ of it & replace that amount with real food! Yup. It’s that easy!

Now What?

Now you may be saying to yourself, “Healthier pup? Help them live longer?! Sign me up! Now what?”

First: decide if you want to:

  1. Completely transition them to a high-quality freeze-dried food (we may be biased, but we have the cleanest label in the industry – check it out for yourself!)
  2. Supplement part of their diet or
  3. Replace some of their food with whole foods. (looking for suggestions? Check out our “8 Dog Friendly Fridge Foods” Post!)

Whatever you decide, AWESOME! It’s one step towards adding healthier years to your dog’s life & that’s game changing. 

If you haven’t already, head over to www.thewholefoodtruth.comto take the 30 Day Whole Food Pledge now! You’ll get tips, tricks, info from our sponsors, industry articles & all the tools you need to help your dog have their happiest, healthiest, most tail waggin’ year ever. 

Ready to make the change? Shop now & get 25% off your entire order just use code wholefoodtruth at checkout!

Happy Veterans Day

To the brave men and women who protect our freedom. Who put their lives on the line every single day to keep our country safe. Who sacrifice time with their families and fight for our rights as Americans.

We want to say thank you.

Thank you for your bravery, your patriotism and your heart.

For those overseas and in active duty, stay safe. For those in training, stay strong. And for those that have returned home, welcome back.

We know that the transition from soldier to civilian isn’t always the easiest one – you’ve seen things most people could never imagine, been in scenarios most would never dream of.

We want you to know that we appreciate you.

To show our support, we’ve made a commitment to provide food and wellness support to service and therapy dogs. This way, soldiers and veterans can rest easier knowing their special companion and friend is healthy, active and focused on what matters most. Helping them.

These remarkable dogs provide significant support to those dealing with a variety of issues – from traumatic brain injuries, to PTSD, to depression and anxiety. Their sole purpose in life is to protect you, the brave men and women who protect us.

Sometimes, the wonderful aid of a service or therapy dog can add a financial stress to a family. That’s how we can help. We offer these amazing animals food and wellness support, so they can do the amazing work of taking care of you.

With Veterans Day being such an incredibly important day to so many of us, we want to introduce someone, well, 2 someones, that are very special to us – Carl & Max.

Meet Carl & Max

Carl is an active duty officer who served 10 years in Special Ops. Upon returning home he was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, depression and hypervigilance – whenever he goes somewhere he’s always “on high alert constantly assessing exits & threats”. He’d heard of fellow soldiers who had success managing these symptoms by working with a service dog, so he applied to a handful of government funded programs for one of his own. Unfortunately, he was denied by all of them. After researching & asking around, he found a Malinois breeder in Virginia that had a few puppies left from a litter. One of those puppies, of course, was Max & the rest, as they say, was history.

We met Carl & Max at the Warrior Games this past June where we sponsored Veterans and their service dogs. We knew instantly that they shared an incredibly special bond, their connection was one of trust, comfort & appreciation for each other. It was truly heartwarming.

When we heard Carl talk about Max, we noticed his voice immediately light up. He said, “I’ll tell you, Max is special. As a service dog they don’t want you to have people say hi to him. Literally I’ve walked him on base and I had a gentleman do a U-turn in a truck and stop in the middle of the street, just to meet Max. He’s just SO special…”

After spending the afternoon with Carl & Max, we learned that Max recently started experiencing health issues – he suffered 2 seizures over the course of just a couple months along with a Lyme diagnosis. We knew we had to help & offered them nutritional guidance, emotional support and promised to be a resource for any questions they may have. After all, a dog isn’t just a pet, they are a part of the family, and in this case – even more than that.

How Does Max help Carl?

For Carl, Max brings him peace, comfort & security in a way nothing else can – Max is “on” so Carl doesn’t have to be. Carl can finally relax, he can unwind & enjoy time with his wife & 4 kids – whether they are at home or out exploring. We were curious how Max transitioned into their family – was it an easy adjustment? Is he friendly? Does he get along with Carl’s children or was he always protective? Without missing a beat – Carl said, “Max is like a sibling to them. He’s a part of the family”

Carl & Max – we are grateful to have the opportunity to help your family, and honored to have you become a part of ours. We look forward to helping Max thrive & live his longest, best life possible. Thank you for your service.

Use code Veterans18 at checkout to get free shipping on orders over $50. May not be combined with other offers or promotions. Expires Monday 11/12 at 11:59pm