Pet Advice & Ideas

Bulletin: Recent Pet Food Recalls

man feeding cat kibble

Note: No Life’s Abundance products are involved in these or any other recalls.

In the past few weeks, the FDA has announced recalls of dog and cat foods that could impact your pet. Here’s what pet parents need to know:

June 13th - Freshpet voluntarily recalled salmonella-contaminated dog food. This was meant to be trashed, however the single lot was shipped to Publix’s in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia and Target stores in Arizona and Southern California. The dog food recalled is Freshpet Select Small Dog Bite Size Beef & Egg Recipe Dog Food. The one pound bags have a sell by date of 10/30/2021 and the Lot Code is 1421FBP0101.

June 3rd - Sunshine Mills voluntarily recalled some of their dog foods due to salmonella contamination. This includes the 40 lb. Sportsman's Pride Professional Formula 30/20 Dog Food (Lot TI1); 5 and 40 lb. Sprout Sporting Dog Food (Lot TE1 and TI3); 16 and 40 lb. Intimidator Chicken & Rice Formula Dog Food 30/20 (Lot TA1); and 50 lb. FRM Gold Select High Performance Dog Food (Lot TA1).

May 20th - Natural Balance Pet Foods voluntarily recalled their 5 and 10 lb. L.I.D. Green Pea & Chicken Dry Cat Formula for possible salmonella contamination. Products were distributed nationwide in the U.S. by both retail and online distribution. The lot codes are 1008080 06:42N811202:20 and 1008080 06:42N811202:20.

For all of the above, the FDA advises to discard the recalled products in a way that children, pets and wildlife cannot access them. They also recommend washing your hands and any dishes or utensils that have come into contact with the recalled food.

No illnesses have been reported as a result of these recalled dog and cat foods to date.

dog at vet

A Safer Solution

At Life's Abundance, we have a much better and safer way of protecting and notifying consumers should a problem ever arise. Because of our direct relationship with consumers we know who received which product, down to the lot number. In the event there is ever an issue with a product, our proactive communications system allows us to reach thousands of people by phone in just one hour, ensuring that we can contact all affected customers quickly. We can also reach them by email and even through the mail. Without this direct outreach, most consumers will never hear about a recall.

If you or someone you know is feeding one of the recalled brands listed above, now may be a good time to make the switch to a premium Life's Abundance diet. If you already feed Life's Abundance to your companion, you can remain confident in your choice and our commitment to helping families, including pets, live long, healthy lives!


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The Secret Ingredient to a Sweet Smelling Pet

dog getting a bath

Most of us can admit that the best time to cuddle up your pet is right after they’ve had a bath. Gorgeous, soft floof with a fresh scent? We’re all for it! Their outside playtime, and even just going for walks, tends to come with mud, leaves, or rain. Dirt can build up on their paws and fur which ultimately results in those unpleasant odors tracking into your home. Bathing your pup every few weeks cleanses their skin and coat and in addition to getting rid of the odor, it also clears out any loose hair and other debris. Cats may not have the same muddy habits as dogs, but some cats need an extra helping hand when it comes to cleanliness and hygiene. That’s where you and the right pet shampoo come in.

While you may be thinking that any pet shampoo will suffice, not all of them are created equal. Other shampoos use harsh ingredients like paraben and formaldehyde preservatives that can be irritating to your pet’s skin. This could lead to more serious concerns in the long run. In addition, other formulas use fragrances alone to cover up bad smells which tend to disappear before you can even enjoy it. For a real difference you can smell, it’s not only important to leave behind a lasting fresh scent from clean, safe ingredients, but also completely eliminate the bad odor at its source. 

So, what’s the secret ingredient?

Life’s Abundance Revitalizing Shampoo

Our Revitalizing Shampoo for pets pampers your pups and kitties by naturally cleansing and purifying their coat. With just a small amount, you’ll get a luxurious lather that doesn’t strip their skin and coat of its natural oils. The antioxidants from organic rosemary and sage prevent damage from environmental factors while natural emollients keep their coat soft and full bodied. Even better, the kiwi and mango work with the citrus notes to leave behind a cuddle-worthy scent.

man kissing dog on head

The Secret Ingredient

Now, here’s where things get interesting. We included a special ingredient in our pet shampoo that completely neutralizes stink, called Ordenone®. This compound works to trap odors immediately on contact and permanently remove them. How does it do this? Chemistry! Ordenone® particles are thought to have a somewhat malleable shape. Once they come into contact with malodor molecules, they adapt to their shape in order to trap them and keep them from reaching your nose. This means that there is no “masking” or covering up of the malodor with heavy fragrances or perfumes that can irritate you and your pet. Instead, you get a fresh smelling pet each time you use Revitalizing Shampoo. Even better, it is safe, gentle and does not strip the skin or coat’s natural defenses.

How To Use

You can use Revitalizing Shampoo as a normal shampoo for your pet as young as 12 weeks of age. A little bit goes a long way and all you need is a small dollop! Lather up and repeat as necessary. Add a little spa-quality to finish off the perfect bath with our Bath Fresh Mist. It adds a little smoothing and detangling power, plus it smells fantastic! It’s a perfect after-bath or between-bath spritz. Now when your furry friend wants to snuggle up with you on the couch they’ll be sure to pass the ‘sniff test’!


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Let's Talk About Raw Pet Diets

owner giving dog food

When I was growing up, my mom brought home whatever was on sale that week in the pet aisle: sometimes kibbles shaped like peas and hearts dyed painfully bright shades of green, other times packets filled with squishy red tubes meant to look like ground beef.

Whether or not that was a sound nutritional choice wasn’t on our radar; the vet never batted an eye when we said we fed Kibbles n’ Bits mixed with store brand chow. That’s what you did in the 80s.

The whole idea of ‘high end” pet foods didn’t start to gain a foothold until around the time I started vet school, and now the boutique market has evolved into a dizzying array of food choices, each marketed to one specific niche of owners: the grain-free types, the breed specific types, the dehydrated types, the organic types. There are plenty of folks still on the Gravy Train gravy train. And then there are the raw food aficionados. Each niche has its strongly held beliefs and values, and a good portion of them will take those to the grave.

“So what are you feeding your pet?”, which used to be a pretty generic question to ask during an exam, suddenly became a meaning-laden query laced with dynamite. It’s an oft-shared fact that many veterinarians don’t bring up nutrition with owners at all, and for many of them it comes down to “It never changes anyone’s mind anyway.”

How I approach nutrition conversations

I disagree that conversations never change anyone’s mind. Sometimes a conversation is DOA, but other times it’s a really good opportunity to learn more about a person and their relationship to their pet. Like many interactions we have with each other in life, I’ve found so much more success entering a conversation from a place of curiosity versus intent, of understanding before judging.

Getting to the why of someone’s food choices not only helps you understand that person and their pet better, it gives you an opportunity to determine whether or not a nutrition conversation is something they are open to in the first place.

Let’s be honest here: if someone’s mind is made up, and I mean really made up, nothing you say will change their mind. This goes for both sides of the raw food debate. You can pull up pages upon pages of information that make a compelling-sounding argument that people can and do use to bolster their argument all the time.

These people believe deep in their bones that their choice, whatever it is, is in the best interest of their pets and anyone who believes the opposite is either ill intentioned or woefully misinformed. Arguing just makes hard feelings even harder.

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Trying to change the mind of someone not open to having a conversation isn’t something I dedicate time to these days. I respect their desire to make the right decision even if I don’t agree with the decision they ultimately made. Then we move on.

But sometimes, asking someone the “why” of a person’s choices leads to some really wonderful dialogue. Why do you think this is the healthiest choice? What specifically is it about uncooked food that you think is better than cooked food? What concerns you about commercial pet foods? If you know the specific objections someone has or a specific benefit they’ve identified, now you have a very discrete piece of information you can explore. Is it recalls? Worries about old food? Ingredient sourcing? Those things I can answer.

As you can imagine, I believe- like many of my veterinary colleagues- that raw food isn’t the best choice for most pet owners. Whether or not you take my advice will depend on whether or not you trust me in the first place, of course. But let’s assume we have a rapport, and you and I start talking about it. I will tell you the truth:

Over the years, I’ve used just about everything on the market depending on my pet’s situation: the grocery store kibble of my childhood. Kibble from the big brands, prescription foods. Canned foods, rehydrated foods. I even tried raw once, and stopped not because my cat did poorly but because of the risks to people in the house.

Now, I want the healthiest choices available for my pets with the convenience and consistency of a commercial diet, made by a company whose ethics and purpose I believe in based on their transparency, accountability, and quality control history. I am very happy with my decision.

The best thing I can do as a person with expertise is give you the information and the resources I have, and help you line that up with your priorities for your pet.

I can give you my suggestions as to what you should do with that information, suggestions based on twenty years in the field working with thousands of people and pets. Ultimately, though, it’s your choice.

That works really well. Be honest and share what you know. Lead with your good intent, and be satisfied that you had a good conversation no matter the outcome. You won’t win everyone over, but you’ll connect with the people you were meant to.

References:

Read a veterinary nutritionist's perspective: https://weethnutrition.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/campylobacter-salmonella-e-coli-oh-my-why-i-dont-recommend-raw-meat-for-pets/

Tufts College of Veterinary Medicine primer on raw diets: https://vet.tufts.edu/wp-
content/uploads/raw_meat_diets_memo.pdf

Cavallo SJ, Daly ER, Seiferth J, et al. Human outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium associated with exposure to locally made chicken jerky pet treats, New Hampshire, 2013. Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2015;12(5):441-446.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human salmonellosis associated with animal-derived pet treats— United States and Canada, 2005. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.

2006;55(25):702-705. Freeman LM, Chandler ML, Hamper BA, Weeth LP. Current knowledge about the risks and
benefits of raw meat-based diets for dogs and cats. J Vet Intern Med. 2013;243(11):1549-1558.


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Pet Parent Tips From Life’s Abundance Employees

child whispering in dog ear

The past year has brought about lots of new pandemic pets and we are all for it! As pet parents ourselves, we understand that getting a new pup or cat can come with a lot of work. From getting all their essentials to training them, it can sometimes get a little overwhelming. So, we asked our very own Life’s Abundance employees for their top tips on having a furry friend.

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Want more? Here’s additional tips and tricks we felt you just had to know!

Nail clipping is so much easier with a second person holding an enticing treat level to the floor. It's a wonderful distraction to help keep the dog in place and distracted. Who knew they could love a pedicure?! - Arin

I try to get creative and make fun games for my dog, Tucker, to keep his mind busy. Like putting his food in a puzzle. - Alyssa

Establish pack leadership, pack mental health, and boundaries for the pack inside the house. - Jennifer

Don't free feed, give 2-3 small meals a day and always plenty of water. - Stephen

Entertain them when away at work. Lots of toys and I have an interactive camera so I can say hi to her and send her a treat. I also use a treat holder and I leave that in the morning before I leave to keep her a little entertained. - Denise

Make sure your dog is microchipped and has a collar on with his or her name and a phone number to call if they get lost. - Rocky

Do not start feeding your dog table scraps. It will be very hard to resume pet food after your vet yells at you for doing something you know you shouldn’t have started to begin with. Just don't do it. If you must, keep a bag of high-quality dog treats around and toss one out every so often. - Sasha

Whether you’re a new pet parent or an experienced one, we hope you learned something new!

What are your best tips you use for your furry friends? Comment below!


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Why Your Vet Isn’t Talking to You About Cannabis

dog smelling oil supplement

In just a few short years, Cannabis has gone from that thing college kids spent too much time thinking about, to the mainstream belle of the ball. Powered by an interest in natural medicine, a distrust of traditional pharmaceuticals, and some strong word-of-mouth talk of results, everyone from your neighbor to your buttoned-up grandmother is comfortable talking about CBD oil and what it can do for your health. Naturally, the topic also extends to our loyal furry family members.

I get asked about Cannabis more than almost anything else: does it work, what should I use, where’s a good place to start. And like most other veterinarians I know, we have very little guidance to offer. Trust me, we are just as frustrated as you are. There is nothing I want more than to be able to provide the best, safest information for pet owners about this or any other medical concern. There’s just one problem: the law may or may not forbid it.

It’s not that we aren’t talking about Cannabis and learning: every continuing education conference I’ve been to has multiple lectures about Cannabis use in pets and how to do it safely. Those lecture halls are packed. The second we’re legally allowed to discuss it, we’re ready.

THC vs CBD

Without going too far down the chemical rabbit hole, most of the legal wrangling and debate comes down to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the hallucinogenic component of the Cannabis plant. This is concentrated in the flowering buds, leaves, and resin. Other parts of the plant are much lower in THC but still contain cannabidiol oil (CBD), which provides the purported medicinal benefits without the psychoactive ones. CBD oil products are not intended, nor should they be, to get a pet “high.”

“Controlled” substances are those drugs with a potential for abuse. Those are controlled on a federal level by the DEA, and those regulations supersede any state law.

0.3 is the magic number to be classified as controlled. If the plant parts used in a product contain less than 0.3% THC, it’s considered industrial hemp. The DEA doesn’t care about industrial hemp. This is where most CBD oils marketed to pets are derived from.

Anything over 0.3% THC is classified as a Schedule 1 substance by the DEA, and we aren’t allowed to possess, administer, dispense, describe, or discuss it under risk of prosecution.

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The Legal Ramifications

The next question seems obvious: if the DEA doesn’t care about industrial hemp and that’s where most veterinary CBD products come from, what’s the problem?

Confusion, mostly.

  1. While the DEA doesn’t care about industrial hemp products, they still fall under federal regulation- ie, the FDA.
  2. CBD oils are not FDA approved for use in pets, and while their official positioning is still under review the current rule is “not legal for vets to prescribe.
  3. Veterinarians are also subject to state regulations, which are just as confusing and perhaps directly contradictory to federal ones.

Just last year, California became the first state to pass a law expressly allowing veterinarians to talk about Cannabis with pet owners. Not sell it, not distribute it, just answer the question “do you think CBD oil is worth a try in my dog with cancer?” In 49 other states, vets aren’t even sure they can legally answer that question, nevermind recommend anything.

No one really knows what could happen when a veterinarian does something as simple as help guide a client through safely choosing a product without actually selling it him/herself. A few brave souls are out there testing the waters, but most of us are waiting for the legal OK.

So Now What?

The law will eventually catch up with reality. As a consumer, you can advocate for your pet by calling your state representatives and encouraging them to pass a law similar to California AB-2215. In the meantime, please be patient with us as we do our best to advocate for your pet within the constraints of the law.

As you can imagine, non-veterinarians without the worry of DEA prosecutors hanging over their heads and livelihoods are saying and doing all sorts of things about CBD. Some of them have your pet’s best interest in mind, while others are looking out for their pocketbooks. Like all supplements, some manufacturers take quality control much more seriously than others. Published research is scarce, but people are working on getting factual, science-based information out there.

As a pet advocate, I sometimes have to get creative when it comes to getting the word out there about pet health. There are some really science-minded, ethical veterinary professionals who have great information. In fact, they’re the ones teaching us at veterinary conferences. In my accompanying infographic, I’m sharing the same great information and resources that veterinarians are hearing at conferences.


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Bulletin: Cat Food Recall Due To Salmonella

cat at vet

Note: No Life’s Abundance products are involved in this or any other recall.

On April 9th, the parent company of Meow Mix, J.M. Smucker Co., announced a limited recall on their 30 lb. bag of Original Choice Dry Cat Food over a potential salmonella contamination.

What Pet Parents Should Know

The impacted Meow Mix products were sold at some Walmart stores in several states, including Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The company advises pet parents to avoid feeding this food to their cats and throw out any product immediately. The bacteria can sicken cats and anyone who handles the food as well.

Lots of the following Meow Mix pet food products have been recalled if the expiration date is on or before “09/15/22” and has a lot code of “1081804” or “1082804.” You can find this information on the bottom or back of the cat food bags.

More About Salmonella

Salmonella is a bacteria that affects both people and animals. It is transmitted through contact with contaminated food or surfaces that may have been contaminated by the recalled products. Thorough hand washing and sanitizing contact surfaces can reduce the risk of symptoms including: nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, and more severely, arthritis and muscle pain.

The GI symptoms are very similar in cats who contract Salmonella, and they may also experience fever or decreased appetite. Even with no symptoms, they can still pass the infection to other pets or humans in your household. If you or your pets experience any of these symptoms after having contact with a recalled food, contact the appropriate healthcare provider.

A Safer Solution

At Life's Abundance, we have a much better and safer way of making pet foods and notifying consumers should a problem ever arise. As for consumer safety, we view the system of product recalls as problematic. That is because most consumers will never hear about a recall. Yet because of our direct relationship with consumers we know who received which product, down to the lot number. In the event there is ever an issue with a product, our proactive communications system allows us to reach thousands of people by phone in just one hour, ensuring that we can contact all affected customers quickly. We can also reach them by email and even through the mail.

We hope the information we shared with you will do two things. One, alert cat food consumers of this situation, and two, help you feel even more confident about Life's Abundance and our commitment to helping families, including our pets, live long, healthy lives!


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Words Dogs Love To Hear The Most

dog licking owner

I think most of us dog parents can admit we will do just about anything to see our pup wag their tail at lightning speed or give us tons of those sweet, sloppy kisses. Turns out, it’s as easy as saying a simple word or two! A new study that surveyed 4,389 dogs reveals that there are certain words that they love to hear the most. These dogs varied within their breeds, ages, and sizes. Normally, a dog’s resting heart rate is at around 115 BPM. But with these *magic* words, their heart can race up to 156 BPM:

  1. Walkies: Coming in at #1 is the infamous “walkies.” Our furry friends absolutely love their daily walks with their heart rates beating at approximately 156 BPM whenever you say the word. That’s a 36% increase! By nature, dogs are active beings that aren’t used to staying indoors all day, so we can certainly understand their excitement when it’s time to go into the great outdoors!
  2. Dinner/food/eat: Obtaining food is an instinct for dogs, so it makes sense as to why this is their second favorite word. We’re sure you’ve probably seen your pup come racing around the corner when you pour their kibble in a bowl, so there’s no denying this one.
  3. Treat: Is it really any surprise that “treat” makes it on this list? At 151 BPM, we can all agree that getting a yummy snack is one of the many highlights of your pup’s day. With the savory ingredients in wholesome dog treats, it’s no wonder they can’t resist.

The fourth and fifth most excitable words are “get it” and “fetch.” These words tend to have a tasty award attached to them which is why our smart pups love to hear them. In this study, it also highlighted the least loved phrases which included “roll over” and “speak,” which do not usually have a treat attached to them. Check out the full list of beloved words below:

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We want to hear what words make your pup’s tail wag! Comment below!


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How Cats Help Your Health

cat head scratch

It's long been known that dogs can have a soothing effect on their human’s health - but did you know that cats can do something similar as well? There are many studies that show that sharing your home with cats supports good physical and mental health. I mean really, who can be upset when you’re looking at those sweet faces? Here are some of the ways that your feline friends help you out.

Improves Your Mental Health

Imagine relaxing on your couch and your purring cat cuddles up next to you. Did you know that by simply petting your cat, your body produces stress reducing hormones? Talk about a win-win for both you and your feline! In one study, single people with cats reported feeling fewer negative emotions and bad moods than single people who do not own cats. Even if you’re prone to stress, cat parents also feel less stress and more confidence when their cat is present. 

Boosts Your Physical Health 

Being a cat owner can also improve your physical health in a variety of ways. Studies show:

  • Many cat owners sleep better than non-cat owners.
  • Cat owners may be less likely to die from a heart attack. This is true even of former cat owners!
  • Small health complaints, like headaches, backaches, and colds reduce or diminish after a person gets a cat.
  • Cat owners have a lower resting heart rate and lower blood pressure.
  • You have better ability to cope with challenges than people who don’t have pets.

woman petting cat

Mental Health Development in Young People

If you thought cats were only good for you, they are an even better influence on your kids. One survey of kids between the ages of 11 and 15 showed that those with pet cats enjoyed better quality of life. This included higher energy levels, better attention and focus, and improved social skills. Kids in this study were overall happier, whether at school or at home. In addition, when kids are exposed to cats early on in life, their immune system is built up as they age. Therefore, they are less likely to develop allergies or asthma.

Relationship Management

You know that love you have for your cat? These feelings actually extend into your interactions with other people. Cat parents tend to be more socially sensitive and trusting, which helps them in relationships. Even more, they allow us to be more caring, loving, and patient. In fact, it's been suggested that cats are "social catalysts," prompting their humans to interact with others. This can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

Cats help you in a variety of ways. You have someone to care for, snuggle with, talk to, look after, think about, play with and interact with. Your cat helps you stay healthy, and of course we want to do the same for them.

One of the most critical factors in helping your feline friend thrive is their daily nutrition source. Feeding a healthy diet to your cat will help them live their happiest, longest life by your side. We formulate food with both you and your cat in mind by only choosing ingredients that work well together and give real results. Plus, our carefully designed antioxidant and gut health systems supply your cat with the support they need. Learn more about premium cat food and cat treats, and give your felines the same love they give to you!


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Bulletin: Massive Pet Food Recall Due to Salmonella

feeding pets


Note: No Life’s Abundance products are involved in this or any other recall.

On March 27th, the FDA announced a massive recall of 140 lots of dog and cat food produced by Midwestern Pet Foods. This voluntary recall spans many brands and is the result of possible Salmonella contamination.

What Pet Parents Should Know

  • The list of affected brands includes Earthborn Holistic, Venture, CanineX, Unrefined, Sportmix Wholesomes, Pro Pac, Pro Pac Ultimates, Sportstrail, Sportmix and Meridian.
  • The complete list of affected lots can be found at FDA.gov.
  • The FDA advises to discard the recalled products in a way that children, pets and wildlife cannot access them.
  • They also recommend washing your hands and any dishes or utensils that have come into contact with the recalled food.
  • No illnesses have been reported as a result of the recalled dog and cat foods to date.

What Is Salmonella

Salmonella is a bacteria that affects both people and animals. It is transmitted through contact with contaminated food or surfaces that may have been contaminated by the recalled products. Thorough hand washing and sanitizing contact surfaces can reduce the risk of symptoms including: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping or fever.

The GI symptoms are very similar in dogs and cats who contract Salmonella, and they may also experience lethargy or decreased appetite. If you or your dog or cat experience any of these symptoms after having contact with a recalled food, contact the appropriate healthcare provider.

For a complete list of the 140 recalled lots, visit FDA.gov.

A Safer Solution

At Life's Abundance, we have a much better and safer way of making pet foods and notifying consumers should a problem ever arise. As for consumer safety, we view the system of product recalls as problematic. That is because most consumers will never hear about a recall. Yet because of our direct relationship with consumers we know who received which product, down to the lot number. In the event there is ever an issue with a product, our proactive communications system allows us to reach thousands of people by phone in just one hour, ensuring that we can contact all affected customers quickly. We can also reach them by email and even through the mail.

We hope the information we shared with you will do two things. One, alert unsuspecting dog and cat food consumers of this situation, and two, help you feel even more confident about Life's Abundance and our commitment to helping families, including our pets, live long, healthy lives!


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A Guide To Managing Your Dog’s Weight

owner giving dog belly rub

I have a confession to make.

My dog is officially a chonk.

Like many others with more than one dog in the house, I have one dog who is ambivalent about food and one who loves food with a deep and abiding passion. One eats to live, one lives to eat. Guess which one is the retriever.

I tried to keep my life simple by just having one kind of dog food in the house, but even when we were measuring the food it seemed like Ollie was getting a little wider by the month. A Nest cam confirmed my suspicions- once Dakota wandered away from his bowl, Ollie would run over and scarf up a mouthful of extra kibble as soon as we left the room. I appreciate his resourcefulness, if not the results. Too much to love.

Obesity is a huge problem in veterinary medicine; in fact, almost half the dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. I’m not happy with myself that I let this sneak up on me, as extra weight in dogs tends to compound: it increases their risk of orthopedic problems, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Bottom line: I need to turn this around.

If you are in the same boat with your dog or cat, look, it’s certainly not an unusual problem and I share my own story because I don’t want people to avoid facing the issue because they’re embarrassed, which happens a lot. We don’t often see ‘ideal weight’ dogs out in the world, and we’re pretty used to seeing overweight dogs without batting an eye. If your vet mentions your dog’s weight to you, take a breath and remind yourself that it’s good information to know so you can address it. This isn’t a conversation about what happened yesterday, it’s about what happens tomorrow. It is fixable. Your vet is there to help you with that.

So now what?

Back in the day, advice surrounding weight loss was pretty straightforward: feed them less. Now that we know more, we address it a little differently than saying just to cut back on their regular maintenance food. Dog foods contain a static amount of nutrients mixed into the formulation: for example, if your dog eats 1 cup of food and gets 50 milligrams of a vitamin, cutting the food to ½ cup would mean they’re now only getting 25 mg of that vitamin. Dramatic reductions of their regular dog food could lead to malnourishment.

A better approach: pick a dog food designed for weight loss or weight management. These foods have lower caloric density, meaning there are fewer calories per cup than standard food. This means the pup gets to eat more and doesn’t end up doing that panicked “I’m starving” routine that leads all too many pet owners to give in and go back to their old habits.

Instead of halving the volume of food and also halving the nutrients, this option keeps the volume of food and the amount of vitamins the same. The dog still gets to eat a full cup of food and gets that full 50 mg of vitamins, that cup just has fewer calories. That is the beauty of weight management diets.

You’d think it would be pretty easy to figure out how much food to feed, but if you’ve ever actually attempted it you know it’s trickier than it looks. Yes, the bags may give you a range of how much food to feed, but it’s pretty vague. Pets have different metabolisms and different activity levels, so one 50 pound dog may require fewer calories than another to lose the same weight. It’s just like people! We all have that friend who can eat and eat and eat and still remains svelte no matter what, while others just look at a bag of chips and seem to gain five pounds.

If I wanted to know how many calories I ate today, there are tons of apps that can help me figure that out. They have tens of thousands of entries in their database with full caloric information. You’d think it would be easy to calculate the calories in dog food, but it’s not. Some foods tell you how many calories are in each cup (kcal/cup), but most don’t- meaning you have to call the company or try to find it online.

owner giving dogs food

Even if you do know how many calories there are in a cup, how do you know your calorie goal for your canine? Your vet can give you a calculation based on your pet’s current weight and activity, target weight, and how quickly you’re trying to reach the goal. Once you know their calorie count for the day and how much food to feed, all you have to do is stick with it. Weigh it, use a measuring cup, but whatever you do, don’t eyeball it. That never works.

For mild to moderately overweight dogs, a standard weight management food can work just fine to get your dog where he or she needs to be. For pets with significant weight obstacles, sometimes the vet will recommend a prescription weight loss diet. It is even more calorie restricted than over the counter weight management foods, and often has additional components such as higher protein, higher fiber, and nutrients that specifically support veterinarian supervised weight loss. Once a pet reaches their ideal weight, they transition back to an over the counter food.

Over the counter weight management foods aren’t just for overweight dogs! They are also good maintenance diets for those who are prone to gaining weight.

What about treats? Like everything else, treats count as calories, so keep it to less than 10% of your dog’s intake and plan accordingly. You can get creative here with pet-safe veggies. Ollie gets lettuce at every meal now and he thinks it’s the best thing ever. In fact, Dakota got jealous and now will only eat if he, too, has a piece of lettuce on his food (I tried this trick on the teenagers, but it didn’t work).

Weight loss in pets is a very, very common problem and if you’re in the same boat, it’s ok. Yes, it’s work and takes some effort to come up with a plan as well as the commitment to follow through. But it can be done! Having your vet team on board helps a lot- that’s what they’re there for! Don’t be afraid to ask for their support and a specific weight loss plan to get back on track if you and your pup need the help.

I promise, it’s worth the effort.


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