Benefits of low fat foods for dogs

katy towle 25 August 2021

For some dogs, feeding ‘regular’ dog food is not the most appropriate option. Many will benefit from tailored or prescribed diets that best support their medical needs. Low fat dog foods are one of the most common types of tailored diets purchased in the UK today. Read on below to discover what they offer and why they are so popular among the canine population.

Which Dogs Benefit most from Low Fat Diets?

While low fat diets won’t be the best choice for all, they can benefit many dogs. We would consider a low fat diet for those who are over-weight, those who have gastrointestinal disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or those who are prone to pancreatitis.

Historically, low fat diets have often contained sub-par ingredients and low levels of protein. Pooch & Mutt have just launched a vet approved Low Fat wet dog food made from over 60% fish. With a very small percentage of fat (just 2% on a wet matter basis), this is a great option for those who have been advised to keep their dietary fat low. 

When converted to dry matter basis, this equates to a fat content of just 9%. Keeping in mind that some commercial dry diets have up to 25% fat, it is clear that this is a very low fat option.

What exactly is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas which can cause severe abdominal pain. The purpose of the pancreas is to produce enzymes to assist in digestion. It also produces insulin, an important hormone when it comes to regulating blood sugar levels. Pancreatitis can occur in any dog, regardless of age or breed. However, it is more common in certain breeds including the Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer and Cocker Spaniel.

Causes

The exact cause is not fully understood. We do know, however, that fatty and greasy foods can trigger a bout of pancreatitis. Sometimes, certain medicines like corticosteroids can play a role too. It is likely that some dogs are genetically predisposed.

Symptoms

As pancreatitis can be acute (comes on suddenly) or chronic (grumbles on over several weeks) symptoms can vary. Possible signs to monitor for include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Lethargy
  • A tense abdomen
  • Restlessness
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

During a flare up, many dogs are in extreme pain. They may put their front legs out and their bum in the air. This is called the ‘prayer position’ and is an attempt to alleviate abdominal discomfort.

If pancreatitis is suspected from your dog’s signs, the vet will try to confirm this with specific blood tests and imaging studies such as an ultrasound scan. Frustratingly, it is not always an easy diagnosis to make as we can get ‘false negatives’ from the tests. This means that the tests appear negative, even though the dog has pancreatitis.

Treatment

As pancreatitis can be very serious and even fatal, treatment should commence as soon as possible. Dogs may need to be hospitalised. Supportive care will consist of intravenous fluids, strong pain relief, anti-inflammatories and a low-fat diet. While it was once thought that starving throughout the illness was best, it is now believed that it is important to feed the dog, in order to aid their recovery.

Prevention

While pancreatitis cannot always be prevented, there are a few things that we can do.

  • It can be sensible to feed a low fat diet long term. Aim for a diet with a low fat percentage, such as the new fish food from Pooch & Mutt.
  • Stop sharing greasy or fatty table scraps and ensure your dog doesn’t have access to open bins, from which they may snaffle leftovers.
  • Keep your dog slim; aiming for a Body Condition Score of 4 or 5 out of 9.

Gastrointestinal Disease and your Dog

There are a range of conditions that can affect the stomach and intestines of the dog. Symptoms can include chronic diarrhoea, periodic vomiting, a reduced appetite or the presence of blood or mucus in the stool.

Causes 

Frustratingly, there are a huge range of gastrointestinal disorders that can affect dogs. It is not always easy to get a specific diagnosis, especially when signs wax and wane. Considerations include Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Food Sensitivities, Parasitic, Viral and Bacterial Infections, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, Lymphangiectasia, Food Allergies etc.

Symptoms 

When something is amiss with the digestive tract, signs tend to include vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Dogs may not be absorbing nutrients as they should, so may lose weight, be prone to infections and have a lacklustre coat.

Treatment 

Treatment will be tailored to the specific disease. Determining what exactly is wrong is not always straightforward and can include a range of diagnostic tests such as specific blood tests, a stool analysis, abdominal imaging and even gastrointestinal biopsies.

Medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and ant acids will be prescribed as needed. For most, providing a low fat, highly digestible diet is key. Many also need a substantial amount of protein, to replace the protein being lost through the gut. On a dry matter basis, Pooch & Mutt’s Fish Wet Food contains 42.8% protein; replacing any protein being lost through the gut.

With a limited number of ingredients, this Fish Wet Food is often the right choice for those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Food Allergies. Fish, potato, pea and seaweed are the only ingredients, making it a low allergen diet.

The Take Home Message

Low Fat dog foods play a vital role in the treatment of a number of diseases. They can help treat and prevent certain conditions and can be fed short or long-term. Pooch & Mutt’s new low fat option has many advantages. Ultra low fat, high in protein and palatable; this diet is an excellent choice for many.