Pet Food Fiasco! Part 4: Why is My Pet Fat When I Follow the Guidelines?!

Almost every time I have a conversation regarding an overweight pet the client says they are feeding based on the recommendations on the back of the food bag. So why is the pet still overweight?

Any food that is “complete and balanced” legally has to have feeding directions on the product label. These guidelines are based on average estimates which means if your pet is more sedentary, which most dog/cats lead a more sedentary lifestyle then they should, then we very easily are feeding them too much!

So what can you do as a fur baby parent?

First of all talk to your veterinarian and/or technician if your pet is overweight or beginning to gain weight. Just like in people its easier to put weight on then it is to take off. Here at Oakview Veterinary Medical Center we use a BCS, body condition score, of 1-9. Ideal in dogs is 4-5/9 and ideal for cats is 5-6/9. Its a lot easier to intervene when your animal is only 1 number away from ideal then when they are a 9 out of 9.

Canine BCS
Feline BCS

To us weight is just a number. What a BCS scoring chart guides us to do is to figure out if our furbaby is overweight by feel. And this is something that we can also teach owners to do at home. Once we have a current weight and a BCS we can calculate how many calories they need to stay at their current weight, gain or lose.

One thing that we cannot do is limit calories soooo much that we risk the pet not getting the nutrients they need. That’s why sometimes we have to recommend a prescription diet. Over the Counter diets have directions based on how they have formulated that particular diet, which means if we cut calories too much we literally are not giving them certain vitamins/minerals, etc they need to function. Prescription weight loss diets are formulated specifically for weight loss which means they are designed to feed lesser calories and are still including the appropriate nutrition.

Something else we can do is to throw that food bowl away!!!

What you say!?!?

Use food puzzles so the cat/dog has to work for their food instead of just inhaling from a bowl.


The good news is you do not have to spend an arm and a leg on these! There are many DIY types you can make easily and cheaply at home.

Another reason you should have guidance from a veterinary team member is because we want to have your pet lose weight in a healthy trend and not too fast. In some species like cats we actually can cause a disease called “fatty liver” if we let them lose too much weight too fast!

So be an advocate for your pets nutrition and contact one of our amazing team members here at Oakview if you need help!

Nutrition is the key to health and happiness!

by Angel Blenker

Angel graduated from Madison Area Technical College in 2004 with a Veterinary Technology degree and received her certification same year. She joined us in 2006 and became our lead technician in 2008. Angel goes to numerous continuing education events including the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas. Her special interests include alternative modalities and nutrition. She is available for nutrition consults. Angel and her husband, Kris share their house with Jerry an 8 year old DSH and Leo who is a 7 year old Dalmatian. Angel loves spending time with her family and animals. When Angel has spare time she enjoys volunteering, traveling or reading a good book.

Pet Food Fiasco! Part 3: What’s So Important in an Ingredient?

My third installment in this month’s discussion of pet food will focus on the ingredient list, which is open to all kinds of interpretation.

I think most pet owners are becoming aware that the ingredient list is arranged by weight. This means the ingredient listed first weighs more than the ingredient listed last. But there is much more to that fact that many pet food companies do not reveal.

Sample pet food label ingredient list:

INGREDIENT LIST: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Dried Egg Product, Fish Oil (source of DHA-Docosahexaenoic Acid), Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Brown Rice, Guar Gum, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Salt, Carrageenan, Cassia Gum, Cranberries, Magnesium Oxide, Choline Chloride, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), preserved with Mixed Tocopherols.

Many pet owners want to see a food that has a protein source as its first ingredient like the one above. To them it means there is more protein than carbs. The sample label seen here could be higher in protein than some other foods but you would need to look at Dry Matter, or DM, to know for sure.

Now look at this example

Pet Food Label - Oakview Vet Stevens Point Plover WI

This second food definitely has a protein listed first. But if you stop there you will not see the next few ingredients.

Pet food companies can separate similar ingredients so they can appear lower in the list. Here corn gluten meal and corn meal are listed. My guess is if we weighed both of the different types of corn meal they would weigh more than the chicken by product meal. This is a legal practice but does not represent the food as accurate as it should.

Again, what can we as pet owners do? The most important thing is to educate ourselves. Certain foods may or may not be an okay food to feed your pets, and in certain situations could actually be harmful.

Always make an educated decision!

by Angel Blenker

Angel graduated from Madison Area Technical College in 2004 with a Veterinary Technology degree and received her certification same year. She joined us in 2006 and became our lead technician in 2008. Angel goes to numerous continuing education events including the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas. Her special interests include alternative modalities and nutrition. She is available for nutrition consults. Angel and her husband, Kris share their house with Jerry an 8 year old DSH and Leo who is a 7 year old Dalmatian. Angel loves spending time with her family and animals. When Angel has spare time she enjoys volunteering, traveling or reading a good book.

Pet Food Fiasco! Part 2: What Does Guaranteed Analysis Actually Mean?

I am sure every pet owner has looked at the back of a bag of pet food and wondered what guaranteed analysis actually meant and what information it conveys.

When I started my nutrition journey a while back I was more surprised by what it doesn’t tell you. It’s definitely one of the first places people are looking to see how much protein, fat, fiber etc the food has. For example, cats are true carnivores which means they should be on the highest protein source of food possible. I can look at two different foods and see that No 1 says that is has a minimum of 36% of protein and No 2 says that it has 11% protein. So according to this most people would think No 1 is better and buy it.

Sample Guaranteed Analysis 1:

Crude Protein36.0% min
Crude Fat20.0% min
Crude Fiber3.5% max
Moisture9.0% max
ARA0.06% min
DHA0.2% min
Calcium1.3% min
Phosphorus1.1% min
Magnesium0.14% max
Choline3,500mg/kg min
Taurine0.2% min
Omega 3 Fatty Acids*0.75% min
Omega 6 Fatty Acids*3.5% min

Sample Guaranteed Analysis 2:

Crude Protein11.0% min
Crude Fat7.5% min
Crude Fiber1.5% max
Moisture78.0% max
DHA0.07% min
Taurine0.10% mi

What the guaranteed analysis does not take in account is the moisture content! Pet owners must always take this into account to have an accurate percentage of fat, protein, fiber etc. The amount of water significantly affects these values. This is because most pet food companies display these nutrients by what are called “as fed” nutrients rather than a “dry matter” basis.

“As fed” just means that the values were calculated directly and “dry matter” means that they took the moisture out of the formula so you know exactly what you are getting instead of basically a “watered down” version.

So now if I told you that these percentages were based on an as fed formula versus the dry matter one would you believe that No 1 is a dry cat food and No 2 is a canned food. You better believe that canned food will almost always be higher in protein but because they are using the “watered down” version it is very deceiving because canned food is higher in water content.

So what can pet owners do!?

A lot! Pet food companies know how much influence the pet owner population has, so some companies are changing their nutrition information to include the dry matter basis. Look at the back of your bag, can, chub, tub, etc and see if has a DM (Dry Matter) or AF (As Fed). If you really want to know how much protein, fat, fiber, etc, it is completely OK to call the company and ask. Most reputable pet food companies have a veterinary nutritionist on board that can help you decipher this information. If the company does not and/or gives you the runaround you may want to think twice about the food you are feeding. Also call your veterinarian and ask to speak to a staff member specifically regarding this. Here at Oakview Veterinary Medical Center, we understand how important this can be in your pet’s health. Many clinics employ at least one technician or doctor that has an expanded knowledge on nutrition.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of nutrition!

by Angel Blenker

Angel graduated from Madison Area Technical College in 2004 with a Veterinary Technology degree and received her certification same year. She joined us in 2006 and became our lead technician in 2008. Angel goes to numerous continuing education events including the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas. Her special interests include alternative modalities and nutrition. She is available for nutrition consults. Angel and her husband, Kris share their house with Jerry an 8 year old DSH and Leo who is a 7 year old Dalmatian. Angel loves spending time with her family and animals. When Angel has spare time she enjoys volunteering, traveling or reading a good book.

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