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How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

How to Help Your Dog Lose WeightExcess weight in dogs, as in people, has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, respiratory problems, orthopedic problems, and arthritis. In addition, those extra pounds cause a dog to overheat and tire more easily, which limits his ability to enjoy life.

If you suspect that your dog may be overweight, it’s time for a visual inspection. First, feel his rib cage. If you can’t find his ribs, he’s too heavy. Look at him from the side; his tummy should tuck up a little behind his rib cage. From the top, does he have a waistline, or does his body shape go straight back or even bulge out? If he has no waistline, it’s time to help him lose weight!

Visit the Vet

Start with a visit to your veterinarian. The vet may run a series of blood tests to check for low thyroid levels, which often causes weight gain. Once that is ruled out, the vet may suggest that you switch to a low-calorie, high-fiber food or even a prescription diet.

Cut Down on Food Gradually

If you just go cold turkey and reduce your dog’s rations dramatically, his metabolism will decrease to compensate. Cut back gradually, over a period of days.

Remember that treats and snacks add to the day’s intake—feeding less food won’t help if your dog also gets all sorts of other goodies. Set aside part of his daily food allowance to use as rewards—it’s amazing how wonderful most dogs find a single piece of plain old dog food. Low-calorie goodies, like small bits of raw carrot or green bean, or sugar-free oat cereal, also work well.

Measure His Portions

Use a standard measuring utensil to measure the amount you feed your dog. If you use a scoop or mug or something else to dish up the food, there’s a good chance you are feeding him more than you think you are.

Feed Healthier Foods

Healthy meals do no good if your dog is scarfing down junk food all day long. Dogs are great beggars, and of course, fatty treats and table scraps also contribute to obesity. Treats should make up no more than 5 percent of his calorie intake. Switch to carrots, cooked sweet potatoes, or green beans as between-meal treats. If you use kibble for training or treats, subtract that amount from his meals.

Make His Meals More Filling

If your dog has eaten his allotment of calories and you really think he’s still hungry, you can add bulk without calories. One way is to take a meal’s worth of dry food, divide it in two, and soak one half in water for a half hour or so, letting it absorb water and expand. Then mix the dry portion into the soaked portion and serve. The swollen kibble will take up more room in your dog’s stomach, making him feel as if he has eaten more food.

Another trick is to mix high-fiber, low-calorie food into your dog’s regular food—some foods that work well include unsalted green beans (uncooked fresh beans or frozen beans are fine; canned beans should be rinsed thoroughly to remove salt); lettuce or raw spinach; or canned pumpkin (not pie filling, just plain pumpkin).

Increase Exercise

Just like people, diet and exercise help an obese dog lose weight. If your pup is not exercising every day, it’s time to go for walks and play fetch. Start slowly if he’s uncomfortable or gets tired easily, and work up to several sessions of activity every day.

Excerpt adapted from:
Breed Lover’s Brittany © 2011 TFH Publications, Inc.,
Dogs 101 Labrador Retriever © 2011 TFH Publications, Inc.

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