Like the owners who love them, dogs are susceptible to any number of disorders that can not only stem from but become exacerbated by diets that are high in fat.  While any dog can suffer from such issues, this article will focus mainly on adult dogs, excluding expecting dams and puppies. 

Modern-day dog owners are all too aware of the constant bombardment of toxins and the constant state of excess that we experience on a daily basis; it can be frustrating to discover that your dog is suffering from health problems due to these oversights by the larger canine market that makes itself available to us. 

To combat these issues, the best offense is a successful defense; making sure you keep your dog’s diet varied, supplemented and healthy can do a world of good for his or her future.  If it’s simply too late and your dog has already received that diagnosis, however, there are many ways to rectify the issue without breaking the bank or making you or your dog miserable.

Pancreatitis in Dogs. Watch Out For These Dangerous Signs

Just like humans, the problems that can stem from a high-fat diet are broad for dogs, but one of the most common issues is chronic pancreatitis.  Though the official medical definition of pancreatitis is literally “inflammation of the pancreas,” there are many more facets to it than just that.

Common Cause Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

The most common causes of pancreatitis in dogs is obesity, a fat-rich diet and what’s known as “dietary indiscretion,” a term that means a dog will devour anything that strays into its orbit (something many dogs seem prone to).  While there are differences between acute and chronic pancreatitis, the gist is essentially the same, and one can lead to another easily. 

A dog with constant recurrences of acute pancreatitis is at risk for developing a chronic pancreatitis condition, just as a dog with chronic pancreatitis will necessarily display acute pancreatitis frequently until the issue is resolved.  These conditions are both uncomfortable and dangerous for dogs and can result in expensive veterinarian bills if you don’t have good pet insurance.

Pancreatitis Symptoms

Pancreatitis presents as a sudden surge of diarrhea, weight loss or lethargy, as well as steatorrhea, which is a symptom of excess fat excretion and results in large, greasy stool.  The risks of excess fat in your dog’s diet doesn’t end there, however; gallbladder disease, liver inflammation, lymphangiectasia (a failure of the lymph vessels in the intestine) and proneness to parasitic infestation. 

Though many of these symptoms are frequently seen without any connection to deeper health issues and can be unassuming when witnessed alone, a collection of these symptoms should not be ignored as a fluke; pancreatitis can be a fatal issue, and must be addressed as soon as possible in order to ensure your dog continues to live a healthy life.  Fortunately, these problems, while severe and life-threatening at times, can be prevented with simple changes to your dog’s diet.

How Much Fat is Enough?

It’s important to remember that dogs, though they may look and behave very differently now, began as wild, carnivorous wolves who survived on sometimes sporadic fare that almost exclusively consisted of animal matter, with the focus on protein and fat, both vital for the energy needed for long treks, optimizing warmth and spending untold days without food. 

Although our dogs now enjoy soft beds, indoor heating, and steady meals, those dietary values are still very much necessary for any dog’s healthy development today.  Moderation appears to be key to optimize the lifespan, health, and happiness of your dog.

Vegetarian Diet, Is This The Solution?

It should always be noted that dogs do not appear to benefit from a vegetarian diet for the reasons stated above, to say nothing of vegan diets.  While humans, who are omnivores and much more capable of discerning digestible content and supplementing diets due to restrictions, can easily thrive on such fare, dogs have neither the constitutions nor the development to do the same.  Meat should always make up the largest part of a dog’s diet, supplying necessary amino acids and enzymes that are needed for a comfortable life.

Know To Identify Fat % In Your Dog’s Food

While human fat intake is calculated based on age, body weight, and gender, dogs have it a little bit easier.  Most commercially available dog foods break down the content of their products into percentages.  Veterinarians generally consider any dog food that contains 20% or more fat to be high, while 10% or below is seen as low-fat and acceptable for most animals, with the exception of hyperlipidemic dogs who require dramatically low-fat foods, which are scarcer but still available.  These percentages can be affected by many factors, including whether the food is wet or dry (i.e. the moisture content).

Low-Fat Commercial Diets

As much as dog owners would like to believe that dog food companies are out there solely for the benefit of our canine children, that simply isn’t the case; many corporate dog food producers maintain that profit is king and dog happiness and health is secondary, giving rise to sub-par dog foods with additives, inconsistent nutritional values, and harmful chemicals, therefore, vigilance is necessary for choosing foods for your pet, and not just because of the fat content. 

In many instances, low-fat dog food will sacrifice protein in order to achieve these levels, which are just as detrimental to a dog’s constitution.  As stated before, protein is a necessary element in any carnivore’s diet, providing the raw resources needed to repair tissue, build muscle and hair and replenish cells. 

In addition, low-protein diets can elevate the risk of canine hyperlipidemia and pancreatic inflammation, both of which are also notoriously caused by high-fat diets.  If you’re already trying to rid your dog of these ailments with a low-fat diet, finding that they continue to be issues due to low protein count can be frustrating.

Homemade Diets for your Dog

If commercial dogfood seems like too much of a hassle, you can also opt for making your own, home-made natural meals for your pet.  While sometimes more expensive due to the necessary raw ingredients, the process of making your own dog food can be not only fun but rewarding (and your dog will probably be pleased, too).

The best place to start is, again, with your typical macronutrient breakdown: half carbs, half low-fat protein.  Your carbohydrates should be natural, unprocessed and starchy, such as oats, quinoa, potatoes, yams, and rice. 

Dogs also respond well to pumpkin, which not only provides complex carbohydrates but tastes great and helps to alleviate stomach problems such as diarrhea and vomiting.  Bananas, apples, and papaya can be used to meet the carbohydrate requirements as well, however, they should be used in small amounts due to their high sugar content.  Avocados and Mangoes should also be avoided when a low-fat diet is necessary.

What About Proteins?

Your protein should consist of meat, such as chicken breast, turkey, buffalo, rabbit, and venison.  It’s important to ensure that the fat content is not overwhelmingly high in any of these choices, but this can be aided by removing fatty skins, boiling or checking the macronutrient breakdown on the label prior to cooking. 

Ground beef, for example, is available in many variants, from the lean 7% to the more gratuitous 30% fat.  Egg yolks, while full of beneficial protein, can be used in moderation due to their fat content, which can be considerably high.  Using the egg whites alone after removing the yolks can help to remove the excess lipids, however, it’s important to note that cooking the egg whites is necessary to ensure all the available B-vitamins remain readily available.  Cottage cheese, low-fat milk, and kefir are also good choices and also contain calcium that is good for your dog’s joints.

Although organ meats are generally seen as somewhat unhealthy among humans, dogs benefit greatly from these sources of protein as well, especially heart and tripe.  Kidney and liver can be added in small amounts; these organs accumulate fat and toxins and can upset the balance of vitamins within a dog’s constitution.

Raw Or Cooked Diet?

When it comes to preparing your dog’s meal, you have the option of serving either raw or cooked.  Both options have their own unique benefits; when cooked, the fat content of meats can be removed manually and therefore fattier cuts of meat, which are often cheaper, can be used.  Raw meals provide a higher content of vitamins, minerals and amino acids for your dog, however, it’s important to note that dogs benefit little from whole raw veggies (this can be remedied with a blender). Just make sure meals with crustaceans do get cooked.

Health Supplements for Your Dog

Of course, dogs can suffer from deficiencies in other areas beyond macronutrients.  Supplements providing sufficient vitamins and minerals that are necessary for canine health and development are widely utilized as well and can help to fill in the gaps, completing your dog’s nutritional spectrum and optimizing health.

Variety seems to be the name of the game when keeping your dog’s micronutrients all in sufficient supply; this can be achieved simply by cycling between various protein and carbohydrate sources such as the ones listed above, or supplementing a commercial dog food with nutritionally dense treats.  However, supplements can be useful even when these methods are implemented. 

Some of the most important supplementary substances needed in a canine diet include fish oil, antioxidants, beta-carotene, selenium, and vitamin C, as well as calcium and B vitamins.  Digestive enzymes and probiotics can also help to waylay pancreatitis and other issues that can result from fatty diets. 

In addition, pancreatitis can deplete a dog’s body of such required micronutrients, and replenishing these can help to rejuvenate your dog’s health over time.  As always, ensuring that your dog’s diet consists mostly of animal products can ensure that nutritional needs will ultimately be met regardless, leaving supplements as a second line of defense.

Low-Fat Treats For your Dog

Any dog owner knows that there isn’t a dog alive who would refuse a treat, which is something we can use to our advantage when it comes to reducing fat in our dogs’ diets and preventing health issues.  And there are scores of options available to dog parents, some intuitive and others less so. 

If you’d like to keep it simple (as well as capitalize on our dogs’ apparent love for the forbidden fruit that is human food), quick treats such as rice cakes, dried yam, carrots, banana slices or apples can work wonders.  These are all healthy options when used in moderation and can help to break up the monotony for your pet as well.

Any pet store will feature untold riches of dog treats, and some perusing and sharp eyes can separate the cream of the crop quite easily.  You’ll want to look for a treat that’s low in fat – less than 8% is generally a good, healthy amount for dogs with low-fat dietary requirements.  Popular treats like pizzles (or bully sticks), pig ears and tendons are also readily available, however, these should be examined especially carefully; these can contain hidden fats and high calories.  Bones filled with marrow or cheese should be avoided for the most part.

Deer antlers can be an excellent choice to surprise your pet, as they provide hours of entertainment and contain less than 1% fat, making them one of the healthiest treats.

It’s just as possible to make your own treats, and often they can be much more enjoyable for your dog.  Throwing a few strips of lean meat into the oven on low heat can result in the perfect jerky-like treat without all the excess fat and sodium; similarly, boiled beef hearts cut into strips can prove popular.  If your dog loves kongs but needs a low-fat diet that excludes the typical fillings of peanut butter and cheese, nonfat yogurt can be a great alternative.  An hour in the freezer will solidify the yogurt and make it last longer.

It’s important to remain vigilant when it comes to your dog’s diet, particularly when the fat content must necessarily be restricted.  All is not lost if your dog must be restricted; a little extra attentiveness can help immensely and extend your dog’s life without affecting his or her happiness.