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Diet & Obesity

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

A nutritional approach to treating an overweight 8yr old Labrador, which is called the house ‘vacuum’. He has a dull coat and starting to show stiffness when he walks and possible developing diabetes.


overweight senior

The current nutrition and client owner concerns

The modern commercial diet with their high carbohydrate content and inadequate zinc levels are a recipe for obesity and diabetes with the pancreas working overtime to manage the high blood glucose levels, ever declining pancreatic function as the cells fail to keep up with the demand placed on them, the development of diabetes is the inevitable outcome. Just as a poor diet causes obesity, diabetes and arthritis, a raw, balanced, species appropriate diet can support a return to a healthy weight and facilitate repair where possible within the body[1].


Management of the condition, nutritionally.

A species appropriate diet for a dog comprises 20% muscle meat, 40% meaty bones, 10% Offal and 20% plant matter and 10% supplements. Transitioning the pet to a species appropriate raw diet over a period of around 12 days is essential but this must be done with the support of the pet owners vet if diabetes is suspected as insulin may be required. Splitting the daily food into multiple smaller meals is preferable to one large meal as it helps to maintain balanced blood sugar and insulin levels[2]. There are a number of holistic vets who support raw diets with a voluntary registry available online via a local raw feeding network for New Zealand pet owners to access. Increasing the pets exercise with gentle walking or swimming will form an essential component in restoring a healthy weight and managing the dog’s ongoing health.


A. Meaty bones: For the obese pet the diet should be based on raw lean meaty bones which would naturally be more filling for them than a commercial diet and would naturally support a reduction in the amount of food required. Game animals are preferred over farm animals as they tend to be leaner however any meat cuts can be trimmed to reduce the fat content if options are limited, for example due to allergies[3]. Instead of providing various commercially processed treats throughout the day the dog should be given a large recreational bone to be played with and gnawed on. Recreational bones are less calorie dense than edible meaty bones and can be a great source of distraction and exercise for the pet taking a long time to chew and gnaw away at whilst being nutritionally beneficial.


B. Meat protein: Selecting a lean red meat is ideal as red meat stimulates a more acidic gut environment than white meat. The meat should be free of any preservatives to avoid any unwanted additional toxins or allergens being included in the diet.


C. Organs: a selection of offal meats such as liver, kidney, brains and green tripe are essential components of any balanced diet; Raw Liver is a good first offal meat packed with valuable B12 whilst raw green tripe is naturally high in enzymes and probiotic bacteria whilst being low in fat making it an ideal dietary choice. Raw pancreas is also a useful organ to include if pancreatic function is impaired although much more difficult to source locally.


D. Plant matter: Fruits and vegetables provide much needed fibre to the diet together with a whole host of other valuable nutrients. For the obese pet dark leafy greens such as spinach would top the list as an excellent source of fibre and other much needed nutrients without providing excess carbohydrates[4]; easily blended with a little water they provide a useful medium in which to add other supplements. Raw green beans are also a great low calorie option to add on occasion. The (potentially) diabetic pet should avoid foods which are known to have a high glyceamic index as these would create an unwanted spike in blood sugar levels and add to the need for insulin support.


E. Supplements: other additives may be provided to further enhance the nutrient profile of the diet and address any deficiencies that have built up for the pet.


  1. 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 commonly 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[5].

  2. Arthritis support: If the stiffness is debilitating the use of specific supplements such as Shark cartilage, Dolomite and Green lipped mussel may be warranted. There are also a number of plants which have pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties such as Devils claw and ginger, both of which are useful additions to the arthritic pet’s diet[3].

  3. Eggs are an excellent source of the highest quality protein available suitable for dogs of all ages containing all of the vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids dogs need for good healthy which makes them an ideal addition to a balanced diet [1].

  4. A good quality, cold pressed flaxseed oil adds valuable omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to the diet which are often lacking in the pets fed a commercial product. EFA’s are key to maintaining and supporting all aspects of our pets’ health as they are components of cell membranes, supporting the flow of molecules into and out of cells as well as supporting enzyme and membrane receptor function[6]. An appropriate Vitamin E source should also be provided to protect the pet against the oil becoming rancid in their body[1] .

  5. Brewer’s yeast, as a rich source of vitamins B-complex, antioxidants and assorted minerals, and is a useful dietary supplement for pets not sensitive to yeast[7].

  6. Kelp among the many minerals found in kelp there are iodine and selenium, both of which are lacking in New Zealand soils and can be provided in the diet safely, without fear of toxicity, by the inclusion of kelp[1].

  7. Natural, unsweetened Greek yoghurt: can be a useful addition to the diet providing a highly digestible protein , vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients[1] including lactic acid bacteria such as bifido bacteria, a known probiotic which promotes digestion and bowel health[8].


With the dog successfully transitioned to a raw balanced diet incorporating a variety of species appropriate foods, it’s useful to ensure the owner can maintain the diet long term. A meat patty ‘recipe’ incorporating the meat, offal, plant matter and supplements whilst providing the owner guidance as to interchangeable items to further add variety and cope with seasonal availability is provided. Weight management for overweight pets is somewhat simple for those pets on raw diet, discussing ongoing exercise, weighing and dietary adjustments as the dog’s needs change enables the owner to make the adjustments necessary to achieve and maintain a healthy weight for their pet whilst providing a balanced diet.



Sources

[1] Billinghurst, I. 1993. Give Your Dog a Bone. Bathurst, New South Wales: Warrigal Publishing. [2] Anderson, R. S. 1991. Nutrition and feeding. In D. R. Lane, Jones's Animal Nursing, 5th ed. Oxford, England: Pergamon Press. [3] Syme, B. 2011. Scientific Guide to Natural Nutrition. Southbank, Australia: Vets All Natural Pty Ltd. [4] Healthline. 2020. Spinach 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Retrieved November 25th, 2020, from Healthline web site: www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/spinach [5] Scott, D. 2020. Bone Broth For Dogs? Here's Why It's A Great Idea. Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Dogs naturally magazine web site: https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/reasons-your-dog-love-bone-broth/ [6] Patel, A. 2017. Essential Fatty Acids In Veterinary Dermatology: Do They Have A Place? Retrieved May 10th, 2020, from veterinarypractice.com: www.veterinary-practice.com/article/essential-fatty-acids-in-veterinary-dermatology-do-they-have-a-place [7] Elfenbein, H. 2017. Brewer's Yeast for Dogs: Understanding the Benefits and Risks. Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Pet MD web site: https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/brewers-yeast-dogs-understanding-benefits-and-risks [8] West, H. n.d.. Lactose Intolerance 101 - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment. Retrieved October 10th, 2020, from Healthline web site: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lactose-intolerance-101


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