Is your dog overweight?
Before you start a diet plan for your dog, you need to know if he’s really overweight. Try these simple do-it-yourself tests:
Feel his backbone and ribs.
If the spine and ribs are difficult to feel, the dog is overweight.
Look at him from the side.
His stomach should be raised. A sagging stomach is a sign that he’s carrying extra pounds.
Get a view from the top.
Looking down at him from above, you should see a “waist,” or inward curves, between the back of his rib cage and his hips.
Why should my dog lose weight?
Too much food, too many treats, and not enough exercise can pack extra pounds onto your dog.
As few as five pounds above the ideal body weight can put your dog at risk for developing some serious medical conditions.
Unfortunately, when a dog is overweight or obese it no longer is a question of if your dog will develop a condition secondary to the excess weight but how soon and how serious.
Some of the common disorders associated with excess weight include:
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- osteoarthritis (arthritis)
- increased frequency of joint injuries
- high blood pressure
- some forms of cancer – especially intra-abdominal cancers
Overweight and obese dogs usually have shorter lives than their fitter, normal weight counterparts. Heavy dogs tend to physically interact less with their families and are less
energetic and playful. Because they tend to lie around more, it is easier to overlook early signs of illness, since we may attribute their lethargy to their normal laziness. There is good evidence that dogs who are a healthy weight live significantly longer than dogs who are overweight.
How much should I feed my dog to promote weight loss?
In order to answer this question, your veterinarian will need to calculate your dog’s ideal weight based on its breed and size. Based on your dog’s degree of excess weight, your veterinarian may recommend a target weight higher than the ideal weight to start. After the dog loses this weight, a re-evaluation will be made to determine whether further weight loss is needed. A safe weight loss for most dogs is 3-5% body weight loss per month.
For many dogs, the best way to feed will be by feeding a specific diet food in several meals per day. It is vital that you know how many calories are in the food that your dog is eating, and that you count the calories or measure the food when entering into a weight reduction program. Feeding too much will result in no weight loss and feeding too little can potentially result in serious health consequences associated with malnutrition.
If you are using a weight loss diet obtained from your veterinarian, the calorie content of the food will be on the label.
If you are using a reducing diet obtained from your veterinarian, the calorie content of the food will be on the label, and a member of your veterinary healthcare team will help you determine the appropriate amount to feed. If you choose to use an alternate source of food, and this information is not available on the label, you will need to contact the manufacturer to get it.
Tips for Losing Weight
Try these tips to help your dog shed pounds and get healthier.
- Check your dog into a reputable Veterinarian and heed their advice.
- Give your dog more Physical Exercise. Physical exercise burns calories and reduces appetite.
Be playful. Toss around balls, Frisbees, squeaky toys, and other dog toys to get him excited about moving around.
Shoot for 10 to 15 minutes of exercise, twice a day. Take him for an extra walk or start a game of fetch.
- Encourage more mental exercise. This helps to prevent your dog from getting bored and lethargic. Click here for doggie games that promote mental exercise.
- Reduce portion size. “Table food, treats, or even just generous portions of regular meals can lead to weight gain,” Dr. David Gonsky says.
- If he’s eating large servings of food, cut them down a little each day until you reach an appropriate portion size.
- Use an actual measuring cup to measure your pet’s food, not just a cup out of the cabinet. This means feeding your dog dried food is preferable. Click here for an example of a recommended brand.
- Cut back on treats. You may not realize how many extra calories you’re giving your dog when you toss him a treat.
- Reducing the number of treats given in a day greatly helps.
- Give him half of what he’s used to, and then reduce it even more over a few days. Or swap typical dog treats for healthy foods like carrots, green beans, or rice cakes.
These healthy treats are low in calories and can be beneficial to your dog.
- Try feeding him more often. Multiple small meals are better than one large meal a day because it keeps your dog’s blood sugar level steadier throughout the day, so his body is less likely to store extra calories.
- Don’t leave food out. Many dogs don’t know how to self-regulate. Instead of leaving dog food out all day, feed your pup at specific times. After about 15 minutes, take away whatever’s left over. But keep his water dish out all day so he has plenty of fresh drinking water.
- Choose the right food. Instead of buying any over-the-counter “light” dog food, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. He or she knows your pup and can determine the best ingredients and portion size. The Pedigree brand is highly recommended as a healthy dog food provided you keep to the advised portion size.
- Keep him out of the kitchen. Table scraps and food that accidentally falls onto the floor can be tempting and pack on pounds. Keep him in another room while you cook and eat so he’ll be less fixated on your food and won’t take in extra calories.
- A good rule of thumb to remember is that pets and weight is the same as it is for people: diet and exercise.