14 January 2021

OVERWEIGHT GUNDOGS: SURELY NOT?

When we envisage a working dog, we picture lean, muscular athletes but it is all too common for a working dog to gain weight, especially during the off-season and as the dog begins to age and spends fewer hours out in the field. To sustain performance during a long day of picking up, in often crisp temperatures it is essential that dogs are fed an energy-rich, quality protein diet to promote performance and maintain consistent body condition. With that in mind, what about the older working dogs that aren’t out working every day? The dogs who are accustomed to a heaped breakfast bowl but are starting to look a little well-covered, how do we manage that whilst still maintaining satiety? Let us start with exercise levels after all the ‘off-season’ is different for every handler, some dogs will be at true rest, whilst others will pick up other work and continue to stay in moderate work year-round. Considering exercise levels along with your individual dog’s metabolism, adjustment to diet should be made in advance to prevent playing ‘catch up’ and trying to shed excess weight after it has been put on. If your dog is prone to putting on weight when in reduced levels of exercise, it may be prudent to maintain exercise year-round, with brisk paced, on-lead walks burning more calories than you may think. You may wish to consider alternative or additional means of exercise for your dogs; hydrotherapy is an increasingly popular exercise medium that is used both as a fitness tool as well as for weight management. The buoyancy and viscosity of the water means your dog remains weightless, ideal for managing dogs with joint conditions and viscosity means movement through water is up to 3.5 times more energy-expensive than exercise on land. Do we change the feeding routine of an overweight dog? Research suggests that feeding routine can greatly influence weight gain and you may wish to consider some of the following tips. Firstly, and importantly, ensure you are feeding your dog with their target weight in mind and not their current weight! Splitting meals into at least two, if not three meals per day- this helps a dog feel fuller for longer- it can also promote digestive efficiency in older dogs. Scatter feeding can also be useful, your dog exercises as well as using their nose to work for their food! Being in-tune with your gundog’s body condition and overall health is part and parcel of a successful partnership. The visual appearance of your dog is just one tool in managing your dog’s weight, regular hands-on body condition scoring is more thorough- using a scale such as the PFMA ‘Dog Size-O-Metre chart. Regular weighing of your dog is also important- knowing baseline normal when in peak fitness is crucial as well as the change that may occur during periods of reduced activity. The Chudley’s range provides a diet to suit every dog, at every time of year and life stage. For the overweight or less active working dog, there are several options for consideration each with their own merits and benefits to each individual dog. Chudley’s Lite is a reduced-calorie option, useful for either short- or long-term use, whilst still being a palatable poultry-based diet. Equally, Chudley’s Senior is one to consider, which includes green-lipped mussel for joint support as well as QLC antioxidants to promote optimum digestion.
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