Tough Love: Helping Your Dog Lose Weight
by Ben Anton
There are a number of different factors that can cause a dog to become overweight. Overindulgence on the part of the owner plays a large part in pet obesity. We all want our pets to be happy, and sometimes an extra handful of kibble does the trick. Certain breeds of dogs are also more likely to eat quickly and/or become overweight. Additionally, basic poor eating habits and a lack of exercise will result in an overweight dog.
Why Worry About Dog Obesity?
Like humans, excessive weight in dogs can lead to health problems like diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. Studies show that 25% of overweight dogs suffer from severe joint problems which ultimately lead to decreased activity, further contributing to a long-list of other health problems. Obese dogs are found to have significantly shorter life expectancies than healthier dogs. It is therefore very important to take control of a pet's weight problem before it becomes out of control.
How Can I Tell?
To understanding whether your dog is overweight, look at its ribs. You should be able to feel your dog's ribs when they are standing, and, depending on the breed, see the ribs during exercise. If you are still unsure whether your dog is overweight, ask your veterinarian to provide you with a good weight range for your dog and an assessment of their overall health.
Over 40% of American dog owners have an overweight pet. That is a large number but luckily there are some easy to follow, basic steps you can take to bring down Fido's weight in a healthy and easy manner.
1. Visit The Vet
Before making any changes to your pet's diet, schedule a veterinarian appointment so that an overall assessment of your dog's health can be taken. Keep a simple record of your dog's sleeping, eating, and playing habits before you go to help your vet assess what may be causing any weight gain.
2. Re-evaluate Your Dog's Diet
Reducing the amount of food your dog eats may be the key to reducing their weight. Dog owners should measure how much food they feed their dog regularly and then set a goal for reducing that amount by a certain date. You should check with your veterinarian to determine how much food your dog needs daily and slowly reduce the amount of food over an appropriate amount of time. Dog bowls that restrict the open space in the dog bowl, such as the DogPause Bowl, are useful both for slowing down dogs who eat their food quickly and for clearly showing how much food is in the bowl.
Your vet may also recommend a weight reduction dog food. These dog foods are usually low in fat, but high in fiber, allowing your dog to feel full while taking in fewer calories. When shopping for low-calorie dog food, look for one containing at least 25% crude protein. This will ensure your dog's muscle mass remains intact throughout weight loss.
3. Set Feeding Times
Dogs like consistency and predictability. They may have become accustomed to getting food whenever you come home. In this case, they have associated your attention with getting food. To help your dog lose weight, try setting out two feeding times, one in the morning and another in the evening. This will help them eat slower twice a day.
4. Don't Reward With Food Alone
As you cut down on the amount you feed your dog, your dog may start to beg or become irritable. Distract your dog by taking him or her for a walk or playing fetch rather than giving into their begging. This will help teach them that food doesn't equate with love. Plus, all overweight dogs can use some extra play time.
~Ben Anton, 2008
Note: This section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.