Is Your Dog Fit2BPawsome?

April is National Canine Fitness Month. To celebrate, KC Pet Collective has created a free 6 week challenge to help you get your dog moving.  Join Fit2BPawsome for education, support, discounts, and a chance to win prize packages from our local sponsors.  The challenge begins on April 30.

Do you find it challenging to keep your dog in top condition?

You are not alone.  Over half the dogs in the US are overweight or obese.  Dogs today are more likely to live indoors with people than at any other time in history.  And being housebound can lead to weight gain when pet parents don’t make enough time for dog exercise.

A recent study showed that dogs spend just five minutes a day running and about an hour walking each day.  Depending on breed, more vigorous exercise is probably needed to keep the weight off.  Yet busy schedules can keep pet parents from getting their dog out to play.

KC Pet Collective has joined with generous sponsors to create a fitness challenge designed to keep you motivated for success.

Fit2BPawsome has all the key components to get your dog in the shape of her life.

  1. Incentives.  That’s right.  Experts agree that having something to work for increases your chances of success.  All challenge participants will be eligible for prize packages including board, play, and /or grooming packages from Dog Pawz and Camp Bow Wow Liberty, a gift certificate for high quality, natural pet food from Pet Wants Olathe, a dog-walking kit from Four Leg Stretch, and a gift package from Tail Waggin Pet Stop.
  2. Support.  Support and accountability increase commitment to fitness goals. Join our Facebook group, or share your progress on social media using the hashtag #fit2bpawsome.  Post a photo of your dog every week,create videos of your best workout activities, and discuss the obstacles you face to get your dog moving.  We’re hoping you’ll find new friends and fitness partners to help you stay on track.
  3. Tools.  We’lll help you find the tools you need for success.  Participants in the challenge will receive a 25% discount on dog fitness trackers from Babel Bark.  Pair the tracker with the free app to connect to your veterinarian, service providers, and favorite pet stores.  The app tracks activity level and lets you sets goals for your dog.  You’ll receive discounts for doggie day care to keep your dog active when you aren’t available.  $2 off all baths at U Wash Puppy, discounts on boarding, day care and/or grooming packages at Dog Pawz and Camp Bow Wow Liberty, and 15% off everything except food and baths at Tail Waggin Pet Stop.  We have even partnered with Flexy Body Babes to provide workout moves for dogs and humans.
  4. Tips and tricks. We’ll keep you up to date on the best dog fitness hacks here in the blog and on the Fit2BPawsome Facebook page.

 

Spring is one of the best times to get outdoors.  As the weather improves, make a commitment today to creating more physical exercise opportunities for your best friend.  Sign up now!

 

Join Our Free Fit2BPawsome Challenge

Join our free 6-week fitness challenge and get your dog moving! We'll provide the tips and support. All participants are eligible for fantastic prizes and discounts from our sponsors. This is going to be Pawsome!

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How Much Should You Feed Your Dog? Basic Steps to Estimate Energy Needs

How much should you feed your dog?

It depends on your dog’s age, breed, weight, activity level, and health status.  It also depends on the type and brand of food you are feeding.  Dog nutrition is complex, and that’s why you should always consult your veterinarian before starting any diet or exercise program with your pet.  Online feeding calculators and formulae for estimating your dog’s energy needs provide only a rough guide.  Only your veterinarian is qualified to make sound recommendations for your dog’s nutritional needs.

How much energy does your dog need each day?

There are many tools to help pet parents estimate how much energy their dog should get each day.  Whether you calculate by hand or use an online tool, there are two terms that you will need to understand.

Resting Energy Requirement (RER)

The resting energy requirement is the energy that your dog needs, at rest, to maintain current body weight.  The RER is calculated with the formula

70 x (body weight in kilograms)0.75

Where body weight in pounds/2.2 = body weight in kilograms (kg).

An easier way to estimate this is to convert your dogs weight in pounds  to kg (divide by 2.2). Multiply the weight in kilograms by 30 and then add 70.

Maintenance Energy Requirement (MER)

The maintenance energy requirement is the energy that your dog requires daily based on health status, neuter status, activity level, and other factors that influence metabolism.  Veterinary nutritionists have established several multipliers to the RER.  You may find a good list at the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine .  Note that this list includes multipliers for weight gain and weight loss as well as maintenance.

For pets, it’s customary to refer to energy as kilocalories.  That’s equivalent to the Calories (with a capital C) that are listed on the labels for human food.

Online calculators

You may find online calculators that will help you make these estimates.  The most comprehensive calculator tool out there is provided by the Pet Nutrition Alliance.   To use this tool, you will need to provide basic information about your dog.   This tool is for adult dogs only.

How much food does your dog need each day

It can be hard to know how much energy is in your favorite brand of dog food. That’s because dog food companies do not have to provide on the label the energy content of the food.  However, your dog food company should provide this information if you request it.  Many premium brands, like Pet Wants, now voluntarily list the amount of energy per cup on their label.  You may also find information about the number of calories in your dog food online. Kurgo.com is one place to find the energy content of many brands and types of dog food.

Most veterinarians recommend feeding twice daily.  To estimate the amount you should give at each feeding, in cups, divide half your dog’s MER by the number of kilocalories per cup of your dog’s food.

Always use a standard measuring cup, rather than a roughly cup-sized household object, to measure the amount of food you are giving your dog.  Even a few extra kibbles can add up to a lot of extra kilocalories when they are given at every meal.  You need a consistent measure to help you keep your dog’s diet on track.

Don’t forget treats!

If you give treats (and who doesn’t?), don’t forget to include treats in your dog’s kilocalorie count.  Don’t be fooled.  Even treats like rawhide chews may have up to 80 kilocalories per ounce!  Don’t feed over 10% of your dog’s recommended MER in treats each day. Tiny training chews make excellent low-energy treats.  Give them as a reward in place of a larger biscuit.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be!

Still feeling confused about how much to feed your dog? There’s an easy way to get started that doesn’t require any calculations, web searches, or complicated math.  Measure the amount that you are feeding your dog each day in cups.  Look on your dog food label and find the recommended feeding amounts.  If your dog is overweight and you are feeding more than the recommended amount, gradually cut back over a couple of weeks to the lowest recommended amount.  If you feed this amount and your dog does not begin to lose weight, you may consider trying a weight loss (high fiber) diet.

It’s important to remember that dog foods are formulated to be nutritionally complete when fed as recommended.  This means that you should never decrease the amount of a dog food below the recommended amount on the label, unless instructed to do so when your dog is under veterinary supervision.

If your dog is underweight, make sure you are feeding at least the recommended amount.  Increase the amount gradually until your dog begins to fill out.  If your dog continues to be underweight, this could indicate an underlying health condition.  You should consult your veterinarian to rule out other problems.

 

PetWants Olathe is a sponsor of the Fit2BPawsome Challenge.  KC Pet Collective is not affiliated with Pet Wants and does not receive a commission on sales.

Use the Babel Bark Monitor Dog Fitness Tracker to Meet Fitness Goals and More

Measuring progress towards goals is one way to stay accountable and keep on track.  The Babel Bark dog fitness tracker is an inexpensive tool to track dog health.  In the app you may plan, monitor, and track your dog’s diet, exercise, medications, vaccinations, and more, all in one place.

The dog fitness tracker

The Babel Bark monitor is about the size of a quarter. It attaches directly to the collar, and it comes with rubber bands sized to fit small and large width collars.  The monitor communicates with the free partner app via Bluetooth.  It’s powered by a watch battery that last approximately six months. It comes with an extra battery.

The monitor records your dogs activity as points.  The software calculates points according to your dog’s age and weight.  A points system makes sense for dogs, because the wide variety in size makes keeping track of steps virtually impossible.

The monitor retails for $29.95 (as of May, 2018).  If you are enrolled in the Fit2BPawsome Challenge, you are eligible for a 25% discount.  This is quite a bit less than some of the other dog fitness monitors on the market.  Because the monitor connects via Bluetooth you will not be able to sync data continuously via wireless.  The other drawback to this monitor is that it is not rechargeable.

I recommend that you monitor your dog’s baseline activity level over a few days before setting a goal.  Increase your dog’s activity gradually as you work towards your goal.

The app

You may use the free partner app with our without the fitness monitor. With the app, you can connect to other pet parents, share your dog’s profile, and connect to your veterinarian and other service providers directly.  The app lets you monitor your dog’s weight, medications, diet, and activity.  I have created a video to demonstrate how useful this app can be.

If you aren’t using the fitness monitor, the app will let you set an activity goal for your dog based on miles traveled.  The app will only track miles if you and your phone are with your dog.

My dog Kawai has been wearing the fitness monitor for about a month now.  It does a very good job of tracking his activity through the day, and I can also see when he is up during the night.  The app is relatively user-friendly.  The only issue I have encountered is that my dogs tore the rubber band on the monitor when they engaged in some friendly rough-housing.  I replaced the rubber band that came with the product with a heavier, standard rubber band, and I have not had a problem since.

I would recommend this as a good place to start if you are serious about tracking your dog’s health and fitness.  There are other monitors on the market that have more features, but they are also considerably more expensive.  I give this monitor and app 8/10.

Babel Bark is a sponsor of the Fit2BPawsome Challenge, and provided a monitor for testing.  KC Pet Collective is not affiliated with Babel Bark and does not receive a commission on sales.

Video transcript

Now I am going to show you how to use the free dog health tracking app from Babel Bark.  There is a partner fitness monitor, but you can use the free app without the monitor.

When you open the app, you will see a home screen.  From the home screen, you can create a profile for your dog. The app lets you upload a snap shot and will ask you for some basic facts. As you can see, you will need the pet’s name, his primary breed, secondary breed if he’s a mix, birthday, weight, and some health information. The nice thing about this app is that it lets you select the type of dog food you are feeding.  Most of the major brands are here, and quite a few of the smaller brands as well. 

You also can add the amount that you are feeding and how many times a day you are feeding. You can also add medications and vaccinations here as well.  I have not done that yet for my dog.  Not that he hasn’t been vaccinated, because he certainly has.

On the local services tab you can connect to veterinarians, pet stores, groomers, trainers, walkers, and more.   Some vendors will allow you to schedule appointments in the app. And if they don’t already, you can ask them if they will allow you to do that.

When you select the medication tab, if there no records there yet, you will see a form. That form will allow you to send an email your veterinarian asking them to upload records to the app.  Once those medications are there, you can track them in your phone.

The weight tab allows you to track your dog’s weight over time. This is really nice.  You can put in the current weight; you can put in the target weight if you have agreed on it with your veterinarian, and track progress towards a goal.

You can invite with other pet parents, and connect with them, and share your dog’ profile in the app as well.

Now, let’s talk about the activity tab. I am going to log into my other pet. The first thing you will want to do is set your dog’s activity goal.  If you are not using the fitness monitor, the goal will be based on mileage.  Mileage is tracked with the phone app, so you will need to be with your dog when he/she is getting the exercise.

If you want to use the fitness monitor, simply select “add fitness monitor,” and it will search for available fitness monitors. It’s going to find my other dog’s fitness monitor, so I am not going to add one.

Let’s move back to Kawai’s profile. If you are using the fitness monitor, the system is going to suggest goals that are based on points. Those are points are based on your dog’s weight and age.  And you will get goals for a range, low, medium, and high activity level. It’s a good idea to monitor your dog’s baseline activity for a couple of days and then set a goal.  For our border collie we found that he was already at a fairly high level of activity according to the points system, and we set quite a high goal for him.

You can see down at the bottom of the screen that when you sync your data you get a nice graph that shows what times of the day your dog is active and how many points he’s getting at each of those time points. 

The monitor is about the size of a quarter and retails for $29.95   That’s quite a bit less expensive than some of the other monitors on the market.  A couple of things to remember: this works via bluetooth so you have to have your phone nearby to sync.  It won’t track continuously through wireless.

The monitor fits on the collar and comes with rubber bands sized for small or large collar widths. Activate your fitness monitor  by clicking it.  You will see the lights flash.  As we have shown, select add a fitness monitor.

The nice thing about this app is that it lets you share all the information about your dog’s health with your veterinarian.  It’s a very low cost tool to help you keep up with your dog’s health and wellness and track progress to fitness.

Puppy Exercise: Keep Them Busy, But Don’t Overdo It.

Puppies are little (and not so little) balls of energy wrapped up in excitement.  What are the best ways to keep them active and out of trouble?  How much puppy exercise is appropriate?  Are some types of exercise better than others?  You have questions, and we have some answers.

What is a good puppy exercise?

A good puppy exercise is usually short (think 10 minutes for younger pups to 20 minutes at four months of age).  Puppies over four months may be able to exercise for longer periods of time if their breed allows.  The key is to keep the exercise session short enough to match their attention span.  Young puppies don’t have much endurance yet, because their bodies are immature.

A good puppy exercise is not overly strenuous.  Use low-impact activities.  Running is generally ok in short bursts, but endurance training should be left until your puppy is mature.  Jumping and prolonged running can injure growth plates, and dogs are not generally trained for jumping sports until they are mature.  Large and giant breeds mature more slowly, so be sure to ask your veterinarian when is the appropriate time to begin high-impact sports.  Many sport clubs will start training dogs at two years of age.

The AKC has good information on age-appropriate exercise for puppies.

A good puppy exercise is fun.  Puppies will do anything as long as it is fun!

Some play ideas to get you started

  1. Play hide and seek.  Hide treats around the house, or hide yourself and encourage your puppy to find you.
  2. Go swimming:  Water play is low impact and dogs love it.  Until your puppy can swim strongly, use a dog swim vest for safety.
  3. Play with puzzles.  Dog treat puzzles keep your puppy’s mind active and help her learn good problem solving skills.  Some treat puzzles encourage movement as well.  Your puppy might not retrieve yet, but she will probably enjoy chasing anything you feel like throwing.
  4. Learn tricks and skills.  You can teach an old dog new tricks, but young dogs learn faster.  Your puppy is soaking up knowledge at an incredible rate.  Now is the time to teach him obedience and party tricks.  Work on the recall frequently throughout the day.  Move around the house and call your puppy to you frequently.  Practice leash skills on walks.
  5. Socialize.  Dog parks and doggie day care are great places to socialize your puppy.  He’ll get a lot of exercise while he’s there, too.  Use common sense and keep your puppy out of park areas where reactive or overly boisterous and physical older dogs are playing. Some facilities offer sessions for puppies only.  For example, Bar K Dog Bar in Kansas City has a weekly puppy socialization play date on Wednesday evenings.  Puppy classes with your local pet store or trainer are great places to socialize, train, and exercise your puppy.

Join the Fit2BPawsome challenge to stay motivated.  The challenge is designed to be appropriate for all breeds and life stages.

A busy puppy is a happy puppy.  Keeping her busy with safe and healthy exercise will help her grow into a strong and confident dog.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Bar K Dog Bar is a sponsor of the Fit2BPawsome Challenge

Your Pet’s Fitness Is a Matter of Habit

Your pet’s fitness is a matter of habit, and the habit must be yours.  Your pet relies on you to make sure she gets regular exercise and eats properly.  Like any habit, exercising your pet consistently will require commitment from you.  Don’t worry.  We have some tips for making the habit stick.

Measure

You may have heard it said that goals should be measurable.  People are more likely to meet goals when they can quantify their progress.  That’s partly because we tend to over or underestimate our efforts, depending on how much we like the activity or choice.  To make monitoring work for your pet’s fitness, you need to quantify how much time you spend exercising your pet, or track your pet’s activity through some other means.

There are several excellent fitness apps and monitors on the market for dogs.  Depending on your budget, there is a monitor that will work for you.  We like Babel Bark, an inexpensive monitor and free app.  You may also log time manually, or record your mileage with your dog.  However you measure your dog’s activity, set a goal to increase it gradually.

Calendar

It’s a well-known fact that we tend to do what we make time for in a schedule.  If helping keep your pet fit is important, it’s key to schedule some time each day to make this happen.  Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, put exercise time with your pet into your daily agenda.

Get Accountable

Many people are better at sticking to habits when they are held accountable.  Making a goal public or simply having a friend act as an accountability partner can increase your chances for successfully keeping a new habit.  Similarly, being part of a group that meets in person or communicates online can help give you the accountability you need.  You may find it easier to consistently exercise your pet if you make a date with a friend and do it together.

Through the Fit2BPawsome Challenge, you will find tools to help you monitor your dog’s fitness.  You can go public and get accountable by joining the Challenge and participating in the Facebook group discussion.   Schedule daily activities with your pet and make your pet’s fitness a habit now.

Babel Bark is a sponsor of the Fit2BPawsome Challenge.

 

Hey, Does My Dog Look Fat to You?

Most people don’t think their dogs are overweight.  But according to veterinarians, 54% of dogs are overweight or obese.  It’s hard to be objective about your best friend’s waistline.  The good news is that you don’t have to ask a friend, “Does my dog look fat to you?”  There are better ways to know if your dog needs to slim down.

Ask your veterinarian

The best way to determine whether or not your dog needs to lose weight is to ask your veterinarian.  She has trained for years for just this moment, is an objective observer, and has your dog’s very best interests at heart.

Sadly, even though pet parents and veterinarians recognize that obesity is a major health problem, the topic is often not adequately discussed at veterinary visits.  Take the first step and drive this discussion with your veterinarian.  Ask him to show you how to assess your dog’s body condition, and initiate a discussion about how much food you should give your dog.

Track your dog’s weight

Weight gain happens gradually in dogs, just as it does in people.  It can be hard to see it until it becomes a problem.  The scale is your dog’s friend.  If your dog is small enough, weigh her periodically at home.  You may step on the scale with your dog, then without your dog, and subtract to get her weight.  If you have a larger dog, make sure you keep track of your dog’s weight at regular veterinary visits.

A fitness tracker like Babel Bark may help you keep an eye on trends over time.  You can share your dog’s information with your veterinarian directly through the app, or provide it at your next visit.

Gradual weight gain will alert you that you need to make changes in diet and exercise.  Gradual weight loss without an increase in the amount you are feeding may alert you to underlying health problems.

Learn a simple rule of thumb

It can be difficult to know whether your dog is overweight just by looking.  The major problem is that longer or fluffier coats may camouflage early weight gain.  A heavy coat may also make your dog look overweight, when he is actually in great shape.

There are different types of evaluation scale to help you determine your dog’s body condition.  My favorite rule of thumb for assessing body condition is the hand test.  The following video will walk you through this method. Remember to consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet or exercise regimen.  For more information and more ways to assess your dog’s body condition, check out the blog at PetMD.

Video transcript

In this video, I’ll demonstrate a quick and easy way to estimate your dog’s body condition.  You just need your dog and your hand!

Rub your hand over the top of the ribs in the middle of the body.

Compare to rubbing your own hand.  If your dog’s ribs under the skin feel similar to your bones under the skin on the top of your hand, your dog is probably at a good condition.  If the ribs feel like your knuckles, your dog is too thin. This challenge isn’t for you; talk to your veterinarian to make sure your dog is getting enough food and is healthy.  If the ribs feel like your palm your dog is probably overweight, and if the ribs feel like the ball of your thumb, your dog is almost certainly overweight.

Get active

Whether your dog is in tip-top shape or could stand to lose a couple of pounds, now is the time to get active.  Join the Fit2BPawsome Challenge for support, tips, discounts, and a chance to win great prizes from our fabulous sponsors!

*Babel Bark is a sponsor of the Fit2BPawsome Challenge.

Disclaimer: The above video and the Fit2BPawsome Challenge are intended for entertainment purposes only, and not for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or disease.  Always consult your veterinarian before beginning any diet or exercise program with your pet.