Is Your Dog Overweight?
Can you feel individual ribs easily? Is your dog’s abdomen slightly tucked up when viewed from the side? That’s a sign your dog is at their ideal weight.
If you can't feel the ribs easily, your dog has no waist and their abdomen drags, your pup is carrying extra weight. Your veterinarian can help you further evaluate your dog’s condition and determine their ideal weight.
What Causes Canine Obesity?
Dogs gain weight for the same reason people do: They eat more calories than they use. Today’s dogs share another problem with their human parents: lack of activity. Many pet parents work all day and are too tired to play with their dog afterward.
Dogs’ metabolisms might slow as they age or after they’re spayed or neutered, which means they require less food. Another common reason for weight gain is frequently eating high-calorie treats. Sometimes more than one family member is feeding the dog, and the dog sure isn’t telling!
Other factors that can contribute to canine obesity include:
- Breed and sex
- Diabetes mellitus
If you suspect your dog is overweight or obese, the first step is to set up an appointment with your veterinarian so they can evaluate their condition. Likewise, before beginning any weight loss program with your dog, make sure to discuss it with your vet.
How Much to Feed a Dog on a Weight Management Program
If your dog is overweight, it’s time to implement a weight-management regimen. If you usually feed one large meal a day or keep food available at all times, try a different dog-feeding schedule by dividing the daily ration into several small meals — at least two meals a day. It takes energy to digest food, and dividing your dog’s daily ration into separate feedings will help. If your dog leaves any food in their bowl, pick it up 30 minutes after each meal.
Choose the Right Food for Healthy Weight Loss
Your goal is to help your dog be as healthy as they can, so select their food carefully. Pay attention to the ratio of fat, fiber, protein and special ingredients in your dog’s weight-management food:
- Fat: Dogs use fat as their primary energy source. A diet that replaces some fat with highly digestible carbohydrates offers a good low-calorie alternative.
- Fiber: Some diet foods add high levels of fiber to help the dog feel full. But this strategy can backfire — high-fiber foods can reduce the digestibility and absorption of many nutrients, including fat, and also might result in large, frequent stools and decreased skin and coat condition.
- Protein: Weight-control food should have high-quality protein so your dog doesn’t lose muscle tone, plus essential fatty acids to help keep their skin and coat healthy throughout the dieting process.
- L-carnitine: This special ingredient is a vitamin-like compound that helps burn fat.
After your dog reaches their ideal weight, select a maintenance food to keep their weight steady.
Tips for Helping Your Dog Lose Weight
Losing weight isn’t easy. Changing habits is the key. Here are some ways you can help keep your dog on track:
- Determine who feeds the dog what and when. (Don’t be embarrassed to admit you give your dog treats. Dogs are expert beggars.)
- Substitute affection for treats. Scratch them behind the ears, offer praise or throw a ball when your dog noses your hand.
- Take your dog for a walk more often. Even 10 minutes a day can help.
- If your dog is more than 15% overweight, your veterinarian might recommend a special food. Diet foods should be low in fat (under 20% of calories from fat).
A total weight-management program can lead to successful weight loss in overweight or obese dogs. Remember: Your support is essential to your dog’s weight-control success.