If you think your dog is overweight, check with your vet to rule out hormonal or other health problems. Then, you and your vet can determine your dog's optimum weight and develop a diet and exercise plan for your dog. Your vet will likely want you to check in regularly to monitor progress.
The basic weight reduction strategies for dogs are:
- Eliminate snacks, treats, and table scraps.
- Increase exercise.
- Decrease portions.
- Switch to a lower-calorie dog food.
To give yourself an incentive to help your dog stick to his diet plan, take a "before" picture of your dog and take several more as he loses weight. You will be delighted when you compare the "before" and "after" pictures.
- Aiming for one to two percent of body weight per week is considered a safe weight-loss goal for a dog. Losing more than two percent of body weight per week is too much.
- When choosing dry foods, consider that the fat content of dry food should range between 12 and 16 percent. Twelve percent is better for sedentary dogs, but active dogs can tolerate 16 percent fat.
- Frequent feeding can make dieting more tolerable for your dog. Try two to four small meals throughout the day.
- Keep an overweight dog from eating other pets' food by feeding him separately.
- Before you prepare a meal or sit down to one, feed your dog.
- Provide plenty of fresh, cool water at all times.
- Stay away from supplements, like oil for a shiny coat, that add empty calories. A well-balanced diet should produce a nice coat. If your dog's coat is not shiny, it could be due to skin problems. Check with your vet.
- There is no room in a weight-reducing program for snacks, treats, or table scraps. Your dog is getting all the calories she needs from her consistent, well-balanced meals. "Give your dog a dry, hard kernel of dog food instead of treats to reward her," suggests St. Louis vet Dr. Richard Albrecht.
- Remove food bowls promptly after feeding. An empty bowl can set off scavenging behavior. Begging or sniffing around an empty bowl does not mean that your dog is hungry.
- Everyone in the household has to stick with the program. Explain to family members that the most loving thing you can do for your dog is to help him attain and maintain a healthy weight.
Continued on page 4: Exercise Hints