How to create a doggie diet for weight loss and good nutrition.
For stylist Marissa Gimeno, 32, of Brooklyn, N.Y., it didn’t take help from a rocket scientist -- or perhaps a veterinarian -- for her to realize that her 8-year-old dog, Lolita, needed to slim down. "She was about 2 pounds overweight," she says. "For a Chihuahua, that’s hard to miss."
Is Your Dog Overweight?
Don’t Give In to Begging
If your overweight dog whines and cries for more food, hold firm. You need to be able to locate both with just a thin layer of fat separating your skin from the bones. If you can’t discover the ribcage, you have an overweight dog.
Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your own pooch’s size at every check-up. Once your canine reaches maturity, ask for their optimal weight. As a rule of thumb, 15% above that weight is obese; zero to 15% is overweight. If your pet falls into either category, they're not alone. According to a 2011 study, 53% of dogs are overweight or obese.
Tips for Weighing YOUR PET
Hit the scales periodically (weekly or monthly) to be sure your dog is on the right track.
"Your vet will be happy to enable you to use the scale at the office," says Louise Murray, DVM, director of medicine for the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital.
If that’s not convenient, step on a scale at home. Then stage on again, this time holding your pet. The difference between the two weights is how much your dog weighs. For small breeds, choose baby scale.
"Regardless of the technique, it’s imperative your pet is weighed on the same scale consistently," says Todd R. Tams, DVM, and chief medical officer of VCA Antech.
Overweight Dogs: Blame the Breed
Some breeds are prone to obesity, while others (Greyhounds, German Shepherds, Yorkshire Terriers), are typically slim. Small breeds with a propensity for heftiness include:
- Cairn Terriers
- Scottish Terriers
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Cocker Spaniels
- Basset Hounds
- Golden Retrievers
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Saint Bernards
Are You Making Your Dog Fat?
Another, nongenetic reason for an overweight dog is more obvious: YOU, the dog owner, may be overindulging your pet, probably with treats or people food.
"Food is love, and people desire to make their pets happy," Tams says. "Frequently, it is not the dog’s official food that will be evoking the weight problem; it is all of the additional treats or snacks between meals," Murray states.
Portion Control Is Key
Knowing the correct serving size of food for your overweight dog is imperative for success. Companies often place home elevators labels or include charts on their web sites. But because many variables, such as for example size, are factored into the equation, get advice from your veterinarian on how often and just how much to feed your dog.
Putting Your Dog on a Diet
After you’ve verified that your furry friend must slim down, consider everything they eat on a daily basis. "Do a genuine assessment, covering all treats and snacks, including those given by other family, neighbors, dog sitters, and canine walkers," Murray says. "You might find all you have to do is cut these out."
You don’t need to nix treats altogether. "Be realistic -- if you or your family loves to give them, it's unlikely that a no-treat policy will succeed," Murray says. "Choose healthy alternatives, such as veggies or rice cakes, and decide at the beginning of each day exactly how many the dog is allowed; put this amount in a bowl, so when they're gone, they're eliminated."
Another tactic to use is reducing portions. Murray recommends immediately cutting daily diet by 15% to 20% for a six- to eight-week period, then analyzing the results. Additionally, your veterinarian can calculate the precise amount of calories your pet needs each day to lose weight based on their current size, ideal bodyweight, energy level, and health and wellness.
To tell if your pet could shed a few pounds, feel around their ribs and spine. "That causes lots of owners to buckle," Tams says.
Murray says: "Your dog will certainly whine if he knows that may get him more treats and snacks."
Tams advocates 10-15 minutes of activity several times per day.
Diet Dog Food: Making the Switch
If you've tried all these things and they haven't done the trick, it might be time for diet dog food.
Gimeno attributes certain brands of chow and insufficient exercise to Lolita’s weight problem. And because smaller breeds tend to be more susceptible to heart failure, she decided to visit her veterinarian and do something.
With a diet of organic brands, such as Newman’s Own and AvoDerm, and more walks in the park, Lolita shed her excess weight. Both Murray and Tams advocate this type of dog diet.
Consult your vet on the right food for the canine. Factors such as size, age, and general health dictate the type or brand. Your veterinarian could even suggest a prescription dog meals.
"Some diet foods that are higher in certain forms of fiber can help a dog feel fuller while ingesting fewer calories," Murray says. If you opt to switch to diet dog food, achieve this slowly, each day mixing in increasingly more of the healthier fare usually.
Get Your Overweight Dog Exercising
Exercise is as important for pets since it is for people. If you don’t have enough time, hire a dog walker or a teenager looking for some supplemental income.
"Doggy day care centers certainly are a great option if everyone is gone throughout the day," Tams says. "Your pet can run and play the whole day." If you’re serving the correct portion, a lot more food is only going to contribute to weight issues. In the event that you live in a hot area, exercise early each morning or late during the night. For heavier dogs with joint problems or the ones that overheat easily, swimming is an excellent alternative.
When to Try an Rx for the Overweight Dog
If diet and exercise aren’t working, medication could help, but only as a last resort.
Tams recommends Pfizer Animal Health’s prescription drug Slentrol. "We always try exercise and diet modification first," he says. "But some animals have seen weight loss with Slentrol, which really helps to decrease appetite and fat absorption."
Still Not Losing? Maybe it’s Medical
If cutting out unhealthy snacks and table scraps, serving diet dog food, increasing physical activity, and medication don’t do the trick, an underlying health condition likely triggered the weight gain. "That’s why consultation with a vet who is able to perform blood work is indeed important," Tams says. Your vet will look for:
Low thyroid level
Hormonal imbalances, such as for example Cushing’s disease, an excess of adrenal hormones
Just like people, overweight dogs can face a litany of health issues, so a diet may save your pet’s life. The potentially devastating consequences of obesity include:
- Trouble breathing
- Greater risk for heat stroke
- Orthopedic concerns
- Compromised immune system
- Reduction in life time
- Mammary tumors (particularly in un-spayed females)
- Skin conditions
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
How Long Will It Take to See Results?
Aim for gradual weight loss and expect significant improvement to take several months. "The ideal would be a lack of 1% to 2% of the initial weight weekly," Tams says.
Once you’ve achieved success, maintain the weight loss by sticking to what you know. "Hopefully while achieving your dog’s weight reduction goals, you both developed some healthier habits," Murray says. "Adhere to these: avoiding between-meal snacks and treats, regular exercise, and controlled food portions. Obtaining the whole family into healthy-dog habits is vital for long-term weight management."