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Ellie spent her first 9 years eating frozen raw as her primary diet. She's always known how to charm us and also got bits and pieces of everything we ate that wasn't forbidden to dogs.

At about 9 she had a very bad flu or virus, dehydrated and was in the hospital for a few days. She also had a dental around this time and lost 6 teeth. After the illness, although it didn't seem to be food related, I stopped the raw and started feeding high quality kibble with various meat toppers. She continued to eat almost everything we ate. She's now 12, has lost a few more teeth and can't really chew kibble or even "crunchy" treats. I've just started feeding canned foods, usually listed with 5 stars for Senior Dogs on Dog Food Advisor. and high in animal or fish proteins.

Ellie was 18.6 lbs when I moved to the canned food. She was a good healthy weight when she weighed 16 pounds. But during the last two years plus Covid, it's crept up. I cut way back on portions of treats and any food scraps from the table. I tried to follow the feeding instructions on the cans for a 15 pound dog knowing she gets extras and also needs to lose weight. After two weeks on the cans (Merrik, Halo, Holistic and Instinct, she is 19.7 lbs!

All the cans are between 12 and 13 oz. The feeding directions are vague to say the least. They generally recommend 1/2 can/day for a 15 pound dog. I usually stare at the can, mumble and grumble and take a guess as to what is actually 1/4 can. Are there real live measurements one can use such as teaspoons or tablespoons?

The refrigerator is very cold - Ellie is not long on patience when it comes to her food. I've taken to feeding her in glass Pyrex bowls and heating the food in the microwave for about 12 seconds. Am I losing nutrients this way or is it ok?

The weight gain after this new and, I thought, better food plan is distressing. She seems a bit hungry a lot of the time but she gained over a pound in two weeks. Should I be ignoring manufacturer's recommendations? Any ideas of how to best get her weight down? Exercise is limited since Covid closed a very good doggy day care in the neighborhood. But she does go on a walk for about an hour at least 5 days out of the week. She also loves the cold weather and collapses in the heat so I can't imagine much more exercise. She's beginning to look like a blimp and I feel really inadequate for not being able to find a better solution. This is not a good age for her to begin piling on the pounds.

Thanks for all suggestions.
 

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Are you saying that Ellie was at a good healthy weight while feeding raw and then started gaining weight when you switched her to kibble? Have you considered trying raw again? The problem with kibble is that it is often loaded with carbs - potatoes, grains, corn, etc. Even peas are starchy. As far as canned, that usually contains carbs too. IMO, dogs have zero needs for carbs. I would try to feed a food that has zero carbs ideally or is at least is very low in carbs. It is often difficult to feed zero carbs without switching to raw, however there may be some canned foods out there that are low in carbs. I would also make sure that you are not feeding any starchy treats or table scraps. Fruit is high in sugar and so are carrots. So I would be careful about what extras you feed. I recently went on a low carb diet and dropped 25 pounds without any effort at all. Carbs make me fat so I limit them. I think it is the same for dogs. I never count calories. I just limit carbs and eat what I want. This keeps me at a healthy weight.
 

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Metrowest, MA
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There is really only one way to sort out weight gain in an animal... just as in a human. Count the calories going in vs. calories out. Either increase activity or decrease calories. In real life, few people are willing or able to sufficiently increase activity to get the weight off their dog, so that means reducing the calories. And it is RARELY the treats that are the problem. Cut down her meal size. You can’t fo by what the can says either. Those are only VERY general guidelines, and ALWAYS “generous”. Instead, figure out the exact amount of calories she was getting with her old food, and then figure out how much if the new food you have to feed her to match that amount of calories. This is a bit harder to do with canned food, of course. It may be easier to figure out a whole week’s caloric intake, and then approximate 1/7th of that each day. Then it doesn’t matter if she gets a teeny bit more or less in each meal as long as you know you used “x” cans for the week.

If you want to diet her down a bit faster, you can reduce her food to a BIT lower than the old amount of calories until she is back to her normal weight. But watch it carefully... little dogs gain and lose weight pretty fast!
 

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I never count calories. I just limit carbs and eat what I want. This keeps me at a healthy weight.
WHAT?! No pasta, rice, or bread? Stick a fork in me, I'm done! Also, aging up appears to be a facor in weight gain in humans - less exercise because everything hurts.
 

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WHAT?! No pasta, rice, or bread? Stick a fork in me, I'm done! Also, aging up appears to be a facor in weight gain in humans - less exercise because everything hurts.
Well my system cannot tolerate grains at all, so this automatically eliminates lots of stuff! I also cannot tolerate dairy so that limits things as well. So I guess my diet is naturally restricted. I eat very few carbs and still have lots of energy so definitely do not need carbs for that. I do get regular exercise and have really gotten into weight training which I think is so beneficial as we get older. However, a big mistake people make is depending on exercise to lose weight. I guess age may have something to do with gaining weight but I know many young people who are over weight. I am 66 years old, very healthy and can squat with 70 pounds on my back which I have worked very hard to achieve over the past three years. When I started weight training I could not do a squat at all, even without any weight! I also had sore knees and now they never hurt! I highly recommend weight training, particularly as we age.
 

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Metrowest, MA
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Also, aging up appears to be a facor in weight gain in humans - less exercise because everything hurts.
True, though I wouldn't expect a healthy Havanese to be slowing down TOO much at 12...
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Are you saying that Ellie was at a good healthy weight while feeding raw and then started gaining weight when you switched her to kibble? Have you considered trying raw again? The problem with kibble is that it is often loaded with carbs - potatoes, grains, corn, etc. Even peas are starchy. As far as canned, that usually contains carbs too. IMO, dogs have zero needs for carbs. I would try to feed a food that has zero carbs ideally or is at least is very low in carbs. It is often difficult to feed zero carbs without switching to raw, however there may be some canned foods out there that are low in carbs. I would also make sure that you are not feeding any starchy treats or table scraps. Fruit is high in sugar and so are carrots. So I would be careful about what extras you feed. I recently went on a low carb diet and dropped 25 pounds without any effort at all. Carbs make me fat so I limit them. I think it is the same for dogs. I never count calories. I just limit carbs and eat what I want. This keeps me at a healthy weight.
Ellie's weight went up a little when I switched from raw to kibble plus protein toppers. Then Covid led to a marked reduction in activity and general stimulation. She lost a few more teeth and kibble became a problem - she had also gained weight.

About a month ago I changed her from kibble to canned high animal protein foods. I deliberately chose NOT to go back to raw because I've seen more and more recalls. I also felt uneasy about taking this small "risk" with an older dog who might not have the strength to bounce back. And almost every vet was always nervous :)

I was following the feeding instructions on the cans and Ellie was gaining weight on the cans (she'd been weight stable on the kibble).
 

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Discussion Starter #8
There is really only one way to sort out weight gain in an animal... just as in a human. Count the calories going in vs. calories out. Either increase activity or decrease calories. In real life, few people are willing or able to sufficiently increase activity to get the weight off their dog, so that means reducing the calories. And it is RARELY the treats that are the problem. Cut down her meal size. You can’t fo by what the can says either. Those are only VERY general guidelines, and ALWAYS “generous”. Instead, figure out the exact amount of calories she was getting with her old food, and then figure out how much if the new food you have to feed her to match that amount of calories. This is a bit harder to do with canned food, of course. It may be easier to figure out a whole week’s caloric intake, and then approximate 1/7th of that each day. Then it doesn’t matter if she gets a teeny bit more or less in each meal as long as you know you used “x” cans for the week.

If you want to diet her down a bit faster, you can reduce her food to a BIT lower than the old amount of calories until she is back to her normal weight. But watch it carefully... little dogs gain and lose weight pretty fast!
I can't imagine figuring out how many calories she was getting because her meals differed from day to day depending upon what WE had for dinner and sometimes how well she convinced me she needed at least a little something:)

Is there a chart or a rule of thumb as to how many calories are needed to attain a certain weight with (sadly) minimal to moderate activity? I deliberately got a scale that will measure in ounces which she stands on and I can get repeatable readings.
Thanks.
 

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True, though I wouldn't expect a healthy Havanese to be slowing down TOO much at 12...
I agree. However, the doggie day care she went to five 1/2 days for the past ten of her twelve years closed during Covid as did several in the neighborhood. She really is getting less activity and I've been able to make up for about 1/3rd of what she used to get. And there was much more activity in the house before the pandemic as well. She really became quite lethargic for a while. I think she was very sad - she was accustomed to interacting with about 16 people/week along with many dogs. Suddenly there was only me - glued to Zoom meetings.
 

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Metrowest, MA
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Ellie's weight went up a little when I switched from raw to kibble plus protein toppers. Then Covid led to a marked reduction in activity and general stimulation. She lost a few more teeth and kibble became a problem - she had also gained weight.

About a month ago I changed her from kibble to canned high animal protein foods. I deliberately chose NOT to go back to raw because I've seen more and more recalls. I also felt uneasy about taking this small "risk" with an older dog who might not have the strength to bounce back. And almost every vet was always nervous :)

I was following the feeding instructions on the cans and Ellie was gaining weight on the cans (she'd been weight stable on the kibble).
A dog will ALWAYS gain weight if you follow the directions on the dog food. The company is in the business of selling dog food. Of course they want you to feed more. ;)
 

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Metrowest, MA
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Is there a chart or a rule of thumb as to how many calories are needed to attain a certain weight with (sadly) minimal to moderate activity?
No, because every dog is different.

Get a kitchen food scale, and weigh what you are feeding her now. Also weigh HER now. Cut what you are feeding her by 10%. Weigh her again in a month. If she is losing weight, good. She may not be, but if she’s not gaining, that’s good information too. If she’s losing, keep going as you are. If she’s NOT losing, cut it by another 10%. Rinse, repeat.

Forget about the human food component. It is true that you can’t calculate that, but unless you are going to totally cut that out, and it is something that both you and she enjoy, and as long as you are sure you are feeding her HEALTHY foods, there is no harm in it at all. Over time, I am sure the calorie amount is pretty stable. What you have CHANGED is the dog food component in her diet. THAT is what you need to get a handle on and reduce.
 

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I agree. However, the doggie day care she went to five 1/2 days for the past ten of her twelve years closed during Covid as did several in the neighborhood. She really is getting less activity and I've been able to make up for about 1/3rd of what she used to get. And there was much more activity in the house before the pandemic as well. She really became quite lethargic for a while. I think she was very sad - she was accustomed to interacting with about 16 people/week along with many dogs. Suddenly there was only me - glued to Zoom meetings.
Covid has been hard for all of us, and has required diet adjustments for MANY of us. It still needs to be done! ;)
 

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I definitely think weighing the food is the way to go. That is what I do with mine. I have no clue how to count calories. Although a few extras may not hurt, just be careful of super high calorie things like bully sticks and pig ears. As far as not trusting commercial raw, I am even more extreme. I do not trust any commercial food. That is one reason I make my own.
 

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No, because every dog is different.

Get a kitchen food scale, and weigh what you are feeding her now. Also weigh HER now. Cut what you are feeding her by 10%. Weigh her again in a month. If she is losing weight, good. She may not be, but if she’s not gaining, that’s good information too. If she’s losing, keep going as you are. If she’s NOT losing, cut it by another 10%. Rinse, repeat.

Forget about the human food component. It is true that you can’t calculate that, but unless you are going to totally cut that out, and it is something that both you and she enjoy, and as long as you are sure you are feeding her HEALTHY foods, there is no harm in it at all. Over time, I am sure the calorie amount is pretty stable. What you have CHANGED is the dog food component in her diet. THAT is what you need to get a handle on and reduce.
Thanks - I am weighing her but I'll get a kitchen food scale so that I can really know what I'm doing.
 

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A dog will ALWAYS gain weight if you follow the directions on the dog food. The company is in the business of selling dog food. Of course they want you to feed more. ;)
Thank you. Of course this makes sense but I didn't think of it and have been dutifully following directions. There are very few foods Ellie doesn't like and "more please" is always her reaction. Clearly I need to go by the numbers I see on the scales.
 

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Metrowest, MA
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Thank you. Of course this makes sense but I didn't think of it and have been dutifully following directions. There are very few foods Ellie doesn't like and "more please" is always her reaction. Clearly I need to go by the numbers I see on the scales.
Yup. I have Havanese who think they are Labradors when it comes to food too. They believe in See Food diets... If they see it, they eat it! LOL!
 
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