Dog Diet and Weight Control

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Many dogs today are not at a healthy weight. In fact, a study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention in 2009 showed that more than 45% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese. This was a 2% increase from what a similar study found in 2007.

"If you have tried to put your dog on a diet and he has not lost any weight, talk to your veterinarian."

Why Should Pet Owners Be Concerned About Overweight Dogs?

A few extra pounds may not seem like that big of a problem, but many pet owners misidentify their dogs as being of normal weight when they are actually overweight. So if you think that your pet is only a "little" overweight, there is a very good chance that he is actually dangerously overweight or obese.

Many health conditions are seen more frequently in overweight dogs, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Cruciate ligament ruptures
  • Intervertebral disk disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cushing's disease
  • Skin disorders
  • Cancer

So, dogs that are heavier than normal can have a lot of health problems. But interestingly the opposite is true as well. A group of dogs that were fed 25% less than another group that self-selected the size of their meals lived significantly longer and healthier lives according to a 2002 study that was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

How Do I Know If My Pet Is Overweight?

Owners should routinely examine their dogs to determine if they are maintaining, gaining or losing weight. Using a scale is ideal to track small changes, but you should also know what a healthy weight looks and feels like. Have your dog stand up and use the following check list to determine whether or not he is at an ideal weight.

  • The ribs should not be visible but should be easily felt when you lightly run your hands along his sides.
  • Looking from the side, his abdomen should be "tucked," meaning that his chest is closer to the ground than his belly.
  • From above, he should have an hourglass figure. His chest and hips should be wider than his waist.

Of course some breeds or individuals may vary slightly from the above and still be very healthy. Consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions.

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Dogs that need to only lose a few pounds can usually do so if their owners are dedicated to helping them. Increasing the amount of exercise that a dog gets is very helpful. If your pet has osteoarthritis being more active might make him sore. In these cases, joint supplements can help keep him comfortable and allow him to get the exercise he needs.

Try to reduce your dog's overall caloric intake by about 15% percent. Start by strictly limiting treats. These can add a surprising number of calories to your dog's diet when they are given regularly. Consider switching your dog to a "diet" dog food since most pets are not satisfied if they are simply given 15% less of their current food. Examine the labels carefully. There is little regulation as to what can be called a "diet" dog food. In some cases, what is described as such may actually have more calories per cup than what you are currently feeding.

If you absolutely have to give your dog treats, switch to a low-calorie brand like Lean Treats and give them sparingly.

In general, home-cooked diets are not appropriate for dogs that are overweight unless they are prepared from a recipe formulated by a veterinary nutritionist. If your dog will only eat a home-cooked diet, multivitamins will be necessary. Another way to get the benefit of fresh foods without the extra calories and time and effort spent preparing them is to add a supplement to your pet's diet.

If you have tried to put your dog on a diet and he has not lost any weight, talk to your veterinarian. He or she can examine your dog and determine how much weight he needs to lose and the healthiest way to go about doing so. In some cases, an underlying medical disorder like hypothyroidism might be to blame, and treatment will be necessary before weight loss will occur. Your veterinarian might prescribe foods that are extremely calorie-restricted, pain relievers to encourage exercise, or medications that can help your pet lose weight. An over-the-counter supplement called Vetri-Lean has also been shown to help some dogs lose weight.

The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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