How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

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Overweight Dog PugWith humans, we know the signs of being overweight – low energy, shortness of breath, and that big belly that we can’t always hide behind a couple of layers of cotton. But with dogs, determining if there is a weight issue isn’t always as easy. Maybe it’s a breed thing and they’re supposed to look that way, or maybe they’re just getting older and this is what happens. Find out if your dog is overweight and how to help him shed the extra pounds.

Is My Dog Overweight?

The truth of the matter is that dogs, just like humans, show signs of weight gain, and fixing the problem is the best thing you can do to protect your pet and make sure he gets the most out of life.

Hopefully you take your pup to the vet and have regular checkups. Most clinics do a great job at tracking your dog’s weight whenever he comes in for a visit.  Any signs of weight gain should be addressed.

Beyond the vet, you should inspect your dog yourself to determine if he needs to shed a few pounds. A good place to start is the ribs. There should be a layer of fat covering the ribs, but you should be able to distinctly feel each of your dog’s ribs. Fat pups will have excess fat in this area (you would also be able to tell by standing directly above your pet and observing their core from above).

You should also check from a side view. Most dogs have pronounced chests and bellies, but there should be a noticeable rise from the chest as it moves back towards his hind legs. If your dog’s belly, from front legs to back, is parallel with the ground, there’s a good chance you have an obese dog and should look into diets or added exercise.

Health Risks for Overweight Dogs

Obviously when we talk about our pets, we want the best for them. The best thing we can do for our dogs is to keep their weight in check. There are a number of illnesses and conditions that stem from obesity in dogs, most of which will lead to a shorter lifespan and poorer quality of life.

Bone and Joint Problems

Twenty-five percent of obese dogs develop bone and joint problems at some point in their lives. Just like in humans, added weight to joints, tendons and ligaments will wear them down quickly and your pup will lose mobility, which leads to additional weight gain. Arthritis and hip dysplasia can develop over time and cause unwanted pain and suffering.

Respiratory Problems

Another obvious issue with obese dogs is respiratory problems. Increased weight leads to difficulty breathing and a loss of stamina. Added fat to the body makes it harder for the dog’s internal organs to function correctly, and your dog might develop heath and lung problems due to an increase in fatty tissue around those organs. The liver is another area that can be affected when too much fat builds up, and the liver will eventually break down.

Common Diseases

The biggest problems we see in fat canines in terms of diseases are heart disease and high blood pressure. Beyond those, however, it’s common for dogs that are obese to develop thyroid issues and can even develop diabetes. There is also concern for UTI’s and reproductive disorders if the obesity is not treated appropriately.

How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

Just like in humans, when considering how to put your dog on a diet, food and exercise are the two most important factors in getting your pup down to a healthy weight.

1) Put Your Dog on a Diet

The first step you should take to counteract obesity in your dog is to change his diet. Monitor what you feed your dog on a daily basis. Do you give him food scraps from the table? Do you measure his food before you pour it into his bowl? Do you reward him with treats? A lot of times we as pet owners lack control when our pets beg for food and give in when we think our dog wants to be fed or wants an extra treat.

After you address portions and “extras”, you should look at weight loss dog food. Weight loss food is available in almost every pet store and is a great first step in fighting obesity. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding which dog food is right for your pet. Consulting your vet is the proper way to figure out what is best.

Generally, organic brands that are high in protein and fiber and low in fat and calories are a good place to start looking. You have to take the breed of your dog into consideration and monitor portions, which is something you should also discuss with your vet.

2) Help Your Dog Get More Exercise

Exercise starts with daily walks, but just letting your pet run around the yard or dog park is a great way to allow him to burn off extra calories. However, some breeds are hyperactive and are prone to over-exercise. If you are dealing with an overweight dog, it’s best to control the amount of vigorous exercise your pet gets until he is at a healthy level.

In colder months or when the weather isn’t cooperating, you can still find ways to exercise your dog indoors. Play toy games and use the stairs as great ways to get your dog running around in small spaces. If you have a treadmill in your home, you can use that as a tool to walk your dog too. Just be careful not to push him too hard or for too long right away. Or better yet, get your dog their own dog treadmill.

Each breed needs a different amount of exercise, and it’s up to you to understand how much you can push your dog without pushing too hard. Again, start slow, and gradually increase their exercise routines. If you pay attention, your dog will tell you when he’s tired and ready to stop for the day. To learn more about how much exercise your dog needs, read this article with Dr. Kobi Johnson.

Change Their Habits and Change Their Lives

Remember, getting your dog down to a healthy weight is more about a sustained lifestyle change than it is about a race to drop pounds. A good pet owner knows to monitor eating habits and give regular exercise. If you see the signs of obesity in your dog, just assess what it is you might be doing (or not doing) and correct the issue before your dog develops any health problems from increased weight gain.

We all want what is best for our dogs, and controlling their weight is the absolutely the best way to promote a longer and healthy life. Always consult your vet for any additional tips and recommendations that will help you along the way.

Dog Weight Loss Video

Watch this success story of a 77 pound wiener dog loses 50 pounds by going on a diet with his new owner.

Have you had an overweight dog that was able to get back to a healthy size? What methods did you use?

Ryan Rauch graduated from Scripps School of Journalism in 2009 and has been writing for Canine Journal since 2012. Ryan enjoys writing and researching new and evolving home security measures, and has a passion for technology.

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