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Help Your Pup Lose Weight

Help Your Pup Lose Weight

 

Food makes most dogs happy, and making your dog happy makes you happy. So why not show him how much you love him by feeding him what he wants? Who cares if he’s a bit pudgy as long as he’s happy?
 

Unfortunately, those extra pounds can lead to serious problems in dogs, as it does in people. Being overweight will make daily doggy life more difficult. Your dog won’t be able to run as fast or jump as high without hurting himself, he’ll overheat more easily, and he’ll tire out more quickly. He won’t even be able to curl up into a nice little doggy ball for a fireside nap.
 

Extra weight can also contribute to serious health problems and shorten your dog’s life. Fortunately, if your pup gets too much padding, you can do a number of things to help him take it off. Start this year off on the right paw by following these tips to help keep your dog in tip-top shape!


Assess the Situation
If you aren’t sure whether your dog is obese, check him out. You should be able to feel (but not see) his ribs. From the side, you should note a tucked-up abdomen; from the front, you should observe a definite waist. Otherwise, he may be overweight. For the most accurate results, use a scale. If your dog weighs 15 percent or more over his ideal weight, he is clinically obese.
 

Should your dog qualify as overweight or obese, start out by consulting your veterinarian. Your dog’s extra weight may stem from a medical problem such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. Even psychological problems like stress can cause obesity. These and similar problems need to be ruled out before you help your dog shed pounds.


Cut Down on Calories
One way to go about getting your dog to lose weight is to cut down on his calories by reducing the amount he eats. Many people simply feed portions that are too big. It’s easy to get into the habit of scooping “one serving” without realizing your scoop may be oversize and is actually closer to two. To prevent this from happening, measure your dog’s meals using a standard measuring device. In some ways, this is preferable because it doesn’t force dogs to change from eating the foods they love.
 

Of course, lowering calorie intake does not mean a crash diet. First, crash diets don’t work—your dog will tend to regain weight when the diet ends. Second, these extreme diets put tremendous psychological stress on your dog. He has no idea why you are suddenly starving him. And third, crash diets are potentially dangerous because they often lack important nutrients in sufficient amounts, especially with non-premium brands of dog food.
 

So do not simply cut back on your dog’s meal portions without good research about how much food he needs. While the actual number of calories a dog requires to maintain weight is variable from individual to individual (just like people), a few general rules apply. Large dogs, neutered dogs, and older dogs burn fewer calories pound for pound than their smaller, unneutered, younger cousins. Also, dogs burn more calories in the winter. Check with reputable sources, such as your local veterinarian, to decide on an appropriate new scoop measurement.

 

Follow a Weight-Reduction Diet
Another way to help your dog lose weight is to put him on a special weight-reduction diet. These special diets are usually low-fat, high-fiber diets that can promote weight loss better than simply feeding smaller amounts of high-fat foods. Fat contains about twice as many calories as proteins or carbohydrates; good diet foods usually have a fat content of 5 to 12 percent (dry matter basis), along with at least 25 percent protein and an adequate level of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids in the form of fish oil. And the secret ingredient? Increased fiber (7 to 30 percent). Fiber stimulates chewing, slows the movement of food from the stomach (making the dog feel full), and stabilizes the blood glucose level to reduce that hungry feeling.
 

One caution, though. The directions, even on a diet food, may instruct you to give enough food to maintain your dog’s present weight. It’s a legal thing—otherwise, the food can’t be advertised as being sufficient to keep the dog alive by regular feeding. Diet foods should have another panel that tells you how much to feed to help your dog lose weight. Those are the directions you need to follow. There are many excellent prescription weight-loss diets on the market, and there are also some non-prescription brands that are formulated for this purpose.

 

Feed Smaller Meals
To make the weight-loss process easier on your dog, feed him two or even three small meals each day rather than one large meal. This might reduce begging as well. Or you can measure out the food allotment for the day, then give half for breakfast with the rest doled out throughout the day in place of treats. But to do this right, you need to accurately measure out the amount.

The holidays can bring all members of your family—even the four-footed ones—together in a wonderful way. By following some simple safety precautions, you can be a holiday hero for your dog!

 

Exercise!

 

Don’t forget the exercise component! Exercise can also help in weight loss, although it must usually be accompanied by diet change. (Otherwise, your pooch would have to run many extra miles to lose even a pound.) Moderate exercise is safe and healthy and will contribute measurably to your dog’s happiness. Plus, the increased serotonin production in the brain reduces appetite—an added bonus!


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