Is your dog overweight? Get tips and insights into helping your dogs lose weight.
When a dog looks at you with soulful, brown eyes, it is hard to deny it a bite of what you’re eating. However, too many bites of table food can quickly create a chubby dog. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that up to 40% of dogs in the United States are overweight. The AVMA further estimates that obese dogs are more likely to experience respiratory problems, joint and hip issues and increased rates of cancer. Over time, fat dogs experience more health problems than normal weight dogs, so it’s important to help him lose weight.
My Own Dogs
We’ve owned two miniature dachshunds, although the oldest passed away not too long ago. This breed is very food motivated and often begs scraps. Visitors and children in my home sneak our dog little bits of food not realizing how dangerous this is to a dachshund’s health.
Since these dogs have long bodies, there is a tendency for back issues. In fact, Maya, our eight-year-old girl, has been to the vet for back related issues. A slight gain in weight acerbates these problems and makes my dog more prone to injury. It is an ongoing battle to keep the weight off this dog. She adores food and I adore her.
It is because of our ongoing quest to keep her a normal weight that I’ve picked up the tips below over the years to keep her slender and healthy. Okay, she isn’t quite “slender”, but she is a normal weight.
Cesar Millan, also known as the “Dog Whisperer”, suggests that most dogs are not receiving enough physical activity. On his website, he suggests, “Start with short sessions, and gradually add more time and greater intensity.” Because an overweight dog might be out of shape, Millan points out that they are also prone to overheating or breathing issues. Therefore, start small and increase activity over time.
Exercise will also help calm a hyper dog, keep him interested and decrease many of the behavior problems that occur out of boredom. As an added bonus, you’ll gain health benefits as you exercise with your dog.
Exercise usually comes in the form of long walks (remember to start slow and build up). If you live in the city or an area where this is not possible, try alternatives like throwing a Frisbee, tossing a ball, chasing your dog through the house or teaching him to chase his tail. Any form of activity is helpful.
Reduce a Fat Dog’s Food
If your dog is overweight, then he is likely eating too much. There are several steps to take in the order listed below. Give each step a week and see if it is helping. If not, move on to the next step. Don’t make too many changes at once as a huge change in food type can upset your dog’s tummy.
- Cut out all table scraps except bits of vegetables. Table scraps add a lot of calories to the diets of many dogs. They simply aren’t good for your dog and can really add on weight. It is a smart idea to cut out all table scraps both for weight issues and also so your dog doesn’t beg. Vegetables are one exception. They can provide nutrients and fiber and have very little calories.
- Reduce treats. The average dog treat has about 15 calories or more. The Dog Channel estimates that you can use a dog caloric needs formula to figure out how many calories your dog needs a day. A small dog that is around 10 pounds, may only need 100 to 150 calories a day. you can see how feeding this dog more than a treat or two could quickly put him over his daily caloric needs and create an obese pet. Break treats into smaller pieces and limit to one or two a day to see if your dog’s weight drops.
- Measure food. Figure out how many calories a day your dog needs and then measure it out. Break feedings into several meals a day, so your dog doesn’t eat all his food in the morning and go hungry the rest of the day.
- Buy a reduced calorie dog food specifically for weight loss. Keep in mind that you must still measure and cut overall calories for this type of food to work. Also, never switch your dog’s food quickly as this can create gastrointestinal upset. Instead, switch the food slowly by giving your dog 25% of the new food to 75% of the old for a few days. Then, give the dog 50/50. Repeat in 25% increments until your dog is at 100% new food.
A Few Notes on the Type of Food
The type of food you purchase for your dog is also extremely important. Some of the readily available dog foods don’t provide enough protein and other nutrients for your dog and are chock-full of fillers and products that don’t add nutrition. This means that it takes more of the food for your dog to feel satisfied. Instead, invest in a high quality dog food that will help your dog feel fuller on less. Try to find a food that has:
- High protein
- Whole foods
- No fillers
That sounds simple, but when confronted with a label, it can all be quite confusing. Try to avoid foods that have words like “by-product”. Instead, opt for food that say “human-grade” meat, whole vegetables and fruits. I personally feed my dogs Blue Buffalo Wilderness variety. However, there are many others on the market and some even better than this.
Simply Be Aware
Quite simply keep an eye on how much your dog weighs. If you look straight down at your dog’s back, you can easily see if it is overweight. An overweight dog will have fat bulging from his sides. It is very apparent when looking down on the dog. If you’re still uncertain, consult your vet about the best weight range for your dog’s size.
Be aware of others and if they are feeding your dog table scraps. My kids get this one past me a lot and when I notice one of the dogs starting to pick up weight, I have to really crack down. This is the biggest culprit in my home that points to canine weight gain.
Watch the dog treats. There should be one person in the home that oversees giving out dog treats. If another person wants to give a treat, he should get it from the treat overseer. Otherwise, your dogs will figure out a way to get double or even triple treats. One person will think they haven’t had a treat and give them another. However, if they must first check in with a main person, that person can say no that the dog already had a treat.
Watch the feedings. Again, a single person should be in charge of feedings. Dogs are masters at making you think they haven’t yet eaten when they have.
Our little doxie has gotten this one past us several times. We finally named one person the feeder and this problem no longer happens. I oversee the feedings. If the dog acts hungry, my daughters or husband come to me and inquire as to whether she’s been fed. 9 times out of 10, she has already been fed and is just trying to get extra.
If she seems truly hungry, this is when I might give her a carrot to munch on or a few bites of cucumber. We can also check in with the treat giver to see if she can have a treat to tide her over until the next feeding.
Be aware of what is going into their tiny (or big, if you have a Great Dane or other large breed) bodies and the weight loss issue should resolve itself over time. Good luck!