If you’ve noticed your dog packing on the pounds, don’t be surprised. Many pet dogs slowly gain weight over a long period of time. While this might seem like a simple cosmetic problem, obesity, or carrying extra weight, can mean health problems for your pet including strain on the joints, heart, lungs, and shorter life expectancy. To help your dog lose weight, reduce his caloric intake and increase his exercise level.
EditReducing Your Dog’s Caloric Intake
- Consult with a veterinarian. Before you start your dog on a diet, check with the vet. Many clinics run a dog weight loss program where your pet is weighed and you can get specific instructions about how much to feed your dog. These regular weigh-ins, firm target, and moral support can make you more likely to succeed in putting your dog on an effective diet. Your vet may recommend one of the following diets:
- High Fiber/Low-Fat Diet: These contain fiber which expand in your dog’s stomach, making him feel full. The package instructions should clearly state how much to feed your dog based on a target (goal) weight.
- Metabolic diets: These are more high tech and feed the genes that improve your dog’s metabolism. Increasing metabolism can make your dog burn more calories, causing him to lose weight.
- Determine how much food your dog eats a day. Pay attention to how much you’re currently feeding your dog. If your dog is fed twice a day, weigh out the total amount so you know how much he’s eating. However, if your dog has food constantly available, it’s harder to determine how much he’s eating. This makes it more difficult to know how much to cut down. If this is the case, look at the food package and see how much it advises feeding a dog at your dog’s target rate.
- For most dogs, the package will advise a weight range. For example, 300 to 350 grams of food a day. You’d want to choose the lower amount of 300 grams.
- Reduce the amount of food you feed. Once you’ve determined how much your dog needs to eat a day, reduce the amount by 5 to 10%. For example, if you are feeding 300g of kibble a day, 10% of this is 30g, so the new amount is 270g. Feed this reduced amount for one or two weeks and weigh your dog. Hopefully, he loses weight, but if he hasn’t, deduct another 5 to 10% from his daily food amount. Weigh your dog again after feeding the reduced amount for another week or two.
- Don’t be upset or worried if the portion size looks small or your dog pesters you for food. This is a normal concern when putting a dog on a diet. If you’re really unsettled, you may want to feed a prescription weight loss diet instead.
- Offer healthy treats occasionally. Since you’ll be cutting back on your dog’s food and increasing exercise, you’ll need to offer positive encourage every so often. While you can praise your dog, you can also give him the rare treat. Just be sure to offer something healthy that will also make him feel full and satisfied. Some good options include:
- Bran or grated vegetable mixed with his food
- French or runner beans, raw
- Apples (in moderation)
- Bananas (in moderation)
- Make your dog work for food. Get your dog involved in earning his food, rather than just set it out in front of him. Buy a puzzle or activity feeder that you can fill with food. Your dog then moves shapes around or rolls balls around to get the food inside to fall out. This can make your dog more active and mentally engaged. Try to prevent boredom while your dog’s on a diet. Keeping his mind occupied will prevent him from thinking about food.
- Training is also a great way to keep a dog active and prevent boredom. Of course training depends heavily on rewards, so take some of his dinner kibble and set it aside for rewards or give him lots of praising.
- Monitor your dog’s weight loss. Weigh your dog once every week or two so you can track any weight loss. This will also indicate whether your diet and routine are working. If he isn’t losing, then you can reevaluate what you’re doing. Make sure your goals are reasonable and that you’re consistent with the regimen. Don’t expect sudden drops in weight. Instead, look for slow and steady weight loss which is more sustainable. Smaller dogs should aim to lose no more than four ounces a week while larger dogs can aim for one pound per week.
- If you have a large dog or do not have access to scales, use a tape measure. Chose a point on the dog such as his girth or his waist and measure around it. Make a note of any landmarks the tape passes over, such as a particular pattern or spot, so you place the tape in the same place each time.
EditExercising Your Dog
- Create an exercise routine. While it may seem like you can simply start exercising your dog, you should make personalized exercise routine. Overweight dogs need to be gradually introduced to exercise if they were previously inactive. Jumping straight into a daily walking regimen can cause joint pain or injury instead of weight loss. Talk with your vet about what level of activity you should start your dog on.
- If your dog is inactive, start by putting small amounts of his food at opposite ends of the room and make him walk back and forth to eat it. You can also play simple games like rolling a ball across the floor and asking him to fetch it. When he drops the ball, reward him with some of the kibble taken from his dinner allowance.
- Introduce moderate walking. Gentle lead walks are a great way to begin exercising any unfit dog. Take your dog for a walk on his leash as far as he can comfortably walk. Make a note of how long it took him to get that far. Then, you can gradually increase the distance by adding 5 minutes to each walk once a week.
- For example, if your dog can only walk for 5 minutes in the first week, increase his walk to 10 minutes in the second week, 15 minutes in the third week, and so forth. If the walks are very short, take him out two or three times a day in order to build up stamina and fitness.
- Make sure your dog is actually walking during your outings, not just spending most of his time sniffing.
- Increase the dog’s exercise level. Increasing the duration, frequency, and intensity of your dog’s walking regimen will maximize weight loss and overall health. However, you probably want to add other activities to keep your dog interested in exercising. Once your dog is walking more comfortably, introduce one of the following exercises:
- Cycling: Once your dog has a good level of fitness, train your dog to run alongside your bicycle. This can be a fun way for both of you to get exercise, but ensure that your dog doesn’t become a danger on the road or to you.
- Swimming: Let your dog swim for short periods and gradually increase swim time. Swimming is excellent exercise for an overweight dog since it is non-weight bearing and won’t strain the joints. However, make sure he wears a life vest because he may tire suddenly and there is a risk of drowning.
- Playing with toys: Pick up several active dog toys. Any kind of fetch toys are great for your dog like balls, flying discs, or plush toys. Pick your favorite and throw repeatedly until your dog is worn out. If you have back problems, buy a toy retrieval product to make picking up toys easier.
- Use positive reinforcement. Be sure to praise your dog verbally and physically before, during, and after exercise. For example, you can pet your dog or rub his ears or say, “Good boy!” Being positive will make exercise more enjoyable for your dog. You want him to associate exercise with reward. Your dog will be motivated, making exercise easier.
- Be patient with any exercise program. It may take a few months for your dog to meet the weight loss goals you’ve set for him, but it is possible if it’s been organized and well thought out.
- Help Your Dog Lose Weight
- Keep a Dog in Good Health
- Add Fiber to a Dog’s Diet
EditSources and Citations
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