Fat Dog Slim

Submitted by Lisa Holcombe, Head Chef of Dog-A-Roo 

Whether your “kids” have a coat of fur or not, obesity is a growing problem.  Childhood obesity and all the diseases that accompany it are in the news and on the rise.  And guess what, our furry little bundles of joy are no different.   

You’re Kidding – Right?!

In 2000, a Gallup Survey of pet owners found that weight issues were the second most prevalent problems pet owners faced.  Canine obesity has become such a problem that the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, recently announced a new drug for fat dogs called Slentrol.  Now you know and I know there’s no magic bullet for losing weight!  If we could all just take a pill and *pouf* be thin, Sara Lee would be running the world.  So why in the world would we think there would be a magic pill for dogs?!  If your customers are thinking about opting for medication for thier fat dog – -um –RED FLAG!!  The rules for our four-pawed babies are the same as for our two-footed ones – diet and exercise.  

The Great Saboteur

There are many of us who suspect that the culprit behind child and canine obesity rests squarely at the feet of high fructose corn syrup!  Yes, all those delightful treats and tasty foods we feed both our kids and our dogs (not that you’re feeding your kids dog food!) are often laced with that cheap substitute for sugar – high fructose corn syrup.  Pet food manufacturers use it for the same reason kid food manufacturers do – it’s sweet; in fact, addictively so!  And the same holds true for dogs as for people, sugars that we get from corn syrup produce unsafe energy highs and lows that stress your dog’s entire system and slowly erode your dog’s health.   Dogs and people often “think” alike — our brain learns to crave anything with this junk additive.  Add to that gnawing craving that you don’t have thumbs, can’t open the refrigerator and you have to eat the same kibble every day – that mishmash of stuff baked at 500 degrees and plopped out in pellets – well, now you know why we’re bribing dogs with sugar and they just can’t get enough.  Also, if your dog inhales his food, he might not be getting enough nutrition from it – it might just be full of empty calories (ouch – that sounds like a familiar rant from my mother about my Count Chocula addiction!)  I don’t think there’s any recorded evidence of a dog in the wild taking down a wildabeat and eating the whole thing in one sitting!  Dogs tend to stop eating when they have met their nutritional requirements. Maybe this is part of the reason why kids and dogs can never get enough marshmallows – hmmmm! 

So What’s the Big ‘Diff? 


So okay – they put sweetness into dog food and kid food – what’s the big deal?  Well it’s the kind of sweetness that’s used.  The difference between fructose (refined down from corn) and glucose (sugar) is that every cell in our bodies – be they dog or human – knows what to do with glucose.  Fructose on the other hand must be metabolized by the liver and our high fructose corn syrup heavy diets create a huge stress on this organ that filters out toxins. 

Doggie Digestion 101

Your dog’s digestive system is far more simple than your own; it’s shorter and has a higher acid content.  This has its pluses and minuses.  Your dog can eat raw foods (like he did in nature) and not get sick, but more junk from what your dog eats enters his bloodstream.  The impact of doggie junk foods is borne out in a much shorter time frame in your dog’s life than in your child’s but many of the results are the same – high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, arthritis, a shortened lifespan…and just plain floppy, fluffy, fatness. 

You Put WHAT In My Doggie Treats?

Now I’m willing to bet that the recent pet food recalls have you into a label reader!  And, I’ll bet you were surprised to find out what was actually there. The pet food industry uses some handy tricks to rename some of the things they use that you would NEVER knowingly give any pet. (If you haven’t ever tried to break the code of what’s in pet foods, here’s a magic decoder web site: www.api4animals.org and click on the Animal Protection Institutes report on What’s Really In Pet Food.)  One thing you’ll often find is high fructose corn syrup.  You may think twice about ordering those treats to sell in your store.  Step away.  In your label-reading adventures, you’ll be shocked at how similar the ingredient list is on many treats as those snacks you avoid and rarely give to kids.  The dog treat aisle is equivalent to a major Hallowe’en score for your dogs every day.  Opt for treats that are meat based (not meat byproduct based) or are baked yummy things like apple and pumpkin or banana chips.  ! 

I Can’t Believe You Said That!

If you want to pare down your kid or your fur kid – it’s time to get some exercise (a good walk, game of fetch or how ‘bout hide and seek*) and switch from junk food treats to something more healthy as a demonstration of your love. You’ll be surprised how many foods you can share!  There are some natural things you should stay away from – like tomatoes, eggplant and – in my opinion – white potatoes, but consider a picnic or nightcap for your kid in a fur coat (or otherwise) with treats like carrots, asparagus stems, cored apples, bananas, cantaloupe, or celery.  I mean really, what’s funnier than your dog walking around with a stogie of a carrot dangling sideways from his mouth?   


Hot Tips

Has your doggy’s get-up-go got-up-and-went?  Check out happytails® ReBound herbal elixir to help balance your hound’s metabolism.  You can buy it directly at www.happytailsspa.com or at your local pet boutique. 

If you’re like me, and you just can’t spend hours reading kibble labels – try feeding your dog a balanced raw food diet.  Happy Dog makes a base of healthy grains and vegetables that you can simply (and economically) stir in your own grocery-store bought raw ground meat.  You’ll be amazed and less crazed – www.happydogfood.com . 

Dogs like meat – that’s not exactly news.  But this jerky is doggie-crack!  It’s pricey but it’s worth it.  Cut the jerky strips into small bits.  Dogs are all about smell and flavor and not so worried about size.  You can make a package last a long time and don’t forget to refrigerate it after you’ve opened the package.  www.loveyourpetbakery.com and click on retailers to find someone who sells near you!

*Teach your dog to play hide and seek … and work up to your keys!  I’m always misplacing my keys, but my dog Abby can find anything.  We started playing hide and seek with toys and treats and one day, I know she’ll find my extra car key.  Here’s how to do it.  In one room, have your dog sit and stay.  Take a favorite toy (or healthy treat) with you and cruise throughout the house.  When your dog can’t see you, put the toy down in an easy-to-get-to place (side of the bathtub, inside a shoe, on top of a stack of books) and then wander back in.  Tell your dog to go find the toy in your most excited voice.  Celebrate big when your doggie finds the hidden treasure.  Hint for the advanced trick of “Find My Keys”:  Rub your keys with bacon … I’m just sayin’!

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  1. BARF World offers both minces for do it yourselfers and ready made frozen raw dog food patties.

  2. Is high fructose corn syrup as dangerous to dogs as sugar is?

  3. Hi Ed,
    Unfortunately there is not a body of research to draw from about the health implications of HFCS vs sugar for dogs. However, many of the recent reports about HFCS and its health implications do translate easily to canine nutrition sense. Like humans, dogs have a sweet tooth too. A physician friend of mine pointed out that that makes sense since blood is sweet and dogs, while not strict carnivores like cats, are more interested in meat than vegetables or grains (about an 80/20 ratio). The refining and processing of both sugar and HFCS while stripping away all the companion nutrients and enzymes that normally accompany those sugar sources can spell disaster for dogs more quickly than for humans. It’s especially risky for small dogs since they are prone to hypoglycemia and dramatic/dangerous blood sugar swings.

    As I said, the canine digestive system allows far more into the body than our complex “plumbing”. Some canine health folks believe that this is a good reason to let your dog fast for a day to clean out the blood system.
    This is also a reason that we so frequently find that food is directly related to skin problems. Dogs do not have as many mechanisms for elimination as we do, so skin becomes an important route for getting rid of toxins. Of course, we immediately put cortisone-based products on those skin problems and force the toxins back into the dog’s bloodstream.

    So, I guess the short answer to your question is refined sugar and HFCS aren’t any better for your dog than they are for you! Natural, whole sugars from fruits, vegetables – and as I’ve now found out – meat/blood are better sources.

    If you happen to find any research, please send it forward. Our dogalogue (courtesy of the happytails dogalogue blog!) only makes for healthier, happier pets and people! :)

    Here’s some articles I found that you might enjoy reading:

    This abstract from the American Journal of Nutrition also has links to many other human studies that might be of interest:

    I look forward to DogtorJ getting his site updated with more info about HFCS (scroll down to the link on the left side in the nav.) but it is a good
    resource: http://dogtorj.net/index.html

    Hope that answers the basics of your question and gives you some resources for learning more!

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