Obesity in dogs is a growing problem. As with humans, overweight pets are at a high risk for a variety of health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. Weight loss is the key to preventing these health problems or helping to treat them if they have already begun.
Weight loss for dogs is clearly not a matter of willpower for the dog. Owners, however, may need to use willpower to resist those begging eyes. Remember, food is not love! As a reward to your dog, try offering personal attention and toys.
For most dogs, the traditional diet-and-exercise plan does the trick. However, some dogs may have trouble losing weight for specific health reasons. Before starting a weight loss plan for your dog, be sure to see your vet. You might even find out that there is an underlying problem contributing to your dog's obesity. In a rare cases, dogs may need an extra helping hand with weight loss. Some dogs might be candidates for a canine weight loss drug called Slentrol (dirlotapide). However, this is usually only considered after other efforts have failed.
Diet and Exercise: The Cornerstone of Weight LossDIET Feed your dog a bunch of table scraps and human "junk food," and you might as well be asking for weight gain. Dog food and treats that are high in calories may also pack on the pounds, depending on the dog. Your vet can help you choose the right food for your dog. In some cases, vets will prescribe a special low fat/high fiber diet that is not available "over the counter." However, there are also many commercial diet that might work, including some holistic/natural diets.
Even healthy food and treats will lead to weight gain if given in excess. Allowing your dog to "free feed" by leaving a full bowl out all day is not a good idea, especially in a multiple dog household. Establish two or three set mealtimes per day. Use a measured scoop to give only the recommended amount of food. Feeding instructions on bags are generalized and may not be appropriate for your dog, so ask your vet to help you determine the right amount. If your dog needs a reduction in food amount, you can try adding some unsalted canned green beans to his food to make up the difference. Many dogs love them and will feel more satisfied after the meal.
Dog treats should be significantly decreased for an overweight dog. Treats should never make up more than 10% of a dog's diet, and that percentage should be decreased for weight loss. You will also need to change the type of treat you feed. No cheese, hot dog pieces or fatty commercial dog treats. Shop for dog treats that are low in calories. Better yet, try small pieces of carrots and apples as treats. Many dogs really love them.
Obviously,your dog is going to need more exercise to lose weight. If you do not already walk your dog daily for a specific period of time, start now. Schedule times to play fetch or tug-of-war. If you have an exercise schedule, increase the frequency and difficulty if possible. This will be good for you, too. The most important thing is to make a commitment to a plan and stick with it. Your dog is at your mercy.
Most dogs just want to interact with their owners, especially in the form of exercise. They also tend to enjoy training in the form of games. One great way to boost your dog's weight loss plan is to get involved with a dog sport. One of many great options is a sport called agility. When you and your dog get involved in a dog sport, you can work with experts who want your dog to succeed but will not push him. In addition to losing weight, your dog will have a new skill and plenty of mental stimulation.
Many dogs will be happy to be getting more exercise and attention, and they will joyfully await their scheduled exercise sessions. However dogs that are very overweight and out-of-shape may pose a challenge. Some dogs will simply stop in the middle of a walk, refusing to continue. This is probably because they are winded and/or in pain. To be safe, stay close to home and keep a slower pace. These dogs benefit from several short walks a day rather than one or two long ones.
Some dogs cannot exercise as needed due to an illness or injury brought on or worsened by the obesity. Consult your vet for recommendations. You may find that physical therapy with a canine rehabilitation practitioner helps.