INTERVIEW W INTEGRATIVE VETERINARIAN, DR. LAURIE COGER:
1) What are some of your favorite tips to keep your dog healthy overall?
- Feed an appropriate diet, ideally based on fresh foods.
- Keep your dog active, mentally and physically.
- Utilize a proactive, integrative approach to health care
2) According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53% of adult dogs and 55% of cats in the US are obese or overweight. Why do you think that is?
Does the problem seem to be getting better or worse?
In my experience, far more than this are not at their ideal weight. I think the root of the problem lies in inappropriate, starch-laden pet foods, especially for cats. And I see the problem getting worse, as people seek out convenience food options and companies utilize more starch-based ingredients to keep costs down.
3) A lot of people don’t realize their dog is overweight. How do you suggest we assess our dog’s body condition?
I advise people to both look at and feel their pet. Can you feel and see the waist? Can you feel ribs under a covering of skin and muscle? Are those thighs “ripped”? The dog is designed to be an athlete, and should feel muscular and fit, not round and soft.
4) What are some of the health consequences of allowing our dogs to become overweight?
Cruciate ligament tears are a common problem — and a serious one, requiring expensive surgery and lots of aftercare! Arthritis, back problems, diabetes and more are often associated with overweight dogs. And of course, these problems are multiplied in our seniors!
5) For those of us who spend a lot of our time training, how do you recommend we balance “food” vs “treats”?
Treats used in training must be accounted for in daily food intake. I prefer to use protein-based treats for training and adjust the next meal for the amount of treats I used. Using low carbohydrate, high meat content training treats helps lessen weight gain, as well as providing nutritional benefits. And of course I avoid using treats with added sugars or flavorings, as well as ingredients I cannot pronounce!
6) I always cringe when I hear the not-so-great #humblebrag, “I never feed my dog from the table” or “I never feed my dog people food!” what do you think?
My reply is that it is not people food, it is food! Feeding fresh, whole foods is far better than using processed products. My first rule of foods for my dogs is that they are human quality. So, if you are doing it correctly, “people food” is what’s best for your dog.
7) Many vets are recommending RX “diet” food. Is there a place for these products, or a better approach?
In short, vets recommend these products because they are trained to. Conventional veterinarians are trained to diagnose a disease, and provide treatment in the form of a medication, surgery, therapy, or food. They do not have the awareness or training in biologically appropriate nutrition to recommend it. And these commercial therapeutic diets do solve the problems they were designed for. However, I ask, at what cost to the overall health of the animal, as they are typically starch based, and we are feeding carnivores. The weight loss diets are lower in protein and fats, and high in indigestible fiber. This results in hungry dogs, with voluminous stool output, and, after some time on these foods, poor skin, coat, and muscle quality.
8) There are a lot of conflicting recommendations in the pet food industry, and it can be difficult for consumers to wrap their heads around who to trust. What are some of your favorite resources for learning about pet nutrition?
Susan Thixton’s website, Truth About Pet Food and the Inside Scoop FB subscription.
9) Out of all the pet food trends, which do you like and which do you hope will disappear?
Vegetarian or vegan foods need to go — both are biologically inappropriate for dogs and cats. I would love to see the expansion of human quality products, as well as non-kibble forms, both raw and fresh.
10) What is your secret weapon for overall dog health and wellbeing?
Mental stimulation, in the form of training for all sorts of activities! From agility to scenting games, hiking and parkour to barn hunt and trick dog training, things that stimulate the mind are so vital to your dog’s wellbeing. These activities also build your relationship with your dog, as well as being loads of fun!
I hope these tips help you make pawsitive changes to help prevent pet obesity! Love & Licks, Laura Nativo, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP
Read my article on National Pet Obesity Month and how to keep your dog fit for a lifetime.