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A weight loss journey

Updated: Jan 17, 2023




The following story follow's a sensitive journey of obesity and weightloss, the identity of this dog has been withheld due to the sensitive nature of their story, for simplicity we will call them "Bob".


"Bob" came to me at just 11 months old and severely obese. He had no interest in engaging in the usual play activities for a pup of this age and was unable to trot or run for more than 10 to 15 metres without stopping and sitting down for a rest. Suffering obesity at such a young age was placing undue pressure on his soft developing joints adding to his low activity levels and putting him at risk of irreparable skeletal damage with stiffness and discomfort already evident especially in his hips.


So how does this happen?


For many of our family pooches a love of tasty treats combined with slowing growth and development leads to an unfortunate spiral of weight gain and reduced activity. In the case of "Bob" his treat of choice was toast, that tasty complex carbohydrate had created a serious sugar addiction placing a huge burden on his digestive system and created a 'fussiness' for regular, more apporiate foods.


A dietary plan


A hybrid diet was constructed for "Bob" as it was his carer's preference that he be kept on a kibble based diet, albeit improved. The plan was constructed with a number of goals in mind, each challenge or goal is outlined below with the recommended nutritional solution.


Calculate daily calorie requirements


1) Daily requirements

It's common practice to calculate average daily requirements based on a percentage of current age and weight, owing to his obesity using his current weight for this calculation would artificially increase his caloric requirements. Therefore, a target weight based on height and build was estimated and used for calculating the amount of kibble required.


2) Reduced calorie intake

As we wanted weight loss to occur we reduced the kibble requirement by 10%, a standard reduction for beginning a weight loss journey.


3) 90% Kibble

In order to add the fresh food component to the diet we reduced kibble by a further 10%, this would be our 90% kibble component of our reduced calorie intake diet plan.


4) 10% fresh food

Making up the diet with Fresh foods isn't simply a case of swapping volume for volume as fresh foods have a much higher water content than kibble, a more accurate swap is to replace 1 part kibble with 3 parts fresh food as a good average volume swap. For example, 1 tbsp of kibble is replaced by 3 tbsp of fresh food.


Selecting appropriate foods


There are many choices in terms of pet appropriate foods but when dealing with a small percentage of the whole diet, particularly on a reduced calorie plan, it's useful to select foods which will have the most beneficial impact on the pets' health. The following foods were selected as rotational items for "Bob" with reasons for their selection also outlined.


1) Meaty bone

Arguably the most appropriate food for our carnivorous dogs, excellent for dental health and providing a long lasting activity to keep our boy busy instead of scavenging treats he shouldn't have.

Selection is important, the bone should be:

  • too large to swallow whole or become a choking hazard,

  • lean, an unduly fatty bone would place added burden on an already stressed pancreas

  • digestible, avoiding weightbearing bones as they may chip teeth


2) Whole, raw egg

Considered a whole food eggs are a highly digestible protein full of all the essential nutrients necessary for good health. A great, simple and convenient way to ensure any nutritional gaps are covered.


3) Bone broth

A nutritionally dense supplement that can safely be added to any dogs diet on a regular basis and is a great way to provide the body with collagen and other essential nutrients. Bone broth is also a great source of glycosaminoglycans including the commponly known Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Hyaluronic acid which are regularly promoted as arthritis supplements. The great advantage with bone broth is that they are in a natural form which is resistant to digestion, instead of breaking down in the intestines they are absorbed intact and act like hormones, stimulating fibroblasts to lay down collagen in the connective tissues and joints naturally supporting dogs as they age and helping to ward off debilitating arthritis.


4) Unsweetened, plain greek yoghurt

A useful addition to the diet providing highly digestible protein, vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients including lactic acid bacteria such as bifido bacteria, a known probiotic which promotes digestion and bowel health as well as feeding the immune system.


5) Fruits and vegetables

Often overlooked fibre is an essential component of any diet providing antioxidants and other valuable nutrients. The following items were selected based on their functions, combined to make 2 cups of smoothie mix split into several servings and frozen to provide a useful meal additive through the week.


  • Green tea - demonstrated to improve insulin activity in obese dogs it makes a useful watery medium to form the basis of our smoothie mix. A cup of steeped tea allowed to cool, adding the amount needed to our other items to blend into a suitable 'mush'.

  • Spinach leaves, raw - an excellent source of fibre and other much needed nutrients without providing excess carbohydrates, easily blended with our green tea this watery food further adds to our useful medium in which to add other items.

  • Blueberries, rich in assorted minerals and vitamins these little super foods are rich in nitrates beneficial in improving circulation as well as anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid with proven anti-inflammatory function. To avoid increasing sugar levels only 5 or 6 berries are added to our Green tea & Spinach smoothie.


Exercise


An essential part of any weight loss program is exercise, for "Bob", our overweight juvenile with joint pain regular short bouts (no more than 10 minutes) of gentle walking where recommended. Initially just a few minutes every hour on a lead in the garden but by week 2 he was actively choosing to take himself for regular little walkabouts in the garden to toilet & generally explore with signs of play starting to emerge.


Outcome


Over the course of 10 weeks "Bob" lost a total of 7% his initial bodyweight to achieve a 'healthy' weight determined by an easibly palpable rib cage and visible abdominal 'tuck' with ribs not easily visible. The majority of weight loss occurred around weeks 7-9 when his fitness and activity levels suddenly shifted into high gear with regular 'zoomies' and play initiation that you would expect from a juvenile dog, during this time his calorie intake was increased in an effort to keep pace with his increased activity levels.


In just 10 weeks this young pup had transformed from a sugar addicted couch potato into an active, healthy juvenile, embracing 'zoomies and play at every opportunity with sensible food choices and regular exercise.



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