Worried that your small-breed dog is packing on the pounds? Run your hands along his backbone. You should be able to feel (but not see) his ribs. You also should see a clearly defined waist behind the ribs. If you can’t, follow these seven tips from Debra Eldredge, a veterinarian and co-author of “Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook,” published by Howell Book House.
1. See the Vet
Before you put your overweight dog on a diet, schedule an appointment with the vet to make sure an underlying health problem isn’t causing the numbers on the scale to creep up.
2. Think beyond Mealtime
Snacks and table scraps might account for your overweight dog’s bulging belly, Eldredge says. If curtailing in-between meals doesn’t make a difference, consider continuing with the same amount of food but switching to a different formula. Your vet can give you guidance.
3. Give Him Veggies
Thawed frozen green beans, canned pumpkin (which is fiber-rich and filling) and cut-up carrots make satisfying, low-calorie snacks for your pet.
4. Redo the Numbers
A study showed that dogs can count up to six or seven, Eldredge says. If he is accustomed to getting two small biscuits as a treat, break one biscuit into two pieces. By his count, he’s still getting two treats!
5. Rethink Rewards
As much as your overweight dog loves treats, he also loves taking walks, playing and spending time with you. You also can replace biscuits with a couple of pieces of the kibble he would get during mealtime.
6. Do the Hunger Test
Is your bichon staring up at you with those beautiful eyes as you nibble on peanuts? He’s probably not hungry. As you have your snack, offer him a piece of kibble. If he turns it down, he’s not really hungry — he just wants your peanuts!
7. Put Him on the Scale
If your overweight dog has just a couple of pounds to lose, it can be hard to gauge whether he is making progress. Ask your clinic if it’s OK if you stop in once a week so he can step onto the doctor’s scale.