Obesity in dogs is a big problem (excuse the pun) for modern pets and can lead to a range of health problems if left untreated. Arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and skin disease can all be linked to dogs being overweight and can lead to our pets feeling miserable day-to-day. In some cases, these problems can even lead to our dogs having shorter lifespans.
But helping our dogs to lose weight can be much more difficult than it sounds – for all sorts of reasons. So, here are some tips to help your dog lose weight for good – without needing to put them on a crash diet!
What Makes A Dog Put On Weight?
In simple terms, dogs will put on weight if the food that they are eating contains more calories than their bodies are using up each day. This means that you will need to find a balance between how much food they are eating, and how much activity they are doing. Low thyroid hormone can also contribute to weight gain despite calorie restriction and exercise, and can be tested by your veterinarian.
In practice, the amount of food that dogs eat tends to be much more important than the amount of exercise that they are getting. If your dog is fairly inactive, then some regular exercise can be helpful for weight loss. However, if your dog is already going on regular walks, then increasing their amount of exercise is unlikely to help them to lose much weight. Focusing on your dog’s diet is likely to be more helpful.
Feelings about Feeding
When thinking about our dog’s diet, it’s important to understand that the way we feed our dogs is often linked to our own emotions. We get pleasure from feeding our pets treats, and from seeing them enjoy their regular meals. And because we love our dogs, we may find it difficult to say “no” to them when it comes to feeding them tidbits from our own plates. This can make it very difficult for us to restrict their food – even if it is the right choice for their health.
It’s important to focus on our responsibilities as pet parents. Our dogs will (mostly!) only eat what we give them, so we have to make the right decisions for their well-being – even if that might be hard for us to do.
Choosing A Diet for Your Dog
If your dog is currently overweight then you may be thinking about changing their food to see if this can help. Sometimes this can be useful to help your dog lose weight, but it’s usually not enough by itself to get them back to being healthy.
First of all, you should make sure that your dog is on a good-quality and balanced diet that is appropriate for their age. Grain-free diets are often touted for their benefits for everything from skin condition to maintaining a healthy weight, but are unlikely to help your dog to lose weight any quicker and may be linked to nutritional deficiencies.
If your dog’s diet comes in a “light” version, consider switching over to this. Older dogs may benefit from being on a “senior” diet – these are often lower in calories, but still high in protein and other essential nutrients that dogs need as they age.
You could also consider trying a prescription weight loss food. These are dog diets that are specifically designed to help our pets to lose weight quickly and safely and can be very effective if used in the right way. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend one to try.
How Much To Feed Your Dog
If your dog is currently overweight, then they are almost certainly getting more food than they actually need to stay healthy. This means that you are going to need to reduce the amount of food that you feed your dog.
If your dog is only mildly or moderately overweight, then you can start by reducing their food by around ten percent over the whole day. The best way to do this is by weighing your pet’s food to figureout the total amount that you feed them each day, and then reducing it accordingly.
The easiest way to make sure you are feeding your pet consistently is to weigh their food scoops made for kibble that will weigh the amount that you give each time.
Once your pet has been on the lower amount of food for around four weeks, then you should weigh them again. If they have lost weight, then you can continue feeding this amount. If not, then reduce the food by another ten percent. You should continue to weigh your dog every 4 weeks or so to keep track of how they are doing!
If your dog is severely overweight or has a health condition that means they need to lose weight quickly, then you may need to reduce their food more quickly. Speak to your veterinarian for advice on how to do this safely.
How Often To Feed Your Dog
Studies suggest that feeding dogs two or three times a day can help them to lose weight when compared to just feeding them once a day. Try to space out their meals evenly over the day, so that they do not become hungry.
Eating more slowly can help dogs to feel fuller afterward – but it’s not always easy to do! Try using a slow feeding bowl, a feeding puzzle, or a food toy, to keep your dog’s brain engaged whilst they eat.
Adding a little warm water to your dog’s food can make it more appealing and also help them to feel fuller after their meals. This can be done with most kinds of dog diets – just make sure the water isn’t too hot!
Dog Treats & Snacks
All the “little extras” that we give dogs during the day can easily add up to a big cause of weight gain, so we need to be careful about these. Try to cut down on any treats, chews, or bits of human food that your dog gets – these should never make up more than ten percent of a dog’s daily food (by weight) under normal circumstances and need to be even less than this when trying to reduce your dog’s weight.
Try swapping out high-calorie treats and chews for low-calorie options such as vegetables – carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower can all be good choices. Alternatively, if your dog has kibble, then you can weigh out their total daily allowance each morning and then take little bits of this to offer as “snacks” throughout the day.
Helping your dog lose weight can be challenging and takes time and energy to accomplish. However, the benefits to your dog’s health can be many, especially if they are older or have an existing health condition such as arthritis or heart disease. Your local veterinarian and vet technicians can be a big source of help and encouragement, so if you’re embarking on a weight loss journey with your dog, don’t be afraid to approach them for guidance.