How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
Many of us embark on a healthy eating regime in January following a Christmas of over indulging. Whilst it is common practice make our own weight loss journey a priority in the New Year, some owners are unaware that their pets could also do with shedding some pounds.
Statistics suggest that around 30% of dogs are overweight. Pet obesity is a growing problem and one that is set to get worse without proper education and action. Here we give our expert advice on pet weight loss. We also share the small changes that can be made to our pets’ diet to ensure it is more nutrient rich.
How do I know if my dog is overweight?
It can often be tricky to determine whether a dog is overweight. Dogs vary in size and shape and every breed has a slightly different build. As a rough guide, we suggest looking at your dog from above. You should be able to see a clearly defined waist after the rib cage. You can also run your hands along the sides of your dog’s body. You should be able to feel their ribs under a thin layer of fat.
What are the health implications of my dog being overweight?
Unfortunately, being overweight has a number of negative health implications. Overweight dogs are more prone to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Excess weight can put extra strain on dogs’ joints, which can cause the onset of debilitating conditions such as arthritis. Being overweight can significantly reduce your pet’s life span.
How do I know how much to feed by dog?
Owners often overestimate the amount of food to give their dog at mealtimes and unknowingly overfeed their pet. You should weigh your dog and feed them according to the serving suggestion guide for their weight range. This will be listed on the back of the packet. If you’re unsure your vet will be able to offer guidance and suggest a nutrient rich food.
How do I put my pet on a diet?
If you think your dog is overweight and needs to be put on a diet you should always consult a veterinary professional for advice. Their weight gain may be due to an underlying medical condition that needs investigating further.
It can be tempting to feed your pet smaller portions of their existing food, but this is likely to be unsuccessful. This is because they won’t get all the nutrients they need and can encourage behaviour such as begging. Instead, your pet should be put on a specially formulated calorie-controlled diet. Weight loss diets are usually low in carbohydrates and high in fibre and protein.
It’s really important to take a slow and steady approach to ensure your pet loses weight in a healthy and sustained way. At Dave Cumber Vets, clients can access a free nurse weight loss clinic, where our experienced nurses will assess your dog and work with you to decide an achievable target weight and intermediate goals. If this is something that interests you, please give us a ring and ask.
Should I give my pet treats?
Titbits and treats are one of the most common reasons for pet weight gain. Often owners forget about the treats they give throughout the day and these high calorie foods can soon add up.
Treats should always be given in moderation. Raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, courgettes and broccoli are an excellent alternative to many pre-packaged options. You can also give your dog a small amount of their regular kibble as a reward during training.
Try to avoid giving human foods or leftovers from your meal. These can be high in oil, salt and fat and many ingredients can be toxic for our pets. Snacks are not an essential part of a dog’s diet. Consider switching treats for a play led reward such as a game of fetch.
Ensure the whole family is on board
It’s really important to ensure the whole family knows what your dog can and cannot eat as part of their diet. Educate everyone about the reasons why your dog is being put on a diet and the negative health implications of being overweight. Often, we hear one family member is giving the dog snacks in secret. This can undermine the hard work being put in by everyone else.
What is the best way to approach meal times?
You should try and maintain a consistent feeding routine and give your dog their meals at a similar time each day. We highly recommend feeding your dog over two separate sittings, instead of giving them one larger meal.
Another top tip is to remove other pets’ food from around the house. If you have a cat it is likely that your dog is also helping themselves to cat food when no one’s looking!
It is also preferable to feed your dog in the same place each day. Try to avoid feeding them when you are eating and discourage scrounging behaviour. All of these small actions will help your dog develop healthy eating habits and will prevent them from having a negative association with food.
What other ways can I help my dog lose weight?
In addition to a healthy diet, you should ensure your dog is getting enough exercise. You should take them for walks little and often and gradually increase the number and duration. Extra care should be taken if your dog is elderly or if the weather is hot. If your dog has limited mobility, engaging them in a game of tug or fetch is an excellent starting point.
Swimming is a fantastic form of low impact exercise. There are some fantastic dog friendly beaches in Weymouth and the wider Dorset area where you can take your dog for a swim. Alternatively, there are some excellent dog hydrotherapy centres locally that offer accompanied sessions in a safe pool environment.
Always check the conditions carefully before letting your dog swim in open water.
How can I promote good eating behaviour?
It’s important to help your pet develop healthy eating behaviours from an early age. Prevention is always better than cure, so ensure your pet gets a well portioned diet and regular exercise from an early age.
Ultimately, as owners we must acknowledge that we are in control of our pet’s diets and responsible for their health. Our veterinary team are always on hand to answer any questions and offer expert guidance and advice.