Help Extend your Dog's Healthy Years

What owner wouldn’t want to extend the healthy years he has with his dog? A study from Nestlé Purina PetCare shows pet owners may have the power to help extend their dog's healthy years.
In the first-ever lifelong canine diet restriction study, Purina researchers showed that dogs fed to an ideal body condition* throughout their lives had a median life span of 1.8 years longer - and were considerably healthier - than their paired littermates in the control group. Although the dogs in the study generally developed the same health conditions as they aged, treatment for certain conditions was delayed in the lean-fed dogs.

This study was groundbreaking in a number of ways, and its findings provide some of the most significant data to date on the effects of diet restriction:

• First completed study of its kind to last the entire life span of a larger mammal
• 14-year study conducted at Purina Pet Care Center in Missouri
• 48 Labrador Retrievers were paired, then randomly placed in two different groups
• All dogs received the same 100 percent nutritionally complete and balanced foods - only the amount they were fed differed 

Study documented that feeding to maintain an ideal body condition throughout life can help extend healthy years in dogs 

Study Design
A Lifetime of Information
When the study began, forty-eight Labrador Retriever dogs were paired within their litters according to gender and body weight, and were randomly assigned to either a control or lean-fed group. For the first three years, the control group was fed an unlimited amount of food during 15-minute daily feedings; afterwards they were fed an amount estimated to be the caloric requirement for large breed dogs in “normal” body condition. Each dog in the lean-fed group always received 75 percent of the amount eaten by its paired littermate. All dogs consumed the same diets, which were 100 percent nutritionally complete and balanced (first a puppy formula, then an adult formula) -- only the quantity provided was different.

Dogs were weighed weekly as puppies, periodically as adolescents and weekly as adults. Beginning at six years of age, each was evaluated annually using the Purina Body Condition System, a standard developed by Purina scientists and used by veterinarians to assess body condition in dogs and cats. They were also evaluated annually for body fat mass, lean body mass and bone mass and other health condition indicators including glucose and fat levels in the blood.

Study Results … Extending Healthy Years

Study findings revealed that feeding to an ideal body condition over a lifetime can significantly extend a dog's healthy years - by 1.8 years for the dogs in this study.

The study also showed that the lean-fed dogs maintained a significantly leaner body condition from 6 to 12 years of age than the control group dogs, with mean body condition scores between 4 – 5 (ideal) and 6 - 7 (too heavy), respectively. On average, the lean-fed group weighed less, had lower body fat, and after a certain age, experienced a two-year delay in the loss of lean body mass as they aged, compared to the control group dogs.

In addition, according to observations of the researchers, the control dogs exhibited more visible signs of aging, such as graying muzzles, impaired gaits and reduced activity, at an earlier age than the lean-fed dogs.

This study reveals the crucial role maintaining ideal body condition plays in health and longevity. However, obesity remains the number one nutritional problem among dogs. Studies have documented that at least 25 percent of dogs in the U.S. may be overweight.

To help maximize their dogs’ health, dog owners should learn how to recognize the signs of their dogs being overweight and feed to ideal body condition.

* Lean or ideal body condition refers to the evaluation of body physique in pets as an indicator of their overall health and well-being, generally falling into three categories: too thin, ideal and too heavy. But how do you know?

• Too Thin: Ribs are highly visible. Pelvic bones are obvious and prominent and dog exhibits exaggerated waist and abdominal tuck.

• Ideal Body Condition: Can feel and see outline of ribs. Dog has a waist when viewed from above. Belly is tucked up when viewed from the side.

• Too Heavy: Dog has no waist when viewed from above. Ribs are difficult to feel through the excess weight. Loss of hourglass shape and the belly is rounded when viewed from the side.

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