How (much) to feed a Corgi

by Susan Strickland

My Corgi is always Hungry - Do I Feed Him as Much as He Wants?

Yes, Corgis are always hungry. You could never feed them enough to curb their unstoppable desire for more food. I can relate to their problem, but unlike people, dogs can’t open the refrigerator, raid the cupboards, run down to McDonald’s, or make up their own meals. So it should be relatively easy to put a Corgi on a diet that will keep him at a perfect weight.

Unfortunately, many people who have Corgis as pets seem to be taken in by the pleading looks, and plaintive complaints of starvation coming from their very dramatic and manipulative little dogs. Corgis are experts at getting what they want. Their expressive faces, and artful begging, can make you feel terribly guilty for not giving them just a tiny bit more.

I’ve enclosed here a story of the worst case of over feeding of a Corgi that I’ve ever heard. It’s here because I think that obesity is the greatest health risk that Corgis face, and because it’s a risk that’s preventable. And the story is here to prove once and for all that a Corgi’s appetite is never satisfied by feeding him more than he needs to be healthy.

So how much should you feed your Corgi? When my puppies leave here at eight weeks of age, they are eating almost half a cup of puppy kibble twice a day, with a tablespoon of canned food, yogurt, or cottage cheese, and enough water to mix. The amount of kibble will vary a little depending on the size of the pup. As the puppy gets older, the amount will go up. Never should you give the dog what is called for on the dog food bag. It’s way too much.

It’s impossible to tell you exactly how much your individual dog should eat without seeing him. There are a lot of variables in picking an amount, and the amount will be different for different dogs of the same age, and for your own dog at various stages in his life. I’m always amazed when people pick a certain amount of food and stick with it no matter what. Don’t do that!

Puppies will be able to eat more than adults, and still be a proper weight. Dogs getting a tremendous amount of exercise can eat more than the dog who sits on the sofa all day. A dog will need more food when the weather is good and he can get out to play, than he will when it’s the rainy season and he has to stay indoors. An adult, neutered dog needs less food than a growing un-neutered dog.

Every day before you put food in your Corgi’s bowl, you should look at him, and evaluate whether he needs more, less, or the same amount he got yesterday, based on how he looks. You shouldn’t be able to see his ribs, but you should be able to feel them. And right in front of his hind legs he should have a waist.

Corgis who are neither under-sized, nor over-sized, should be between 25 and 30 pounds full grown. This is for a dog who is 10 to 12 inches tall at the withers. The breed standard calls for males to be 27 to 30 pounds, and females 25 to 28 pounds.

Most of the adult neutered pets that I know, who are the right weight for their height, eat between one third and three quarters of a cup of kibble a day. Half a cup a day is a common average. This is the total amount for the day. It can be divided into two meals to make the dog feel like he’s getting more. I also add a tablespoon of canned meat and a good powdered vitamin supplement to the food every day.

Also, for dogs who need to eat very restricted amounts to stay at a healthy weight, non-fattening veggies such as canned green beans can be added to the ration to make the dog feel more satisfied. Apple or carrot slices are good treats for the Corgi who puts on weight easily. Remember, when evaluating the amount of food your dog gets each day, include the snacks in the total.

Also, make sure the dog is not adding to his total food intake on his own. The cat food should be put up high where the cat can get to it but the dog cannot. And, though I hate to have to mention it, put the litter box somewhere the Corgi can’t reach it.....

The following is the true story of Reba, the seventy pound Corgi.

70 pounds! 70 pounds? Reba was standing on the veterinarian’s scale looking more like a huge pot-bellied pig than a Corgi. The scale fluctuated between 69 ½ and 70.2 pounds as Reba shifted her weight. The vet techs appeared from the examination room. 70 pounds? A 70 pound Corgi? They wanted to see the scale themselves. Someone went to get the vet so that she could see the seventy pound Corgi also. The whole situation would have been funny if it hadn’t been so sad and disgusting. Reba lay down, resting her tremendous bulk while everyone gawked at her.

Only the day before, Reba’s owners had called to ask if I ever take a dog back that I had sold as a puppy. I had said yes, absolutely. They came over in the afternoon. The husband carried her from the car and put her in my fenced yard. I couldn’t believe her size. I didn’t want these people to stay any longer than necessary. I didn’t want to talk to them or look at them, I was so annoyed. The wife never got out of the car, and they left the dog they had owned for two years, seemingly with no emotion at all. They had told me on the phone earlier that Reba was unmanageable, didn’t get along with other dogs, and was a little overweight. I had figured that if they even mentioned the weight, Reba must be obese, but I was not prepared for what I saw.

When the owners first took Reba as an eight week old puppy, I had, as always, emphasized the importance of weight control with Corgis. They had seemed reasonably intelligent people, and had a couple of other dogs of normal weight.

It was a hot, humid, summer day when Reba arrived and she was very hot. When we tried to move her into the house, we hit our first snag. I put a choke collar and leash on her and tried to get her to move. Her neck was so swollen with fat that it was pushing her ears forward onto her head, and the collar just slipped over her head and off. If I pulled her forward the collar would slip off, and if I tried to pull to the side she would roll upside down with her feet in the air. Then I would roll her back over, and she would get up and run (?) a short distance. Whenever this happened, we would herd her in the right direction. Finally we managed to get her in the house and settled in.

It quickly became clear that I wasn’t set up to deal with Reba’s special needs. For one thing I had no air conditioning, and she couldn’t take the summer heat. She also couldn’t manage my steps, even though they have low risers, originally put in for a very old arthritic Corgi I had when the house was built.

But there was no way I could place her in a permanent home in her condition. Her health was just too much at risk at her current weight. I put the word out with friends that I needed a place for Reba to live while she started her reduction program. Thankfully I found a place for her with two wonderful people, George and Nancy Stephens, who were interested in doing rescue work. And, happily for Reba, they had central air-conditioning, no stairs going outside, and a tremendous amount of patience and caring.

Nancy and I moved Reba out to her car with the help of a German Shepherd sized harness that I had borrowed from a friend. Even the harness would start to come off over her head if we tugged in the wrong direction. And whenever she didn’t want to move, Reba would just roll over on her back like a beached whale. It took both of us to lift her into the car.

Once Reba was in her new temporary home, it was time to do some research on her condition. The Stephens’ made Reba her own web page and asked for dietary advice online. I checked with friends who I knew had dealt with obese dogs before. I also called the vet who had taken care of Reba for the past two years.

Reba was purchased 8/96 as an eight week old puppy. According to the vet records she was neutered 11/1/96. At that time she was on free feeding and was already too heavy. In January of ’97 she was seven months old and was 34 pounds!! Her vet suggested to the owners - no more free feeding and no table scraps. His suggestion for feeding was 2 cups of food twice a day. I know this vet meant well and was trying to help, but anyone who has ever had Corgis knows that this amount was way too much. Even my most active dogs don’t get this much; never mind a neutered house pet.

Not surprisingly by September of ’97 Reba was even heavier, 53 pounds. At that time the vet suggested dropping the food to ¾ of a cup of dry food plus ¼ can canned food twice a day. Still, unfortunately, not low enough to drop weight. Also, I only knew the vet’s advice on feeding, and not what the dog was actually being fed. At the September vet visit the owners also complained they were having trouble with “attitude and housebreaking”.

After talking to friends who had dealt with such problems, although no one had seen a 70 pound Corgi before (60 pounds seemed to be the previous record), we put Reba on a diet of Hills RD, a canned reducing food. A vet check, blood work, and urinalysis showed her to be as healthy as a dog in her condition could be.

For Reba, losing weight could be almost as dangerous as keeping her current weight. She had to be monitored carefully to make sure she would lose steadily, but not too fast. And when the day came that she could start eating dry food again, the transition had to be made extremely slowly to prevent bloat. Knowing Reba’s parents, I figured she should weigh about 25-27 pounds; according to George’s calculations, 280 percent less than her 70 pound weight.

Obese dogs are subject to skeletal problems (think back problems on Corgis), heart problems, joint problems (probably mostly hip and elbow), metabolic problems, and a host of other chronic problems that a vet could better explain. It can also cause incontinence in females (and it did in Reba), digestive problems (she came to me with loose bowels), and difficulty breathing.

Reba at 70 pounds panted heavily all the time, even in air-conditioning, and could only move around briefly without having to lie down and rest. Her throat and chest were always wet with drool, her armpits damp and sore under rolls of fat, and her rear messy with poop. Reba was a victim of abuse!!! Abuse by overfeeding. She was certainly an extreme example of obesity in a Corgi, but I see obese Corgis all too frequently. When asked by new, prospective Corgi owners what health problems there are in the breed, obesity (in spite of the fact that it’s easily controlled) is at the top of the list.

Let’s face it, when it comes to food, Corgis have no sense. They will eat themselves into oblivion, and then tell you they’re hungry. Two things one should never pay any attention to: a Corgi’s appetite, and the feeding recommendations on the dog food bag.

In the Corgi breed standard, Pembrokes are listed as 25 to 30 pounds. There are certainly dogs at the high and low ends of these weights, but if owners are unsure whether their dog is overweight, they should first of all weigh the dog, and, if possible, get advice from someone who is familiar with the breed. If your dog has lost his waist, he is probably getting too heavy, or if he reaches a certain weight a red flag should go up. For example, if you have a Pembroke who weighs 40 pounds and it is not over-sized, it must be over-weight. As soon as it is confirmed that the dog is over-weight, the food should be cut back, and he should be weighed weekly to be sure the diet is working, and that the weight is coming off gradually and consistently.

The feeding recommendations made by breeders to the owners of a new eight week old puppy must be adjusted as the dog gets older, and must be based on the activity level and metabolism of the individual. Once it is noticed that the dog is putting on too much weight, THE FOOD MUST BE CUT BACK. This includes all the food the dog is getting, including treats, table scraps, the cat’s food that isn’t kept up high enough, the other dog’s food the Corgi is stealing, the snacks the kids are slipping to him, etc.

Corgis can not open the refrigerator. They can not run to the store for snacks. It is totally up to the owner what they eat! If they are gaining weight, are getting fat, or are already obese, the only sure cure is less food. More exercise also helps, but realistically, most people do not increase exercise enough to make a difference. When putting a Corgi on a diet, since they are so obliging about eating just about anything, giving them such low-cal items as green beans in their dinners to add volume, or carrots as snacks, is easy.

Reba is now a real Corgi, sweet, affectionate, and playful. She loves every dog or person she meets. It took her a year to get down to 30 pounds, and at that point she was adopted by a permanent home. She greets her new owners each morning with snuggles and kisses. She keeps a trim 25-26 pounds, and enjoys playing, hunting mice, and going for long walks in the Maine woods. Hopefully her story will inspire other Corgi owners to take another look at their pets, and feed them a little less, and love them a lot more with hugs and kisses, instead of cookies and treats.

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