5 Practical Tips to Help Your Overweight Dog!

There is an obesity epidemic in America - and it’s not just humans that are dealing with it. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 50% of cats and dogs in North America are either overweight or obese. That means an estimated 100 million of our furry, cuddly, wonderful pet friends are facing a serious health issue that can affect the length and quality of their already short lives. Whether it is the cause of overly processed commercial dog foods or heavy-handed feeding practices, something's got to give.

It's unfortunately true that most of us over-feed our pets. We give them snacks and treats as often as we can, giving in to their begging. Veterinarians may charge us with the task of helping our dog to lose weight but many don’t know where to start. Let’s take a look at some basics on how to put your overweight dog on a diet.

Tip #1: Visit the Vet

If you’re not sure what your pet’s ideal weight should be for their age and breed, ask your veterinarian. A physical examination will help determine your pet’s body condition score and level of obesity. The vet can then help you determine what kind of diet your dog needs to be on. Some veterinarians will offer nutritional counseling, providing you with a very specific meal plan, a specific number of calories per day, or prescription diet. A lot of this information is additionally covered in the Holly and Hugo Pet Nutrition course.

Tip #2: Measure the food

Commercial dog foods have feeding instructions on the side of every bag of dry dog food. Some canned foods also have feeding recommendations. Feeding recommendations are based on current body weight.

Always remember that the recommended amount to feed is the DAILY RATION. So, if you feed your dog twice a day, you must split the recommended amount in half. It is a common mistake for owners to read the bag and give that amount twice a day – essentially feeding twice as much as the dog needs. If you read the bag and realize that you have been overfeeding, go ahead and feed what is recommended. Your pet may begin to lose weight from this simple change alone. If your veterinarian recommends a certain amount, be sure to measure it out accurately using a standard imperial dry-measure cup or weigh it out in grams.

Tip #3: No Snacking

Frequent snacking could be a big reason your pet has gained weight. Make a point of trying to limit them. If you do give your dog treats or snacks, stick to low-calorie options and very small portions - no larger than your thumbnail 1-2 times daily. Also incorporate this treat as a reward during training or physical exercise. Your dog will simply be happy that you are giving them attention and affection, even if it is less food.

Tip #4: Begging Behavior

Don’t give into begging! This is one of the reasons that pet diet plans fail. When you cut out the snacks and reduce the amount of food that they are eating – sometimes they will beg for more. If you give in to this annoying habit, you are actually positively reinforcing the behavior - making them more likely to beg in the future!

Tip #5: No Table Food

If your dog eats the same way that you do, this can be the cause of their obesity. Many dogs don’t eat commercial dog food and can suffer the ill effects of a high calorie ‘human’ diet. To remedy this, cut back on the table food very gradually, as going ‘cold turkey’ can cause annoying begging behavior. If your dog will only eat roast beef and boiled rice, mix it in with high-quality canned dog food. As your dog gets used to the new textures and flavors, slowly phase out the ‘human food.’ Eating a balanced diet will do wonders not only for the waistline but for their overall health as well.

These tips should set you and your pooch up for dieting success. Always remember to discuss weight loss plans with your pet’s veterinarian. ‘Crash diets’ and suddenly reducing calories can be stressful for your pet. Remember: slow and steady wins the race. And to learn more about how to prevent obesity, get Access to All Courses and try our Pet Nutrition Course.