Dr. Marty Becker
Q: My dog is getting on in years, and our vet recommended we cut back her food a bit, since she is not burning as many calories as she used to. We followed her advice and decreased her portions (from 2 to 1 ½ cups per day of dry food). However, I guess because she’s a little hungrier than usual, she’s started to eat plants and leaves outside. She even threw up from eating too many leaves. I want to follow my vet’s advice, but I also don’t want my dog to feel like she’s starving! What should I do?
A: Your dog has had a pretty severe cut in her food intake—possibly too much. A half a cup reduction may not seem like a lot, but it represents a drop of one-quarter of her daily food intake. Think about that in terms of what you eat; you’d be hungry, too, if you suddenly opted to eat 25 percent less food every day. A cutback of 10 percent of daily volume is probably more reasonable.
Follow up with your veterinarian to get some options. She may suggest a reduced-calorie food, which will allow you to give your dog the same volume but fewer calories. Another common option is to add low-calorie volume yourself (as advised by your veterinarian), which is usually accomplished by adding green beans to the bowl.
Finally, remember that “calories in” is only part of the equation when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Half of all pets are overweight, and it’s a matter of too much food in the bowl and not enough miles under the paws. If you start a walking program with your dog, it will benefit both of you. Walking is a low-impact form of exercise that is acceptable even to aging dogs. If yours needs a little help in the pain-management department, your veterinarian can assist with that, too.
For more information on developing a good walking program for you and your dog, check out Fitness Unleashed: A Dog and Owner’s Guide to Losing Weight and Gaining Health Together, which I wrote with physician Dr. Robert Kushner, an expert in weight-loss.
ABOUT the Vet
Dr. Marty Becker is the author of the new book, Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual: Hundreds of Secrets, Surprises, and Solutions for Raising a Happy, Healthy Cat (Grand Central Life & Style). For 16 years, Dr. Becker has been the popular veterinary contributor to ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. Currently he is a member of Core Team Oz on The Dr. Oz Show and is the veterinary spokesman for VetStreet.com. His last book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, is now available in paperback.