Healthy Happy Siberian Huskies.

I'd like a serve of kibble with a side salad of kibble and some kibble desert please.

People often say "oh, four dogs must be expensive." Well, yes, and no. Yes, vet bills, racing/transport/housing equipment and fees & registration can add up when you're talking about four dogs. But on a day to day basis, no, the dogs are not very expensive. This is largely because Siberian Huskies are known for their excellent metabolism, requiring only small amounts of food for the work they do. Our dogs average two cups of high quality kibble per day. That's it, no more. They get occasional bones or other treats like dried pigs ears, but these are not at all regular or frequent. During racing season, they get different formulae of kibble, plus other supplements and a ration of mince during a race weekend. (This is an area of great discussion which I might talk about some other time.)

Frankie is not overly happy with this arrangement. If you've read Frankie's profile page, you'll know that Frankie came to J as a very overweight 1 year old. He'd first lived with an abusive owner, and then with a family who'd fed him lamb shanks, pizza and icecream on a daily basis. He was overweight and refused to eat kibble for three days. These days he has accepted that kibble is all he's going to get, and he's happy with that. So happy that when you are getting kibble out of the food bin for him, he does tail spins in his crate.

Of course, Frankie, like all of us, is always happy to grab a quick treat or gourmet meal. I'm pretty sure that's why he'll happily stick his head into any rubbish bin we pass, if we let him. The good thing is that the one time he got out of J's old house, he stopped at the first rubbish bin he saw, and was easily retrieved, while Czar and Bolo ran another couple of km's down the middle of the road to the nearest freeway overpass (no, our Siberian huskies are NOT allowed off-lead, for exactly this reason). 

Lately Frankie has been looking a little heavy around the waistline. The breed guidelines for Siberian huskies don't specify a particular weight but it does state "the loin is taut and lean, narrower than the rib cage, and with a slight tuck-up." In other words, from the end of the ribs to the hips, the dog should be lean and narrow.

It can be hard to see this through all the fluff of the Siberian double coat, especially on a dog like Frankie that isn't keen on getting groomed. So the rule of thumb suggests that you should be able to feel the ribs clearly, especially the last two ribs, with only a thin layer of skin and muscle over them.

Czar's Loin - getting a little too skinny?

Czar's Loin - getting a little too skinny?

Frankie's Loin - getting better!!

Frankie's Loin - getting better!!

These pics are not to scale, but you can see how much narrower Czar is, compared to Frankie, when you look at the angle from the ribs to the loin to the hips.

Around the same time, Czar's ribs and spine and hips had become scarily prominent. Now, these two boys were getting fed the same every day. Frankie hasn't been visiting any gourmet rubbish bins. But Czar is highly active, always keen to play and wrestle and chase Bolo and Ishka around. Frankie is much quieter, happy to sit and watch the others. So the difference comes down to activity levels and metabolism. We've been countering this with some changes in diet and exercise. Frankie is getting 1 1/2 cups of kibble for breakfast each morning, and extra walks when possible (recently he had a torn pad, so he had a week off walks) while Czar has been getting an extra cup of kibble for dinner a couple of times a week, as well as his normal breakfast. We continue to check their ribs and loin shape and adjust as needed.

*Sigh* the service here is so slow.

*Sigh* the service here is so slow.

Both the boys remain keen and enthusiastic about their food, and would happily eat all day long. While Czar isn't as much of a garbage guts as Frankie, he has decided this dinner thing is a really good idea, and settles himself expectantly in his crate at bedtime. When he's not getting dinner, it takes quite a bit of coaxing to get him to get out of the crate and go to bed. I was starting to think he wanted to sleep in his crate until the other night when he finished his dinner, walked up to me at the kitchen sink, looked at me and then walked to the kitchen door. Clearly, he did want to sleep with the others on the dog beds in the other room, but only after he'd been fed, thankyou very much!

But I loooooove cereal...no, I haven't had it before, but I'm sure I'll love it!

But I loooooove cereal...no, I haven't had it before, but I'm sure I'll love it!

One way of having happy dogs would be to feed them on demand. But clearly, both of these boys would demand food as often as they could, and would rapidly pile on the kilos. This would be a problem - overweight dogs are prone to health issues, and overweight huskies struggle to cope with the summer heat. So, we need to be firm and provide an appropriate diet to Czar and Frankie, as well as Ishka and Bolo. No table scraps, no daily treats, no pizza and icecream, just a carefully controlled amount of kibble each day. No matter how cute they look!

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