This came from a reader of yesterdays blog.
I thought it was a good question and it would help others, so I am posting the question and my answer..
"On the subject of ideal weight for your dog -- if your dog has been on a weight-managing food and has reached an ideal weight, do you stay on that food or switch to a regular age-appropriate food?"
This is a great question!
There is not a simple answer. In almost all cases the answer needs to incorporate a maintenance diet, a good continual monitoring plan, and still be addressing how the pet got to be overweight in the first place.
Because most pets have a multitude of factors that participated in the weight gain we need a multi-faceted approach to help maintain the weight loss and avoid the weight being regained. Whatever contributed to their demise is likely to still present and creep back into the picture.
If you were given a specific food (like a veterinary prescription food) and used it to lose the weight then the pet food manufacturers have a computer program to help you find your maintenance plan. Hill's and Purina both have these programs, they really help. They will advise you about which food to feed and how much. By plugging in the desired maintenance weight and a few other items they tell you exactly how much they recommend you feed of one of their maintenance diets.
Remember that most prescription diets are classified as 'weight reducing' or 'maintenance' diets. They use all sorts of ingredients to help keep your pet feeling full but not absorbing the calories. If one diet doesn't work for you try another.
For some clients an over the counter food is their only option for long term feeding. So, we have to find a measured quantity to feed, based on weight to maintain (see the food bag for this amount, and use a real-official measuring cup), and remember its important to maintain a steady activity level. Simple weight maintenance formula calories in has to equal calories burned.
Re-weigh your pet every month. The scale never lies! If you find your pet is gaining weight reduce your feeding amount by 20% daily and re-check the weight in 2 weeks. Also scrutinize the hidden calories your pet might be getting, like snacks. Are they getting too many? If you are on a good measured diet then snacks are often the biggest hidden culprit to a pets weight gain demise. Is your pet getting enough exercise? There is no diet plan in the world that works without increasing your pets metabolism. So get moving! Burn those calories! And then maintain that high metabolic rate after you reach your target weight.
If you are having difficulty maintaining see your vet. They will help you find any hidden road blocks, pitfalls, and try to identify any medical reason for the mystery.
So, its not any easy answer. Every pet is unique and every client has different abilities.
If your pet is not at great risk for regaining the weight try a good OTC food, be strict with amounts, and weigh your pet on a scheduled basis.
If you struggled to get the weight off, or have any other underlying health concerns try to stick with a prescription diet for maintenance. But remember this is likely to be the diet your pet will be on long term.
I hope this helps.