The Best Food For Achieving and Maintaining Your Dog’s Healthiest Weight

Journalism, PR

Published in The Farmer’s Dog Digest

Keeping your dog at an ideal weight is one of the best ways to improve their chances of a healthier, happier life. 

Excess weight is, sadly, a leading health problem among companion dogs in the United States—research shows that more than half of all such dogs are overweight or obese. For a dog, being overweight comes with significant health consequences; it’s linked to ailments including arthritis, chronic kidney disease, bladder and urinary tract disease, liver disease, diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, and cancer. 

On the other end of the spectrum, a dog who doesn’t get enough food may miss out on nutrients that are crucial for their day-to-day energy and long-term well-being. 

Food, of course, plays a massive role in helping dogs lose and gain weight. Below, we walk you through how to tell if your dog is at a healthy weight, and what to do (including what to feed them) if they need to gain or lose pounds.

Is your dog overweight? How to tell, and what to do if they are

Not only does excess weight mean that your dog might be lethargic and unable to live their happiest, most active life; it can seriously affect your dog’s health and longevity. Research shows that maintaining a lean body weight can increase lifespan by up to two and a half years in dogs. 

Don’t rely on gut feeling alone when trying to determine if your dog is overweight. Even a few extra pounds can make a difference to their health, so be sure to keep an eye on their weight and discuss their ideal weight and body condition with your vet care team. And keep in mind that “target” or “goal” weight isn’t the only metric to use when determining if your dog is in their healthiest shape. Since individual genetic makeup, age, activity level, spay/neuter status, and other factors can significantly impact a dog’s ideal adult weight, it’s important to evaluate your dog’s overall body condition. There’s a scale that vets use to assess a dog’s body condition, and you can give it a try at home.

When you’re looking at your dog, note these indicators: 

  • Does your dog have a slight hourglass shape when you stand above them and look down?
  • Do they have an abdominal “tuck” where their belly slopes upward to meet their hind legs? (You may have to feel for this on a shaggy dog)
  • Can you easily feel their ribs?

If you find yourself answering no to most of these questions, there is a good chance your dog is overweight. An overweight dog will have more of a straight or barrel-like shape when you look at them from above, and you’ll notice significant padding when feeling for their ribs.

If you suspect that your dog may be overweight, it’s important to speak with your vet to get to the bottom of the situation. They’re best qualified to confirm that your dog has an issue—and, if they do, help make a plan to address it. A vet can also investigate whether weight gain is due to an underlying health condition like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. 

The best food for your overweight dog

Portions are key

As Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), told us, “Weight loss for humans and dogs is 60–70% diet and 30–40% exercise.” This means that overfeeding can lead to obesity even for an active dog.

Given the importance of your dog’s weight, and the slim margins between ideal and overweight body conditions, portion accuracy is critical. Instructions on the back of a bag of kibble provide broad weight ranges that correspond to cups or scoops. But every dog is different, and those vague portion guidelines don’t take into account your dog’s unique needs. To better tailor your dog’s portions, you need to know how many calories they require each day. That depends on factors like: 

  • Body condition: Is your dog thin or rounded?
  • Spay/neuter status: Being spayed or neutered can reduce a dog’s energy requirements
  • Activity level: Is your dog on the go all day? Or do they just get a few walks?

A fresh food plan from The Farmer’s Dog takes the guesswork out of portions by factoring in information like current weight, life stage, body condition, spay/neuter status, treats, and more.

Digestibility and food quality

Feeding your dog nutrient-dense and digestible food is important as you reduce overall food intake. Fresh, whole food from The Farmer’s Dog is highly digestible, meaning that your dog’s body is able to properly absorb the food’s nutrients. It’s gently cooked at relatively low temperatures, preserving more of the food’s nutritional value—unlike most kibble, which goes through multiple rounds of high-heat processing that make it less digestible. Our fresh, human-grade food is also rich in high-quality protein, moisture, and fiber, all of which help dogs feel full.

Treat your dog (but not too much)

It can be hard to say no to those puppy-dog eyes come treat time, but too many treats can add up—especially when they’re packed with sweeteners, starchy fillers and various “gums.” It’s important to count your dog’s daily treats as part of their overall food intake; treats should make up no more than 10% of their total daily calories.

Snap Sticks from The Farmer’s Dog are a great way to build treats right into your dog’s food plan. These easily portioned treats are made with only four simple ingredients, and are a great way to reward your dog while keeping their specific weight goals in mind.  

Get physical

The other key piece to helping your dog lose weight is getting them active, but doing so carefully. New activities should always be introduced slowly to reduce the risk of injury.

Exercising your dog’s mind, body, and sense of smell on regular walks is a great place to start—just a few short walks a day can make a big difference. These can be gradually increased; an hour a day of exercise is a good target for many breeds. 

Is your dog underweight? How to tell, and what to do if they are

While excess weight is a health threat, being underweight is also dangerous for a dog. Dogs who are underweight aren’t getting the right nourishment, which can lead to health issues like reduced immunity, heart disease, and slow wound healing. If you think your dog may be underweight, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Are their ribs clearly visible when you’re looking at them from a distance? If they have thick or long fur, does their rib cage feel bony with little to no fat?
  • Are their hip bones and spine clearly visible? 
  • Do they have an exaggerated hourglass figure and abdominal tuck? 
  • Do they seem lethargic and lack the energy to go on walks and do things they typically enjoy? 

If the answer to these questions is yes, your dog is probably underweight. If not, they may be at a healthy weight—if you aren’t sure, talk with your vet. In addition to confirming that your dog is actually underweight, another benefit of speaking with your veterinarian is the possibility of ruling out or identifying an underlying health condition that might be causing weight loss. Some of these conditions can be serious and require treatment.

The best food for your underweight dog

If your dog’s weight isn’t where it needs to be, look at what is (or isn’t) in their food bowl. The right portions of digestible and nutrient-rich fresh food can be a big help in getting a dog back to a healthy weight and ideal body condition. 

Check their portions

Just as those one-size-fits-all feeding tables on the back of a bag of kibble can lead to overfeeding, they can also lead to underfeeding.

A fresh food plan from The Farmer’s Dog comes pre-portioned for your dog’s nutritional needs and weight goals. You can add updated information to their profile—noting changes to their weight, body condition, and activity level, for example—and receive new portioning recommendations as your pup’s needs change.

Know what’s in their food

Weight loss can also be an indication that your dog isn’t getting the right balance of key nutrients. It’s crucial that anything you’re feeding your dog as a primary diet be nutritionally complete and balanced.

Some dog owners cook their dogs’ food at home. That can be a healthy alternative to kibble—but research has found that up to 95% of home-cooked recipes fail to meet all of a dog’s nutritional requirements. Without carefully balanced supplementation, home cooking may leave out important nutrients—and nutrient deficiency is a serious long-term health threat.  

If you cook at home, make sure you’re using recipes that provide the right nutrients in the correct ratios (The Farmer’s Dog is here for home cooks with our DIY Nutrient Mix). 

Fresh-food plans from the Farmer’s Dog have been formulated by vet nutritionists to be nutritionally balanced and complete, making it easier to give your dog the nourishment they need. Our human-grade food is also highly digestible—meaning your dog’s body is able to absorb the nutritional value of the food. 

Look for changes in appetite

Your dog may have lost interest in their food due to psychological issues like boredom, stress, or anxiety; an underlying physical illness; spoilage; or palatability issues (meaning they just don’t like the food).  

Consider any lifestyle changes your dog has undergone recently: have you moved? Is there separation anxiety? Did something traumatic happen? Speaking with a veterinarian can help get to the bottom of psychological issues and help you create a plan of action while also addressing any underlying health conditions. 

A lack of appetite may also come down to food spoilage. A dog’s sense of smell is much stronger than a human’s—so if your dog suddenly isn’t eating, it might be a sign that their food has gone bad or their dish has gotten dirty. Check food packaging for expiration dates, and be sure to keep your dog’s food and water bowls clean. If you’re feeding The Farmer’s Dog, make sure that your packs aren’t staying in the fridge for any longer than 4 days, or in the freezer for longer than 6 months.

A healthy weight can mean more years

The best way to achieve your dog’s ideal weight—and give them a better chance at more healthy years—is through consistency and patience. Healthy weight change takes time. 

Once you determine the reasons behind your dog’s weight gain or loss, a fresh food plan from The Farmer’s Dog can make it easier to help them thrive over the long run.

The Trial Gardens at UGA announces 2017 Classic City Awards


Summer’s end often means that spring’s colorful annuals have started to fade, but the end of Georgia’s growing season also means it’s time to debut the University of Georgia Trial Gardens’ annual Classic City Award winners. These awards represent plants that thrived during the punishing conditions of a Georgia summer.

In addition to being one of the most beautiful places on the university’s Athens campus, the gardens serve an important purpose in the research and development of new ornamental varieties.

The gardens provide variable, real-world conditions for testing new varieties developed by commercial nurseries and academic breeders. This testing provides third-party, verified data for consumers, retailers, breeders and many others.

Trial plants are planted every spring and are watched carefully throughout the summer to determine which plants will make the cut and be sold to Southeastern gardeners the following season.

The gardens face a unique set of challenges during Georgia’s unpredictable summers, which makes the facility an ideal proving ground for new plants.

“June was a wet month. We had rain almost every week. When it’s cloudy and wet, plants like petunias, ptilotus and geraniums struggle in different ways,” said Brandon Coker, manager of the gardens.

For example, the dry-loving ptilotus thrived in early summer, but when June brought frequent rains, the three varieties of ptilotus at the gardens completely rotted.

However, when plants like ptilotus thrive in the dry weather, other plants, like dahlias and chrysanthemums, need at least daily or twice daily watering to survive. To balance these needs, the gardens overcome rainfall challenges by keeping the plants on a watering schedule based on their individual needs.

Some of the plants that overcame individual challenges this summer earned the title of “Classic City Award winner.” With any luck, they’ll make it to local garden centers and gardens next spring.

Canna Toucan ‘Scarlet,’ Proven Winners

As the name implies, this canna is deep red, but the foliage is nearly black, which provides a beautiful contrast. The flower heads stand tall above the foliage line and when one bloom falls, another is ready to open. Don’t be discouraged if the plant starts off slow. At the gardens, the plants started off slow, then exploded in a continuous floral display in July that continued well into September.

Salvia Cathedral ‘Sky Blue,’ Green Fuse Botanicals

This light-blue salvia is a lower-growing variety and gets to be about 12 to 18 inches tall, according to the breeder’s website. ‘Sky Blue’ stayed in bloom from May to September, an impressive span of time for any flowering plant. It’s versatile in floral arrangements, containers, accent plantings, pollinator gardens and in a host of other settings.

Echinacea Sombrero ‘Granada Gold,’ Darwin Perennials

Of the three Sombrero varieties planted last spring, all of which were good performers, ‘Granada Gold’ was the best. The flawless, golden flowers bloomed profusely in a beautiful floral presentation and lasted longer than the other two varieties.

Coleus FlameThrower ‘Spiced Curry,’ Ball FloraPlant

“It’s not always about flowers,” Coker said. This colorful, leafy coleus looked stunning well into September and October. The leaves are serrated with purple outlines, and the underside and veins of the plant are also bright purple, which offers a beautiful contrast to the lime green leaves.


For a full list of the Classic City Award winners and more information about the gardens and next year’s trials, visit

Georgia 4-H Scott Site Garden thrives on community support and heirloom seeds


The heritage garden at Rock Eagle 4-H Center’s Scott Site is more than a teaching tool, it’s a living museum.

Over the last two years, environmental educators at the center worked with gardeners from across Georgia to transform the garden. Garden managers and students planted heirloom and older commercial varieties of Southern garden staples to document crops grown and farming methods used by 19th- and early 20th-century Georgians.

Now, the garden helps environmental educators teach students about heritage gardening practices and, in turn, the history of the Southeast.

Robert Clemmer, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension education program specialist and 4-H center garden manager, put out a call in 2016 for heirloom or family-favorite seeds to showcase in the garden. Thanks to seed swaps, seed saving and donations, the garden saved money on seeds. Organizations like UGArden, PlowShare in Crawford, Georgia, and Master Gardener Extension Volunteers also donated seeds.

“We accept whatever seeds anyone is willing to give us,” Clemmer said.

So far, the garden includes Southern classics such as ‘Red Ripper cowpeas’; Ed Teague purple-hull cowpeas, named for northern Georgia’s two-finger banjo picker; night-blooming moonflowers; sunchokes; tromboncino squashes; Tennessee dancing gourds; and unique, yellow-fleshed watermelons grown from seeds donated by Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black.

Some heirloom vegetables are susceptible to disease. Fusarium wilt killed the garden’s heirloom tomatoes in past growing seasons. This year, the garden includes some disease-resistant varieties, which should be ready for planting in April.

With heritage gardens, like the one at the Scott Site, gardening practices must stay as close as possible to 19th- or early 20th-century methods, which means no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, Clemmer said. Instead, cover crops, like cowpeas, add nitrogen to the soil, and garden personnel amend soil with dining hall waste and mulch with shredded leaves. They collect seeds from plants with a proven history of thriving in Georgia gardens.

The Scott Site garden was planted in 2014. Each year, it provides between 500 and 2,000 pounds of produce to the Rock Eagle Dining Hall and helps to educate thousands of Georgia students.

For more information about the garden or to donate seeds, contact Clemmer at

Originally published:

Award-winning chef, farmer Dan Barber to speak at UGA on the future of food, sustainability


Dan Barber, chef and national farm-to-table and sustainable food systems advocate, will deliver a lecture, “What Kind of Menu will Meet the Challenges of the Future? Exploring a New Recipe for Good Food from the Ground Up,” at the University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries on Tuesday, April 10.

Barber has received multiple James Beard Foundation awards and built a reputation as a chef and farmer. He is a co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, the latter of which was recognized by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy as No. 11 on their list of the world’s best restaurants. He is also the author of “The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food” and has been featured in documentaries “Chef’s Table” and “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste.”

Long intrigued by the link between the growing conditions on farms and the flavors he coaxes out of meat and produce, Barber has made it his mission to educate the public about the close relationship between cooking and agriculture.

Barber works with crop breeders and farmers to develop better tasting, more nutritious vegetable and grain varieties by bringing together heirlooms and the disease and insect resistance found in modern varieties. He founded Row 7 Seed Company, which brings U.S.-produced, certified organic, non-genetically modified and unpatented seeds to home gardeners or small- to midscale farmers at reasonable prices.

“Athens has been known for decades as a place where great bands are born and music thrives. Today, Athens has a growing reputation for innovative chefs and good food,” said Sam Pardue, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences dean and director. “Americans are now intently interested not just in fine food, but how their food is grown, processed and cooked. We are fortunate to have Dan Barber join us on campus to share his perspective on the future of our food system.”

The college will host the lecture from 2-3 p.m. on April 10 at the UGA Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Library, 300 S. Hull St., Athens, GA 30602.

For more information about the lecture, contact Regina Fitzpatrick at or 706-542-5046. To register, visit

More information about Row 7 Seed Company can be found at

Originally Published on UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Media Newswire

Don’t give a hassle for the holidays: Use these tips to pick the right gift plant


Around the holiday season, many people feel gift-block. Maybe it’s the pressure of having to find gifts that loved ones will appreciate or having to find a gift last minute. Whatever the case may be, a houseplant makes a fantastic gift.

Houseplants are versatile. They can brighten up any space and add pops of life and color. Look through any trendy home design website, and you’ll notice photos that include houseplants. The big leaves of the tropical banana plant, fiddle leaf fig or split leaf philodendron are on-trend, making houseplants a great gift for your hip college-aged niece as well as that hard-to-buy-for uncle or co-worker.

Houseplants are not only visually appealing, they have lots of health benefits too. They purify indoor air and provide mood-boosting benefits during the harsh winter months when people spend more time indoors.

The key to picking the right houseplant to give as a gift is to think about maintenance, said Paul Thomas, UGA Extension horticulture specialist.

Giving a high-maintenance houseplant to a busy loved is like giving someone a Rolls-Royce with a car note attached. You don’t want your gift plant to become a burden by the time March rolls around.

The good news is that there are lots of beautiful houseplants that are easy to care for and that your recipient will love.

Before you go shopping, here are some helpful tips to follow from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension:

  • Follow the light. Do you know the lighting conditions of the plant’s new home? Low light? Bright, filtered light? Generally, houseplants should be kept out of direct, bright sunlight, which can burn the leaves.
  • Know the plant, know your person. Will the recipient remember to water the plant every few days or so? Or will giving a houseplant that can survive weeks without attention be a better choice for them?
  • Space invaders. What kind of space does the receiver have? Do they have the open space necessary for a bigger plant? Perhaps a small plant that can sit on a desk or windowsill would be a better choice. What style is their home or office, and which pot would match their style and space?
  • The right container will help a lot. It’s very important that the houseplant’s pot has a drainage hole. There are lots of pretty containers that don’t have drainage holes, so be sure to check. Not allowing the water to drain from the pot creates a perfect environment for root rot and diseases. If you really want to use a container without holes, you can “stage” a plant by placing its plastic pot home inside of a larger pot.
  • Give the gift of information. A great way to give your gift even more personality is to include a care card, which you can handwrite and decorate or simply print out. Include the plant’s name and all of the instructions on water and light requirements.

Now that you know your parameters, here are some low maintenance indoor plants that Thomas recommends,

Snake Plant, Sansevieria trifasciata

Perhaps the lowest maintenance plant of all, this plant can be found in many airports, and only needs to be watered once or twice a month. The long, straight leaves give a sharp architectural look. The plant likes lower light conditions and will burn in the sun.

Pothos, Epipremnum aureum

Pothos is perfect in a hanging basket or draping down a bookcase or tabletop. This plant prefers to stay on the drier side, so be sure to check the soil before you water. They also like indirect light.

Jade plant, Crassula ovata

It’s a common misconception that succulents are an “easy” plant because they “don’t need watering.” They can be finicky with watering and lighting. Jade, however, is a relatively low maintenance plant. It likes to be watered a little bit more than other succulents, but can tolerate being dry. If the leaves are soft, that means it’s time for water. This is a good plant for a sunny windowsill.

Dracaena, Dracaena fragrans

This plant has a palm-tree-like look and comes in a variety of shapes. It can grow to several feet tall and likes indirect light and a thorough watering when the soil becomes dry. 

Spider Plant, Chlorophytum comosum

Also called an airplane plant, spider plants are great for hanging baskets or decorative pots. They produce pups which hang down from the plant and can be propagated by placing the plantlet roots-down into a new pot. This plant likes indirect light and should be watered when the soil is completely dry.

Air Plant Tillandsia

Air plants have no roots and absorb their nutrients and water through their leaves. Because of this, they don’t need any soil. They do need to be misted outside of their container or soaked for 30 minutes a week. Keep air plants in bright, indirect light. If there’s a window in the bathroom, they’d love the humidity. You can choose any container you want. A good place to find unique and inexpensive containers is at an area thrift store.

For more information on how to grow houseplants, visit UGA Extension Bulletin 1318 at


Originally Published on UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Media Newswire