Obesity is a common problem in dogs, but you can help your pet lose weight. Identifying the causes and following a total weight-management program can result in controlled weight loss and maintenance. A total weight-management program includes evaluating the animal, educating the pet owner, modifying behaviors, and tailoring the program to individual situations.
Definition and Causes of, and Contributing Factors to, Obesity in Dogs
Obesity is defined as an increase in body weight, beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirements, resulting from an accumulation of excess body fat.
Obesity is caused when caloric intake exceeds caloric expenditure. This simply means that a dog eats more energy (calories) than it uses and stores the excess energy as fat.
There are many factors that can contribute to obesity:
- Age and gender
- Spay/neuter status
- Diabetes mellitus
- Owner's weight
Fat, Fiber, and Fatty Acids in Your Dog’s Weight-Loss Program
- Dogs use fat as their primary energy source.
- A diet that replaces some fat with highly digestible carbohydrates offers a good low-calorie alternative. Digestible carbohydrates contain fewer than one half of the calories of equal quantities of fat and do not have the disadvantages of indigestible fiber.
Fiber and Fatty Acids
- A normal fiber level, provided in a moderately fermentable fiber source, helps create and maintain a healthy gut. This is especially important to the dog on a weight-reduction regimen.
- Some weight-loss products for dogs dilute calories with high levels of fiber. High-fiber foods might reduce the digestibility and absorption of many nutrients, including fat. These foods reduce weight by providing what could be considered poor-quality nutrition. These high-fiber diets also might result in large, frequent stools, and decreased skin and coat condition.
- Diets that provide an adjusted fatty-acid profile maintain the pet's healthy skin and coat, despite lowered fat levels.
Carbohydrates and Special Ingredients in Your Dog’s Weight-Loss Program
Carbohydrates and Special Ingredients
- Feeding a diet that contains the carbohydrates corn, sorghum, and/or barley can result in lower blood sugar and insulin levels as compared to feeding a diet that contains rice as the primary carbohydrate source. Lower blood sugar and insulin levels also can help with maintaining a proper weight.
In addition, a diet that contains L-carnitine can help dogs metabolize fat. L-carnitine is a vitamin-like compound that helps burn fat.
Weight Loss for Your Dog Should Be Gradual
- The goal of a good weight-loss-management program should be gradual weight loss. This is especially important in cats, because severe nutrient restriction can result in hepatic lipidosis (abnormal fat accumulation in the liver).
- Dogs should lose 1 to 2% of their initial weight per week.
- A good way to begin a weight-loss program is to reduce caloric intake by transitioning to a weight-control or reduced-fat formula. Dogs and cats that do not respond quickly should see their veterinarian for a special weight-loss program.
A total weight-management program can lead to successful weight reduction in the obese dog. Complete evaluation by the veterinarian is always recommended, and owner compliance is essential to success.
IAMS™ and professional veterinary products provide optimum nutrition for animals that can benefit from a weight-management program.
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Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy and Active
It depends on the breed of dog, but your pet's senior years generally begin at age 7. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), tells you what you need to know to keep your older dog spry and happy.
Senior Dog Health: Preventive Health
At this stage, Murray recommends taking your dog to the vet twice a year. "So much can happen to an elderly dog," she says. Your veterinarian can take blood annually to test liver and kidney functions. "Discovering problems early is extremely important," she says. Your vet can be on the lookout for conditions that often affect older dogs, such as anemia and arthritis.
Senior Dog Health: Urination, Bowel Movements, and Appetite
Pay attention to what might be subtle changes in your dog's habits: Is she drinking more water or urinating larger amounts? These behaviors might indicate a liver or kidney problem. Have your dog's bowel movements shifted? This could indicate a digestive issue. Diabetes or digestive problems might cause your dog to eat more but still lose weight. Knowing the dog's patterns can help the veterinarian determine a course of treatment.
Senior Dog Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines
Continue to use preventive medicines.
Senior Dog Health: Dental Health
Clean your dog's teeth daily. If she has tartar buildup, you might need to have her teeth professionally cleaned at your vet's office, which requires sedating your pet.
Senior Dog Health: Exercise
Your dog is probably less active, so steady, moderate exercise is best for her now. Don't turn her into a "weekend warrior" who, after lying around on weekdays, accompanies you on a 10-mile hike on Saturdays. This is especially hard on an older dog's joints.
Senior Dog Health: Diet
Your veterinarian might wish to put your dog on a senior diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Senior Plus. These formulations contain nutrients specifically geared toward older-dog health.
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