You work out, you sweat, you drink your electrolytes. You feel good, you look good, you’re healthy. You know what it takes to make a human body tick, to keep muscles strong and ligaments loose. But, have you taken a look at your furry friend lately? Is your beagle a butterball? Is your pekingese portly? Is your mutt a mutton chop? As adorable as they might look, fat dogs are unhealthy and prone to a host of health problems. But there’s a ton of stuff you can do to get your pup to drop, well, a ton.

Weight ScaleCalories matter! Just like for humans, when dogs take in more calories than they burn, they will pack on the pounds.

But what makes this whole concept a lot more complicated is how difficult it is to know exactly how many calories your dog needs to eat each day to stay a healthy weight. There are multiple factors involved, including the size of your dog, the breed of your dog, and age, sex and activity level too. Does at 14 pound supercharged chihuahua need more calories per pound than a 78 pound somnolent shepherd? How do you know? Should you just follow the recommendations on the bag of dog food you bought? The answer to that question is definitely a “NO”. Dog food bag recommendations are almost always very high, most likely because they want you to buy many, many bags of their food and they’re less concerned if your dog becomes a footstool.

Let’s get technical for a minute. Dogs need about 30 calories per pound of body weight to maintain their current weight.

Smaller types need more calories, up to 40 per pound, and the gentle giants need less, closer to 20 calories per pound. Neutered and inactive dogs need a little bit less, and very active dogs need more. Most dogs need less calories in cold weather and more calories in warmer weather. Crazy, right? How can anyone really figure this out?

It almost seems like you need a biochemistry degree to buy pet food these days. You get bombarded by the sales associates pushing "grain-free" diets in the pet store, there are images of lions and wolves on Fifi and Cooper's food bags, and television advertisements claim their diet is the diet of your pets' "ancestors."

Everything you see and hear pushes the idea that grain-free is the best thing for your pet, but what does grain-free really mean, and is it truly the best food for you best friend?

dog food bowlThe Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) labeling guidelines for gluten-free foods state that for a food to be considered gluten-free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. A grain is the seed of something in the grass family, it may or may not contain gluten. Rice, oats, millet and corn are considered gluten-free grains. Gluten is a protein found in rye, wheat, and barley and anything made with these grains. There are other seeds that are not considered grains, such as peas and quinoa.

The FDA does not have any guidelines for grain-free labels on pet foods. It is nothing more than a fancy buzz word used by marketing executives to sell their brand of pet food. The pet food industry is a whopping $29.5 billion dollar business.

Now that we have some basic knowledge about what grain-free means, let's talk about how it affects our pets. This may shock some of you, but there is no credible evidence showing grain-free diets are better for pets.

Bacteria resistance to antibiotics is a serious and growing problem. Bacteria can develop resistance in several ways. Initial exposure to antibiotics can kill bacteria, but any that survive to reproduce can pass that ability by transferring "plasmids" to other unrelated bacteria and essentially teaching them how to be resistant. Over time, some bacteria have acquired resistance to virtually all of the antibiotics available- these are often referred to as "super bugs".

There are several strategies that doctors and patients can use to help minimize this: antibiotics spilling

1. Avoid antibiotic use where possible by using topical antiseptic therapies, such as baths, rinses or mousses with chlorhexidine or povidone iodine, or by using sugar or honey dressings.

2. Avoid using antibiotics when a virus or fungal infection is suspected since antibiotics only work on susceptible bacterial infections.

3. Maximize effective immune response with an optimal diet, probiotics, immunotherapy, and vaccinations.

cat at veterinarianAn unusual alternative therapy called low dose naltrexone exists that can help with a variety of conditions for your pet.

Naltrexone is a drug that blocks opiate receptors. The theory behind low dose naltrexone is that by giving a tiny dose at bedtime, we briefly block the production of endorphins just when they are expected to peak. This causes extra secretion of endorphin stimulating factor and results in higher endorphin levels in the patient.

Endorphins help control pain and focus the immune response to better attack invaders while lessening the likelihood of attacking one’s own cells. We have used this therapy to help palliate chronic arthritis pain in pets who do not tolerate other medications, to assist in treating some immune mediated disorders, and to help slow the growth of some cancers.