top of page


The Purina Nutrition Guide

Step one: Puppy or Adult?

The first thing to consider when selecting a food for your dog is his age: Is he a puppy or an adult?


Step Two: Activity Level On the run or in the ring, your dog’s activity level is a factor in selecting the appropriate food. Choose the level of activity that best describes your dog: Less Active, Moderately Active, Active/Competing or Pregnant/Lactating.

Step Three: Body Condition Like people, some dog's gain or lose weight easily. Dogs who are overweight are at greater risk for developing certain health problems. You’ll want to choose a food that will provide your dog with the nutrition he needs without adding pounds. Not sure what your dogs body condition is?

Here are some guidelines:

Taking care of your pet INTRODUCTION:

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in this country. It is now the most common nutritional problem we see in our pets. Close to 50% of all dogs are overweight and need to shed pounds. This trend closely follows the unprecedented weight gain of Americans. Like their owners, overweight pets are unhealthy. They face a variety of weight-related diseases and a shorter, more painful life. As their owners, we control what they eat, when they exercise, and ultimately, their weight.


WHY OUR PETS ARE OVERWEIGHT: Americans have become inactive. We sit by the television instead of exercising, drive cars instead of walking, and use every labor saving device we can buy. Yet we continue to eat as though we still walked to work, chopped wood to heat our houses and had to catch our own dinner. The result is a nation of people with weight problems. Unfortunately our attitudes about exercise and food are reflected in the care of our pets. Our pets are truly members of our families; they act like us and follow our directions when it comes to minimizing exercise and maximizing diet. Our dogs sit by us as we watch TV and then take one five-minute walk. Then because we don't have time to exercise and interact with our pets, we feel guilty. We limit our guilt be replacing attention with food. Fido looks sad because he is bored indoors. So, we feed him. Then he looks sad again, so we feed him again. And if he bothers us for attention, we give him hollow toys stuffed with treats. If he barks when we are gone, we give him several toys stuffed with peanut butter. If we try to train him, we use hotdogs as rewards. Because we love Fido, we give him his balanced dinner, his rawhides, his treats, his pig ears, his bones, a few potato chips, the left over turkey, and the rest of the ice cream. We don't exercise him and we keep him from running loose. Soon our beloved Fido is one obese dog. Although insufficient exercise and excess calorie consumption are the major causes of obesity, there are other factors that can contribute to a pet's weight gain. Highly palatable pet foods have high fat levels that can rapidly add on the pounds. There are also some breeds of dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, and Basset Hounds, that tend to gain weight easily. Other dogs suffer from medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, that can lead to weight gain more easily than their intact counterparts. Breed type, age, and reproductive status are not an excuse for uncontrolled weight gain. They simply influence your pet's tendency to add pounds and should be taken into consideration in a weight management program. The bottom line is that most of our pets are overweight because they eat too much and exercise too little. WHY


AN OVERWEIGHT PET IS UNHEALTHY: Our need to confine our pets and over feed them may feel like love, but it is not. The combination creates a very unhealthy situation. Obese animals can have a number of weight related illnesses. There is extra stress on the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and other body organs. So fat animals are more likely to suffer from cardiac disease, respiratory problems, digestive disorders, and high blood pressure. Their joints, ligaments, tendons, and bones suffer from excess wear and tear, so they endure arthritis, joint injuries, leg problems, and back ailments. They are at greater risk during anesthesia and surgery. Overheating, skin disease, and reproductive problems are common complaints. Obese animals are prone to life threatening chronic diseases such as diabetes, Cushing's Disease, pancreatitis, and liver disease, including feline hepatic lipidosis. As the pet ages, these physical problems increase and the quality of life decreases. The animals have difficulty rising, walking, climbing stairs, running, and lying down. They are more prone to develop fatty tumors. These tumors can interfere with motion and make the animals uncomfortable. Obese dogs are also have a greater risk of developing certain malignant cancers. In general, obese pets lead shorter, less comfortable lives than those kept at the proper weight.


HOW TO DETERMINE IF YOUR PET IS OVERWEIGHT: Breed type and body structure should be taken into consideration when determining ideal body weight. In general, the best way to tell if your dog is overweight is to examine the dog. Start by looking at the dog from the side as he stands. You want to be able to see good definition between the rib cage and the abdominal area. If you cannot tell where the ribs end and the abdomen begins, your dog is most likely overweight. The most accurate method uses touch. While the dog is standing, place your hands on both sides of the rib cage. If you can just feel the dog's ribs, your dog is within the optimal weight range. A dog within his normal weight range should have a thin layer of fat over the ribs. If you can actually put your fingers between each rib, the dog is too thin. If you cannot feel the ribs, your dog is fat. The more overweight the dog becomes, the heavier the layer of fat will feel. Fat can also be present along the back, over the hips and over the abdomen. Breed weight averages are not helpful as there can be several pound range within one breed type. In addition, even an extra few pounds on a small dog can be the difference between a fit animal and an obese one.


TREATING THE OVERWEIGHT PET: All overweight animals should have a veterinary examination before starting treatment. The treatment is designed for gradual, long-term weight reduction. It combines changes in lifestyle for both the pet and the owner. The entire family must be involved in the process so that a member with no will power does not undermine the program by sneaking treats to the pet. The basis of treatment is reduction in unnecessary calories and an increase in exercise. Simply feeding a reduced calorie is typically not the answer. The pet usually does not lose weight and low fat diets fed long-term can result in both skin and internal problems. Before beginning, document the calories that your pet consumes. Calories can be found in the pet's regular food, as well as treats, biscuits, table scraps, chews, gravies and coat supplements. Compare this to the calorie total that your veterinarian recommends for your pet. Next, document the exercise that your pet receives. Sitting in the backyard is not exercise. Walking, running, fetching, and swimming are exercising. Playing with other dogs, catching a ball, and chasing a Frisbee also count. TIPS TO


REDUCE CALORIES: 1. Eliminate table scraps. They are typically high in fat and calories. 2. Replace treats with raw vegetables such as raw carrots, green beans, low salt pretzels, rice cakes, plain popcorn (no butter!), apple, or banana slices. Use these in place of high fat meats as training rewards. Treats should make up no more than 10% of the pet's total diet. 3. Make your own low fat treats at home. Use low fat recipes for treats and biscuits or slice and bake canned low fat foods until they are dry and crispy. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Remember to consider these calories as part of the animal's total dietary intake for the day. 4. Learn to ignore "begging eyes". This will eventually diminish the behavior. 5. Replace your need to give treats as a sign of love. Instead, give your pet a massage, a walk, some obedience work, or other attention, instead of food. 6. Slightly reduce the amount of commercial food you are feeding. Your veterinarian can tell you if the food is appropriate and the amount to feed your pet. Cut back approximately 15-20% of the ration. Measure the food each meal for accuracy. 7. Examine the fat content of your pet's food. Dog food should have a fat content of approximately 12-16% during a weight loss program. 8. Consider a "diet food". Available as prescription products or from your local store, these products are usually lower in fat and higher in fiber. They allow the pet to consume the same volume of food with fewer calories. Not all animals can digest these diets. Any changes in diet should be made gradually over one to two weeks. Ask your veterinarian for advice. 9. Feed smaller portions more often. If your pet is usually fed once per day, two, three or even four smaller feedings can actually reduce calories and help the animal feel full. 10. Weigh your pet regularly so that you know if your plan is working. Aim for a gradual weight reduction of less than 1% of the pet's body weight per week. Most animal can lose between 1/4 and 1 pound per week. A large dog may be able to tolerate up to a loss of 1 1/2 pounds per week. Rapid weight loss is dangerous. 11. If you have other pets, separate the dieting one during feeding. This reduces competition and the urge to eat more. 12. Practice obedience training. This way you can tell the dog to lie down before begging begins. 13. Remove the dieting animal from the table when family members are eating. This prevents begging and reduces the urge in the family to feed the dog. 14. Keep water available at all times.

TIPS FOR HEALTHY EXERCISE: 1. Keep exercise simple and moderate. Over-exercising an obese animal can cause more harm than good. DO NOT place excess strain on the pet's already stressed cardiac, respiratory, and musculo-skeletal system. Watch an overweight animal for signs of fatigue and stop exercise if necessary. 2. As the dog adapts to the exercise and weight loss starts to occur, the amount and intensity of exercise can be gradually increased. Start with two easy, short walks per day. Five to fifteen minutes each walk may be enough for the obese dog. Slowly increase to two or three 30 minute, brisk walks per day. 3. Provide water every few minutes for the dog to help prevent overheating. 4. Utilize joint-friendly activities such as swimming. 5. Play games, such as fetch, catch or Frisbee. 6. Allow play with other dogs, if appropriate. 7. Increase your household activities and let the dog join in. The more you walk around the house, the more the dog will walk, if invited. 8. As your pet starts to feel better and lose weight, jogging can help accelerate the weight loss process. 9. Consider exercising and playing in group activities, such as agility training. 10. Exercise your pet every single day.


CONCLUSION: Our pets are members of our family. We love them and want to keep them safe and healthy. To do this, we must keep them fit, not fat. So the next time your pet wants to play and you want to watch television, remind yourself that a healthy pet is an active pet. Put down the potato chips, get off the couch, and go play fetch with your best friend!

bottom of page