Some important scientific discoveries made in the past 15 years have helped nutritionists better define the dietary needs of the senior dog. For instance,Purina® scientists demonstrated that monitoring food intake to maintain a leanand trim dog resulted in longer, healthier lives for those animals. Study results also indicate that dogs maintained at proper body weight show a significant delay in the onset of typical signs associated with the aging process. In short, maintaining your furry family member at an ideal body weight is probably the most important contributor to a long and healthy life for your dog.
Many dog families fall short of this goal. At this writing, 60% of dogs and cats are overweight. It is now so common to see “fat” dogs and cats that our mental picture of “healthy weight” has been altered. How does the average pet family determine if their own 4-legged family member is overweight?
The best tool available to you is your hands. Whether your 4-legged friend is young or old, your hands can determine whether your dog is under or overweight, how much muscle mass he has, and if his coat is thinning or his skin is dry. If you begin this process when you first bring a dog into your family, you will have very important memories in your hands and mind and you will more than likely have a longer relationship with your new family member. Starting at the neck, feel how round it is or isn’t. Round and firm would indicate muscle mass like that of a younger dog. The shoulders should have good muscle cover, but you should still be able to palpate or feel the shoulder blades.
When going down from the top of the back, the spinal column should be palpable,fairly close to the skin, but not visually obvious. The ribs should be easily felt through about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of skin and fat. (If your dog is short-coated, the last three ribs should be visible when the dog is trotting or running in front of you).For the hips, the points of the pelvis should be palpable, one on each side of the top of the lower back. You may have to push a little to find them, but they should be able to be felt. Lastly, the base of the tail can tell us about excess weight. At the point where body meets tail is a small, almost triangular area that should NOT be identifiable. I call it the dimple that we do not want to see. If it is visible, the dog is carrying excess fat on his back.
Remember:the Purina® Lifetime Study proved that lean dogs have longer, healthier lives. Please be sure that the 4-legged members of your family are not in the 60% of overweight animals.
Once you’ve determined your dog’s weight status, you will want to adjust caloricintake accordingly. Dr. Susan Lauten from the book Your Dog’s Golden Years http://www,seniordogbooks.com