Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner with a strong background in nutrition.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes are loving and devoted companion animals. They cherish their owners and are content and comfortable with life, sometimes too comfortable. Humans, too, are happy to show their affection for their fur family members by giving them treats, many of which are not low-calorie.
So, it's not surprising that dogs are in the midst of an obesity crisis, just as humans are. According to Purina.com, obesity is the number one nutritional problem in dogs.
The Harms of Dog Obesity
How bad could obesity be for dogs? A dog's body and metabolism are like a human’s. Obesity can affect a dog's health, causing many of the health issues that obese humans face too. For example, being overweight increases a dog's risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, but it can also affect their quality of life.
For example, being overweight or obese increases the risk of or worsens osteoarthritis in dogs. Dogs who carry too much weight are also at higher risk of orthopedic problems such as a herniated disc.
Plus, veterinarians believe that obesity increases a dog's risk of developing some types of cancer and shortens their lifespan. According to the American Kennel Club, obesity can reduce a dog's lifespan by 2.5 years.
Are you ready to help your dog shed a few pounds? If so, here are some effective tips to help your overweight dog lose weight.
Make Sure There's Not a Medical Reason for Weight Gain
If your dog is gaining weight, first rule out a medical cause. For example, your dog might have a health issue that is causing weight gain, such as diabetes, and treating that problem may bring their weight down.
Common medical conditions that cause weight gain in dogs include an underactive thyroid gland or fluid retention because of heart failure or kidney disease. Your veterinarian may also offer tips on how to help your dog lose weight based on the examination and results of lab studies.
Aging may be a factor too. Just as humans gain weight with age, so do canines. However, age-related weight gain is often treatable through lifestyle changes.
Reevaluate Your Dog's Food
Make sure you're feeding your dog high-quality dog food. Look for food made for overweight dogs that are lower in calories but still nutrient-dense. Most veterinarians believe the best diet for an overweight dog is:
- High in protein
- Low in fat
- Low in calories
Don't guesstimate how much to feed them either. Read the label and give the exact amount recommended based on their size and weight.
Scrutinize the Treats You Give Your Dog
Read the labels of the dog treats you buy too. Choose treats made of high-quality ingredients that are low in calories. Although some human treats aren't healthful for dogs, there are exceptions. Be sure you're not giving your dog human foods that could be harmful to them though. Check with the ASPCA poison control site to see a list of foods you shouldn't feed your dog.
However, dogs can benefit from some veggies. Why not substitute a raw carrot or apple for that higher-calorie dog cookie? You can even add a thin layer of peanut butter to an apple or carrot to make it more appealing. Think of the extra nutrients your dog is getting too. Another option is to give your dog a natural bone to chew on rather than a high-calorie treat.
Dogs need physical activity just as humans do. Help each other stay active by taking a brisk walk each day. Everyone benefits! Still, this might not be enough to keep your dog slim. That's why watching calorie intake and nutrition is so important. Another way to help your dog stay active is to enroll them in a doggy daycare where they can play with other dogs during the day. How about more trips to the dog park too?
Get Everyone Involved
Make sure everyone in your household is on board with keeping your pup slim. You might limit the treats you give Rufus, but what about other family members? It's hard to resist those pleadings eyes begging for a bite! Make sure everyone who comes into contact with your dog knows how important it is to limit treats to keep them healthy.
If you're consistent with these changes, it can make a difference in your dog's body weight and health. Be patient too. Veterinarians say dogs should lose no more than 7% of their body weight per month. Don't make extreme dietary changes or overly restrict their calories. They need good nutrition, especially if they're active. Make minor changes and let the weight come off slowly.
- VCAHospitals.com. "Obesity in Dogs"
- American Kennel Club. "Dog Obesity: Why It's Important To Manage Your Dog's Weight"
- AnimalWellnessMagazine.com. "Health problems that can cause behavior changes in dogs"
- "Obesity in Dogs: A Major Health Threat Hiding in Plain Sight." .akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/obesity-in-dogs-a-major-health-threat-hiding-in-plain-sight/.
- "A review of osteoarthritis and obesity: current ...." pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19750285/.
- "Obesity in dogs, Part 1: Exploring the causes and ...." .dvm360.com/view/obesity-dogs-part-1-exploring-causes-and-consequences-canine-obesity.
- "Purina Life Span Study." newscenter.purina.com/LifeSpanStudy.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.