Overweight dogs

A recent survey indicated that 40% of America's pet population is overweight. If you or your veterinarian feel that your pet would benefit from a reduction in body weight, this discussion should help you to understand how to help overweight dogs lose weight.

Simply put, if your pet is overweight it is eating more calories than it needs. Excessive weight in a dog is a direct result of consuming unnecessary amounts of food. If your pet is overweight make sure first that it doesn't have any underlying causes such as thyroid or other metabolic disorders. A detailed history should be taken with emphasis on frequency of exercise, amount and type of food being provided and other factors relative to calorie requirements.

Don't try enticing your dog to eat if it isn’t interested. Providing a good quality food and a liberal amount of water and your pet will eat when it wants.

Another common myth maintains that spaying or neutering causes obesity. This is false. Any pet will gain weight if over fed. The neutering procedure may slightly slow the pet’s metabolism, as will normal aging, causing calories to burn off slower; therefore it may require less food. Keep in mind the surgery doesn’t cause the weight gain, eating too much does and you have complete control over that.

Start out by feeding high quality, complete and balanced dog food.  Look on the ingredients list... MEAT should be the first item listed, not corn or corn products. Add up the total percentage of non-meat ingredients. You may also want to supplement with a vitamin/mineral/fatty acid product.

Begin with an accurate pre-diet weight. Write this down. Reduce by one-third your pet’s total daily ration previously given. Include in this total all treats, snacks, or leftovers if you insist on continuing to provide these. Reweigh the pet in 2 weeks. If your dog begs for food, that's a good sign! But don’t give in.

After two weeks if your pet has lost even a little weight, you’re on the right track; keep up this same schedule with no further reduction in food!  If no weight loss is evident, reduce by one-third again, the amount being fed. Weigh the pet in another two weeks. Depending upon the results either keep feeding this amount or reduce again by one-third the total amount being fed. If you persist a good outcome is certain. 

Reduced calorie dog foods

Many vets believe you shouldn't feed the "Reduced Calorie" or "Lite Diets" or "Senior Diets." These diets have restricted fat levels to reduce the calories but by necessity have increased carbohydrates.  Increased carbohydrates stimulate additional insulin which signals the body to store unused calories as fat.  Many overweight dogs have actually gained weight on "Reduced Calorie" weight loss diets.  Your dog needs a meat-based diet, high in protein (which isn't stored as fat) and fat and low in carbohydrate. 

You have to adjust the quantity being fed to achieve a state where the dog takes in fewer total calories than it is using for the day's energy requirements.

Exercise

It is also quite important to get everyone’s cooperation in restricting the pet’s intake. There is usually someone in the household who feels sorry for the dieting pet and surreptitiously provides "just a little" something extra. More helpful would it be for the person to take the pet for a walk or a run to burn off a few calories.

Most dogs just don't get enough exercise. It is very easy to start your dog on a dog-walking program. This not only provides a more interesting and stimulating environment for your dog, but it also helps them burn off additional calories, improves their muscle tone, and improves cardiovascular function. Plus, it does the same thing for the walker—two for the price of one.

Keep in mind most overweight pets have a slow metabolism. They simply don’t burn off those calories, in fact they don’t generally have "eager eater" appetites. Because of this slow metabolism, though, they don’t require very much; so "just a little extra"   will make a big difference over a period of time.

Remember... use only high quality, meat-based food; control the amount fed; provide more exercise, and use persistence—all these will help your pet live a longer, leaner and more enjoyable life. 

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