Just like people, dogs can quickly put on a few unwanted kilos, especially as they get older and exercise less. In fact, a staggering 25-40% of all dogs and cats are overweight – and most owners don’t even realise it until they take their pets to the vet for a related illness. Overweight and obese dogs are much more likely to develop diabetes, heart and respiratory conditions, arthritis, even behavioural problems. So it’s easy to see why monitoring your dog’s weight carefully is important.
Is your pet overweight?
It’s not always easy to tell if your dog is putting on weight, especially when it happens on a gradual basis. Regular assessment by your vet is best. But you can weigh your dog at home by first weighing yourself, then picking up your dog and getting back on the scales to measure the difference. Generally speaking your dog is overweight if its ribs are hard to feel, under a covering of fat, and its waist is not clearly visible from above,
In order to get rid of that excess flab, you need to increase the amount of energy used (exercise more) and reduce the amount of energy consumed (feed your dog less calories).
Cutting back on calories
To help your dog lose weight, start by reducing the size of main meals by about 10%-15% for two weeks. Divide the food into smaller portions to reduce the length of time your pet goes without food, as well as to keep track of exactly what you’re feeding. It’s a good idea to measure the amount of food that’s put into your dog’s dish, to prevent the serving size from increasing over time. Remember that the suggested serving on the pack is a guideline based on average dogs. An individual dog may need less, or more, than the average amount.
After a fortnight, check your dog’s weight again and continue the diet until an ideal weight is reached. It can take months to reverse significant weight gains, so be patient. Once you’ve succeeded, you may want to slightly adjust feeding quantities to stabilise your dog’s weight.
No ‘crash’ diets
Never starve your dog in an attempt to lose weight quickly. It’s not safe to reduce food intake by more than 15%, as your pet won’t get the right balance of essential minerals and vitamins and could run the risk becoming seriously ill.
You may also want to consider moving your dog onto a specially formulated ‘light’ food. Light diets are less concentrated with a lower fat content, so you don’t need to cut down on the actual amount you feed. They also mean you can be sure your dog continues to get all the right minerals and vitamins in the correct proportions. Once back to an ideal weight you can return to a standard adult recipe, although it’s quite safe to stay on a light diet throughout adult years. Light foods are also ideal for less active dogs who don’t need as much energy from their food.
Cut down on the extras
To encourage weight loss, try to cut back on snacks and treats. You don’t have to stop treating altogether, but choose a low fat option. If you do treat, remember to reduce the amount of food you feed your dog that day to compensate, always following packaging guidelines regarding the maximum daily number of treats. Keep your dog out of the kitchen (particularly when you’re cooking) and dining room, away from temptation.
Increasing the amount of exercise your dog receives is simple and can help burn off those excess pounds. Adding an extra 10 minute walk or 20 minutes of playtime each day not only has the additional benefit of increasing the amount of time you spend with your dog, but can be just as beneficial for you as your pet! Make sure the type of exercise is vigorous and your dog’s heart rate goes up. But be careful not to do this when the temperature outside is very high or you may risk heatstroke.
It’s always a good idea to consult your vet before putting your dog on a weight-loss program. As well as helping you to develop an individual weight-loss regime for your pet, your vet will also be able to track progress and provide ongoing support.
Weight loss should be gradual – over about three to four months – and may in some cases take up to a year. If weight is lost too fast, your dog will probably just put it back on, so be patient.
REMEMBER! IF YOUR PET IS OVERWEIGHT YOU ARE NOT GETTING ENOUGH EXERCISE!