Less Food Equals More Years

Pet Tales
by Barry B.Burtis D.V.M.

Less Food Equals More Years

Suppose you came to see me with your new little 10 week old Labrador Retriever puppy and I told you I could give you a tip that would extend your dog's healthy years by 15%. That would mean your dog could live 1.8 years longer than otherwise expected. In addition, if you followed my advice, it would live better. Treatment for a chronic condition could be pushed back from 9.9 years when this would usually be required, until it was 12 years old. Not only those two benefits for your dog but also you could expect to delay treatment for osteoarthritis, a very common condition in older dogs of this breed, by about 3 years. Finally, when your dog became a senior canine citizen it would be less gray and exhibit fewer other visible signs of aging.

Now I think that should grab your attention. Furthermore, if I told you to get these benefits did not mean I had a secret potion to sell you, did not require strict adherence to a program only I could supply and did not require giving up any other benefits of pet ownership, wouldn't you be impressed? In fact, my formula for success would actually cost you less than if you ignored it and your family could administer it all by itself! I have got to believe you would be very anxious to hear more about my tip. Alright, here it is.

Learn how to recognize the signs of obesity and feed your dog such that it reaches and then maintains ideal body condition from puppyhood through its senior years. Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Before I tell you more about how to do this, I want to explain why this claim can be made.

A 14 year canine nutrition study was conducted by researchers at the Purina Pet Care Center and the results were recently published in the journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. This study showed that dogs that consumed 25 per cent fewer calories than littermates maintained a lean or ideal body condition resulting in a longer life and the other benefits mentioned earlier. When the study began 48, eight-week old Labrador dogs were randomly assigned to either a control (Free-fed) or restricted (Lean-fed) group. The control group was allowed to eat an unlimited amount of food during 15- minute daily feedings. Dogs in the restricted group were fed 75 per cent of the amount eaten by dogs in the control group. All dogs were fed the same 100 per cent nutritionally complete and balanced diets( puppy, then adult) for the entire period of the study, from eight weeks of age until death - only the quantity was different. "What's exciting about this study", says Dennis Lawler D.V.M., Purina scientist, "is that for the first time in a larger mammal we have shown scientifically that by simply feeding to maintain ideal body condition throughout a dog's life, we can increase length of life while delaying the visible signs of aging."

Alright, you say, how do I get my dog into this ideal body condition? Well, you have to learn how to recognize the signs of obesity and feed to ideal body condition. Your pet's body condition can be categorized into three broad ranges: underfed, ideal and overfed. The simplest rule of thumb for assessing that your pet's body condition is ideal is that you can feel, easily, but not see the ribs. You should be able to see and feel a waistline or hourglass shape in your pet, when it is viewed from above or the side. You feed your pup following the feeding instructions on the pet food package for 1-2 weeks. Evaluate your pet's condition with both your eyes and your hands. To help maintain a healthy body condition, adjust the amount of food you offer. Continue this process every two or three weeks and you will be able to learn how to best feed your dog and reap the health benefits desired. 

The next time you visit your veterinarian ask more about body condition scoring and how to determine your pet's ideal body condition. It will help you take advantage of a situation where less, really is more.