It seems a bit harsh but I am afraid it is true in all but a very few cases. Wild animals have the ability to respond to changes in their environment. If they feel cold, they will move to a more sheltered or warmer spot, if they are afraid, they will run away, if they are thirsty they will find water and if they are hungry, find food. Each species evolves and adapts to eat a particular type of food and retains this ability to respond to changes in and around it. It has response-ability. Put an animal in a captive environment and you have removed this ability to respond. Now if it is thirsty it can only drink if you provide the water. It can only eat if you provide the food. You have taken on its response-ability. If you are not a responsible pet owner then it’s the animal that suffers the consequences.
So a dog can only eat the food you provide. It will however retain its natural instinct to eat whatever it can, whenever it can, as in the wild it does not know when it will find another meal. The expression to “wolf it down” comes from the ability of a wolf to eat huge amounts of food in one sitting (then to spend days resting with a distended stomach whilst it digests its massive intake of food or regurgitates some for its pups and other pack members). If the owner presents the dog with too much food or inappropriate food, the dog cannot be blamed for eating it. It will not stop when it has had sufficient, it will keep going until it cannot fit more in and will usually still eat treats if you, the leader of its pack offers it some. Offer a dog poisonous food such as chocolate or grapes/sultanas etc. and it will eat it, to its own detriment because you gave it to him.
So you are in control of your dogs food intake. Yes they will scavenge things you would rather they did not but in the house and garden you control that. If the dog eats the Sunday joint off the side then I’m afraid it’s your fault for leaving it exposed. If the dog eats some Christmas cake and ends up at the vets. (at best) then, well you guessed it. What a lot of people don’t realise is that some foods that are suitable for humans are not suitable for dogs. Chocolate, grapes, avocados are all poisonous to dogs.I was explaining this to a customer once and a lady interrupted and told us that her granny had fed her dog a bit of her chocolate every day for years and the dog was fine. I explained that my mother in law is in her 80s and has smoked 20 cigarettes a day her whole adult life and is still going strong, I wouldn’t however, recommend it as a lifestyle choice. Some foods are just poisonous to dogs, it’s a question of the dose and the individual dog but they are poisonous.
So you have a dog and you don’t feed it human foods, You go to the supermarket and get dog food and dog treats so you have done your bit and if the dog gets fat now it’s not your fault is it. Wrong. Firstly, do you follow the feeding guidelines on the food? Are you reducing this amount if you give the dog a treat? Do you even know what is in the food you pick off the supermarket shelf? If you did you would probably realise you are giving your dog chicken feed.
There are rules for the terms used on dog (and cat) food packaging. If it says “fresh” chicken, then that is what was used to make the food, fresh chicken meat. If it says chicken then its still chicken but it may have been previously frozen of dried for storage. If it says chicken (or poultry) meal then that is the rest of the carcass, after the meat has been removed, ground up into a bone and cartilage meal (a necessary part of the food, it’s where the glucosamine, condroitin and calicum are found). If it says meat and animal derivitives then you might want to reconsider using this food. This term is for what is left when you have taken away the meat and the bones, ie not a lot! You will find that for foods that list this, the first ingredient on the ingredients list is nearly always cereal, or wheat, or maize. The protein content of the food will not come from meat as there is too little in the food but from wheat and maize gluten. In other words it is a bag of cereal with a bit of nondescript meat product mixed in – chicken feed, not dog food.
The other thing about these foods is that whilst they don’t have a lot, if any, meat they do have a lot of carbohydrate. The one thing that is guaranteed to make a dog put on weight and get fat is carbohydrate. A dog needs very little of this, if any. It gets its energy from fat and protein. High levels of carbohydrate get converted straight to fat deposits. Some of the worst foods even have added sugar, totally wrong. It is not added to improve pallatability, dogs have far fewer taste buds than us and don’t taste much, it’s all smell. It is there because a lot of these foods are made from waste products from the human food processing industry, which already have sugar added and we know what a problem we have with high sugar content childrens’ cereals. Where do you think the waste from this industry goes? Who owns the leading supermarket brands of dog food? Do they also own the largest supermarket brands of childrens’ cereals? Hmmm. Would you feed your child meat paste sandwiches and cake every meal for the rest of its life? No of course not but people are feeding this to dogs all the time and this is usually where the problem is.
If you feed your dog the correct, appropriate food and treats, follow the feeding guidelines and obviously give it plenty of exercise, you can be confident that you will have a healthy and fit dog that will live longer than a dog fed on supermarket food. However you will also probably have to deal with people telling you your dog is skinny. It isn’t but we are all so used to seeing overweight dogs that when we see one that is as it should be we think it looks thin. It is just perception. Most (around 90%) of dogs are overweight. A lot are obese, we just don’t notice any more. Unfortunately as with humans, being overweight greatly reduces the dog’s life expectancy and introduces a host of other conditions that make its later life uncomfortable and expensive..
To avoid all the problems associated with a poor diet, feed your dog on proper food. We sell frozen meat, bones and vegetable mixes. A raw food diet is probably the best, it is certainly the most natural. However we all live busy lives and I know for sure that I would forget to defrost the food in time, be in a rush during preparation etc. For this reason I do not use this option (although they do get it occasionally). Instead I feed a good quality, grain free, high meat content kibble. Obviously meat is expensive these days and the higher the meat content of a food, the higher the price of a bag. However the amount fed is lower, so cost balances out somewhat. Also as a side benefit the dog will poop less and the poops will be of a better consistency and easier to deal with. This alone is often reason enough to change food.
Alfie, the Jack Russel in the photo would cost 32 pence per day on APL grain free turkey. 32p a day! That is it. He doesn’t need anything extra. If he has a treat then he has less food that day. My dog, Venus (below) would cost £1.20 a day. She is a staffie/lurcher cross, weighing 31kg. If you can’t afford 32p a day to feed a Jack Russel it would be better not to have one, rather than buy supermarket food and own a little barrel. In any case it would still probably work out the same or more for supermarket food anyway. As for wet food, unless you have been advised by a vet. for very specific reasons then forget it. You are just buying a tin of water (check the packaging, most wet foods are 70-80% water, sometimes disguised by terms such as “aqua” or “moisture”) with poor quality ingredients That’s why people used to add mixer, which is just wheat biscuit. I worked it out for my cousin once, for his dalmations which he fed on the cheapest tinned dog food I was able to source for him. It still worked out cheaper per day to switch to the most expensive, highest quality grain free, high meat content (85%) dry dog food we stock,. Unfortunately, even though I worked it all out for him, listed all the benefits and showed him how much he would save, he could not see past the price of the bag of Orijen, versus the price of one tin of Breederpack wet food. Ho Hum.
So how do you know if your dog is overweight? Sadly if you don’t already know then it probably is. But as a rule of thumb it goes like this. Looking from the side you should see a definite difference between the chest and abdomen areas on the underside of the dog. The line should swoop down from the neck, around the chest, rise up significantly to the abdomen and back down where it meets the back legs. you should be just able to see the outline of the vertebrae above the hips. Just, they should not be protruding. Looking from above the sides should curve in behind the chest and flare out again at the hip and you should be able to see the outline of the ribs under the flesh (obviously this is more difficult on long and wire haired dogs). Observe the outline, not see ribs poking out, the difference is obvious. Now these rules are general, a greyhound has a much more pronounced line on the underside than a labrador but it still holds true. If you look at your dog and its chest line to abdomen look straight or from above has no “waist”, your dog is fat and could do with losing a few pounds. This is not anything to do with looks. It is just that a healthy, fit dog is going to live longer and have fewer issues as it ages than a poorly fed, over weight one. It is not a judgement. Yes you are responsible for it but that in a way is a good thing. It just means you are able to do something about it. Don’t feel bad or “judged” because it is the case, there are that many over weight dogs around it has become the norm and we have become inured to it.
Where I come form the phrase “fit as a butchers dog” is much used. There is a reason for the phrase existing. The butchers dog was getting the right diet whilst the rest were eating the scraps we throw away. Now we just allow others to put the scraps in bags and sell it back to us in supermarkets.
The Angell Pets Team