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We all know on average, as humans, we don't eat enough vegetables, or drink enough water. We
know that fast food is not good for us, but we eat it anyway.  We can make these choices for
ourselves. Unfortunately, our dogs do not have the ability to make these same choices - they eat
what we feed them.  So, as a responsible dog owner, it is up to us to figure out what is best for
each of our dogs to eat.

Before I go much further into this discussion, please note that my advice and opinions are not
intended to replace the opinions of canine nutrition experts. The knowledge I have accumulated
on dog feeding has come from my own personal research, education in the fields of animal
science and biology, and experience feeding elite canine athletes. However, whenever you are
considering changing or manipulating your dog's diet, I encourage you to check out as many
sources as possible. The article is directed towards Lab owners, but the information can be
universally applied to all dog breeds. Each dog is an individual and it is important to consider
allergies, medical conditions, body condition and activity level, and their influence on proper diet.























Labs have a tendency to become overweight, but it is a preventable condition that occurs for
several reasons:

1) Labs have insatiable appetites. Labs are not fussy - they will eat anything, and everything that
you feed them, and they will often ask for more.

2) Labs have big, sad, brown eyes that many owners can not resist giving into - even if they
KNOW their dog has already eaten.

3) Labs, as sporting dogs, are bred and designed to be able to hunt all day long. When they are
not exercising at this rate, they will gain weight like crazy. Most pet owners do not exercise their
dogs nearly as often or as vigorously as was intended by the breed's design.

4)The current trend in the conformation ring is the presentation of big, beefy Labs - because
people see these hefty dogs winning, they believe that a Lab should look this way.

5) Veterinarians are often not gutsy enough to tell pet owners when their dog is overweight-
because many people have weight issues, they tend to be overly sensitive about their dog's
weight as well.  Unfortunately, vets feel that they risk offending the owner and losing their  
patronage if they tell you that your dog is too fat.

6) Many owners simply just don't know what a healthy weight is for their dog, so they would rather
err on the side of plumpness rather than have a dog that was too skinny.

Whether your dog is an elite canine athlete, or the most beloved of house pets,  it is crucial that
your dog be maintained at his  ideal body condition, or as close to it as possible, for his entire life.
It is entirely too common today to see dogs that are not only overweight, but obese. Remember
that your dog depends on you to make judgements about his lifestlye - most dogs will eat
whatever you give them, so please don't rely on his judgement to tell you when enough is
enough.

Just like with people, a dog's numerical weight isn't as important as his or her proportion of body
fat. For example, Nestle's body weight will range from 53 pounds during times of relative
inactivity, to 58 pounds when she has reached her peak condition.  Her percentage of body fat  is
the same (ideal) at both weights, but her muscle mass increases when she is more active,
accounting for the extra weight.  If I allowed Nestle's weight to remain at 58 pounds year round,
she would look like a blimp during the less active portions of the year, compared to the preferred
lean muscle mass at peak times. In summary, don't base your dog's body condition on how much
he weighs- or how much his breed is supposed to weigh. Do your homework and learn to
determine your dog's visible body score - and then feed and exercise him so that he is as close
to ideal as possible.

So what does the ideal body condition of a dog look like? Basically, you should be able to feel the
dog's ribs under a light layer of fat - but you shouldn't be able to see them. When looking down
over your dog, you should be able to see it's waist, and from the side you should witness
abdominal tuck.
Check out this link for a visual guide from Purina. Remember, a greyhound in
ideal condition will look significantly different than a Bullmastiff in ideal condition, due to their
differing bone structure. But gliding your hands over the ribcage will feel the same in ideally
conditioned dogs of both breeds.

So now you know a bit about what a healthy dog looks and feels like, and you are wondering why
you need to worry about your dog's body condition. Here are my reasons:

1) Overweight dogs have shortened lifespans.
2) Puppies that are overweight can incur severe damage to their joints, and may be especially at
risk for conditions such as hip dysplasia.
3) Dogs that are overweight are sick more often, injured more often, and more prone to ongoing
illnesses such as diabetes.
4) A dog cannot perform in competitions safely, or anywhere near it's maximum potential, if it is
overweight.

Here are some helpful tips to remember:

* The 'recommended amount' of feed on your dog food bag is often too much
* Most dogs, unless they participate in extremely gruelling activities such as dog sled racing
or         field trials, should be fed a 'maintenance' type diet, NOT a 'performance'  or
'high-energy'                 variety
* A small amount of good quality dog food will do your dog a lot more good (and will help him
or         her feel fuller) than a large amount of grocery-store brand kibble
* Healthy, fat-free treats include celery, carrots, or apple slices - use very small treats
for                   training rewards (I like soft cat treats such as Purina Luv)
* Although a walk through the neighbourhood is good stimulation for you and your dog, as
well         as an excellent opportunity to get fresh air and some one -on- one time, it does not
really                 count as exercise for medium and large breed dogs. Walking just isn't enough!


Whether or not your dog is athlete should not have any effect on how fat you allow him to
become. Dogs that are not active are already at risk of developing serious health problems - do
not compound this by adding obesity to his list of risk factors. If your dog is overweight, do NOT
allow him to engage in vigorous physical activity right away. First, consult with your canine
nutritionist to work on a diet plan, and as your dog loses weight, you may gradually increase the
intensity of his workouts.

For more information on the risks of obesity in dogs, read this study by
Purina.
Ideal Body Condition
Nestle, at left,
in ideal body condition, even
after whelping a recent litter.
Notice the abdominal tuck.

Keeping your dog in good shape
will help them  live a longer,
happier, and healthier life!