For dog owners, there’s nothing more important than feeding their furry friends a healthy and balanced diet. And if your pup is packing on the pounds, it might be time to look at their diet. There are several reasons dogs tend to gain weight, including old age, lack of exercise, and frequent snacking. But new research suggests that feeding your dog a diet rich in protein and fiber can help them avoid becoming overweight — adding more happy years to their life (and to yours!).
A recent study published in the Journal of Animal Science looked at how a change in diet could kickstart weight loss in obese dogs. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign animal sciences professor Kelly Swanson, PhD, notes that dogs face similar problems as humans when dealing with obesity. “There’s added stress on the joints, there’s an intolerance to exercise and heat,” he said in a statement. “There’s also glucose intolerance, insulin resistance. And if you look at pet insurance claims, obesity is a big factor there.”
Swanson also notes that dogs have a different set of gut bacteria than humans — though it does have a similar function. Both human and dog gut bacteria help break down proteins and fibers, reduce inflammation, and boost immune health. These gut health functions are key for losing weight and maintaining a healthy metabolism to keep excess pounds at bay.
For the study, researchers fed 12 obese female dogs a reduced calorie diet with high sources of protein and fiber for 24 weeks. Throughout that time, scientists adjusted the dogs’ intake of the diet according to their weekly weight loss results. They were fed the full amount of the diet for the first four weeks, before scaling back their portions by 20 percent and adjusting as needed throughout the study period to achieve weight loss results.
The Pawerful Findings
After the 24 weeks, researchers found a 31 percent decrease in the dogs’ initial body weight. The dogs also experienced a nearly 12 percent reaction in body fat as a result of losing weight. This positive effect was credited to the increase of “good” gut-friendly bacteria such as allobaculum and eubacterium that came from consuming the diet. The authors concluded by emphasizing the benefits of feeding pet dogs protein and fiber rich foods to ensure that they maintain a healthy weight.
The great news is that incorporating these foods into your dog’s daily diet is very simple. You can browse a nearby pet store like Petco, which sells a range of protein-packed and high fiber dog foods. Or you can start feeding them protein-filled foods like red meat, fish, and poultry. Also, your beloved dog can get their fill of fiber with ground flaxseed, carrots, and brown rice. If you’re unsure about how a diet change might affect your pup’s health, speak with your local vet during their next visit.
Feeding your dog the right foods not only helps them stay healthy for years to come, it gives them enough energy to play fetch or go on those fun, stress-busting afternoon walks around the neighborhood!