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Dog weight management

Weight Management for Plant-based Dogs

Weight Management for Plant-based Dogs

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for our furry companions' overall well-being. If you've chosen a plant-based diet for your dog, you might wonder how to manage their weight effectively. With the right approach, you can help your pet maintain a healthy weight while enjoying the benefits of a balanced and complete plant-based diet. Here are some essential tips for pet parents to navigate weight management successfully.

One common mistake is relying solely on the recommendations on product labels. Pet food producers (ourselves included!) make feeding guides based on the "average" dog - but every dog is a unique individual and so our recommendations won't always be right for every single pet. 

Measuring and Calculating Calorie Intake

To manage your dog's weight, it's essential to determine their daily calorie needs accurately. Start by consulting with your veterinarian to establish your dog's ideal weight and recommended calorie intake. Your vet will estimate your dog's energy (Calorie) requirements based on the dog's metabolic bodyweight, meaning the dog's metabolically-active and energy-using fraction. If you're familiar with maths, this looks like: 70*bodyweight^0.75. Your vet will then factor in your dog's exercise level - sedentary, lightly active, working dog, etc, and any other relevant factors to estimate their Caloric requirements per day. Use this information as a baseline for portion control. Every dog is unique, so adjustments may be necessary based on their age, size, activity level, and metabolism. See the following resource from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition Committee as a guideline for Calorie needs based on bodyweight:

Balancing a Complete Plant-Based Diet

When planning a plant-based diet for your dog, it's crucial to ensure it is nutritionally balanced and complete. Work with a veterinary nutritionist and speak with your pet's food company for guidance. We can help determine if our product(s) are right for you. A complete and balanced diet will provide all the necessary nutrients while helping your dog maintain a healthy lean weight. 

Watch the Fat Content

While fats contribute essential fatty acids like linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, EPA and DHA, as well as acting as a vehicle for fat-soluble vitamins, it's important not to overdo it. Many pet parents like to add additional oils to their dog's food thinking this will promote a healthier hair coat or benefit their skin. However, excessive fat intake can imbalance an otherwise balanced diet, lead to weight gain and other health issues. Opt instead for diets that include healthy plant-based oils and supplement only if necessary.

Treats and snacks

Generally speaking, it is recommended that no more than 10% of daily energy intake comes from treats, snacks and/or dietary supplements. The fewer calories in a treat, the more they can consume.
Here are some nutritious, low-calorie and high-fibre snack ideas that you may try incorporating into your dog's diet:
Leafy Greens: Leafy greens like spinach, lettuce and collard greens are excellent choices. They are rich in vitamins C and K and antioxidant polyphenols. These nutrient-packed greens can support your dog's immune system and promote healthy digestion.
Cruciferous Vegetables: Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts contain important microminerals and nutrients like vitamin C and folate, which contribute to overall health. They also contain high levels of sulforaphane, a phytochemical that may help to prevent cancer.
Zucchini: Zucchini is a versatile vegetable that can be incorporated into your dog's meals raw or cooked. It's full of moisture, keeping it low in calories while offering beneficial vitamins and polyphenols. Additionally, zucchini is a hydrating option due to its high water content. 
Green Beans: Green beans provide vitamins as well as minerals like iron and calcium and can be a satisfying addition to your dog's meals cooked, raw or even frozen!
Fruits: Some dogs have more of a sweet tooth and love fresh or frozen fruits and berries. Fruit like mango and papaya are packed with beta-carotene while berries are all full of health-boosting antioxidants. On hot summer days nothing beats a nice juicy melon for hydration and a small dose of healthy natural electrolytes. 

Regularly Monitor Your Dog's Weight

Keep track of your dog's weight and body condition (for a body condition scoring chart, please see the following resource from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition Committee: constantly to ensure they are within the desired range. Practice mindful feeding by using measuring cups or -  even better (especially for small dogs) - a kitchen scale to accurately portion meals. Incorporate regular exercise and playtime to keep your dog active and help them burn calories. 
Weight management for dogs on a plant-based diet is achievable with proper knowledge and practices.Consult with a veterinary professional before making any significant dietary changes for your dog, and work together to create a tailored weight management plan that suits their individual needs. With your dedication and proper guidance, your dog can thrive on a healthy, plant-based lifestyle.

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WSAVA (2011) Global Nutrition Guidelines. Global Nutrition Committee, World Small Animal Veterinary Association: Dundas, Ontario, Canada.