Research by Direct Line Pet Insurance, covered in the Daily Mail, has highlighted the huge calorific density of certain pet treats, which is likely to be a contributing factor in the pet obesity problem in the UK. Their headlines include:
Gram for gram Bonio dog treats have more calories than a McDonald’s Big Mac.
A Bonio has 78 calories per treat, 7% of an adult Labrador’s recommended daily amount… the equivalent of a Kit Kat Chunky for humans.
Bonio is not the worst treat either. Pedigree gravy bones have 343 cals/ 100g, 20 cals/ 110g more than Bonio.
With these stats it’s easy to see why there is an obesity problem in dogs. To understand this more let’s look at why we should feed treats, what we can do about the issue and the healthy way to treat you dog.
The primary reason to give a dog a treat is as a reward for good behaviour. From the dogs point of view it is not especially important what this treat is, how big it is, or how many calories it contains. The most important thing from the dog’s perspective is marking the behaviour, letting them know that they have done what you want them to do. Dogs evolved in hierarchical groups, so get more pleasure from knowing that they have done what their master/ pack leader wants than they do from the taste of a treat.
Bearing this in mind we need to look at how we treat our dogs. At Pooch & Mutt we were fully aware of the canine obesity problem when we launched our range of treats. That is why the treats are mini bones; small treats that are perfect for training and marking good behaviour (and easy for you dog to catch!). The treats are also in a tube so that you can use the shaking of the tube as part of your behaviour training. Additionally, unlike the majority of treats, Pooch & Mutt treats list the calories per treats on the pack. The treats have an average of 3.3 cals per treats 23 times less than a Bonio!
Another approach to treating, especially during heavy levels of training (and therefore treating) is to use kibble from your dog’s daily allowance of food as a treat. This is a very simple way to ensure that you don’t over feed. If your dog should have 200g of food per day, you give them 75g per meal (2 meals = 150g) and use the other 50g as training treats during the day. To do this you can either weigh out the 50g and put them in a sandwich bag, or use one of our 50g ‘Sample & Training’ packs, which are available in all of our food varieties from here
If you dog really struggles with weight you should consider feeding Pooch & Mutt’s ‘Slim & Slender’ food. As well as being low-calorie, it contains ingredients like psyllium and pea protein to lower hunger, CLA and L-carnitine to aid fat metabolism and a full joint supplement, which enables overweight dogs to exercise more (additional weight puts additional pressure on joints, so affects exercising ability).
It is worth pointing out that the Direct Line research was clearly created to grab headlines, which it has done. My only small gripe with the research is that all of its focus is on calories, which can be a far too simplistic way to look at nutrition. Not all calories are equal; A Burger King Whopper has the same calories as calories as 2 chicken legs, 3 carrots, 2 apples and 2 eggs. The former has very little nutrition it in, whereas the latter is packed with nutrients. This is down to a concept called the ‘nutrient density of calories’ which is explained in the video below – ‘a better way to feed your dog’