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How can I manage my dog’s weight?

Most of the time, it’s a real joy to share things with our canine companions – a love for hiking, walks on the beach, or quality snuggle time on the couch. Unfortunately, we also share bad habits. It turns out that our dogs are just as prone to one of the most prevalent health issues: obesity.

A few extra pounds on your pup can lead to very serious health implications, putting your dog at risk of experiencing a wide range of diseases and conditions, including a reduced life expectancy. Additional weight can also impact your dog’s quality of life by limiting their mobility, energy, and overall mood.

“As in humans, we now recognize obesity as the most significant medical condition affecting our companion animals,” says Dr. Alex German of the University of Liverpool.

Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s diet and a potential weight loss plan for details and guidance. In the meantime, here are some great ways to help manage your dog’s weight.

Know your dog’s healthy weight
Keep your dog active
Distinguish between begging and hunger
Limit treats and table scraps
Measure and monitor
Customize your dog’s diet
Don’t go cold turkey
Stick with it


Know your dog’s healthy weight

Different ages and breeds have different weights that are considered in the healthy range.Check what the AKC Breed Standard says about your dog breed’s ideal weight. If your dog is outside that range, consult with your veterinarian. It’s best to get help from a professional as you evaluate your dog’s accurate weight, diet, and body condition. Then you can determine if they would benefit from a weight-loss plan and finally set a target weight to work towards.

Keep in mind that some dogs may be shorter or taller than their breed standard requirements, so their ideal weight would be within those dogs’ breed standard height descriptions.

Keep your dog active

Just like humans, exercise is crucial in helping your dog stay healthy. Increasing your dog’s activity will help burn off some of their energy (and consumed calories). Don’t worry, exercising your dog doesn’t have to be a marathon run or a long hike. Regular walks and the opportunity to run and play in a safe off-leash environment are great.

Creating a stimulating indoor environment that gets your dog moving more frequently can also help. Keep in mind, different breeds require different amounts of exercise so consult your vet, breeder, or your dog’s breed standard for guidance on how much activity/exercise is recommended.

Distinguish between begging and hunger

Begging doesn’t always mean wanting to eat more; it’s often an attempt to get more attention. And when it’s rewarded, you reinforce the negative behavior and encourage it to continue. If your dog begs, don’t assume they’re hungry. Trust your instincts and keep track of when they had their last meal.

If your dog is prone to begging and you are inclined to give in to those adorable puppy dog eyes, opt for a high-protein diet with a blend of fibers to help manage your dog’s appetite and reduce their voluntary consumption of food. Now you can feed your dog knowing that they will feel fuller and remain satisfied for longer.

Limit treats and table scraps

Even when our dogs aren’t begging, many of us volunteer far too many treats and scraps from the table. Dogs don’t need to share everything we eat! Think of your pet’s treats as you’d view candy for children. It’s a reward for good behavior, so you want to keep it at a minimum. Look for low-calorie, low-fat options, and if you need them for training, try and limit the amount that you use.

As an alternative, try using clickers. They work great for reinforcement and they’ve got no calories! After all, for dogs, just a few extra pounds can actually make a huge difference since they are much smaller than we are. (Even the large breeds). So, focus on a healthy diet and control your urge to “treat” them with more.

Measure and monitor

Once a weight management plan has been drawn up by your vet, you should have a pretty clear idea of how much your dog should eat at each meal. Be vigilant; free-feed or eyeball how much you scoop out – use a suitable measuring device to ensure that portion control is managed. However, keep in mind that underfeeding your dog can be just as detrimental to their health as overfeeding them.

Customize your dog’s diet

Not all weight-loss foods are created equal, which is why it’s important to match your dog with a nutrition plan that addresses their specific needs directly. Look for a brand that offers food ranges for your dog’s own tendencies, be it weight management, food sensitivities, or diseases.

Don’t go cold turkey

No, this isn’t about feeding the leftovers to your dog! Instead of abruptly changing what they eat, it’s important to ease your dog into a new diet. Consult your veterinarian before starting your dog on a new regimen. A good guideline when starting a new type of food is to plan for at least a seven-day transition period. Here’s what that might look like:

  • On Days 1-2 – Feed your dog 75% of their old food and 25% of their new food
  • On Days 3-4 – Feed them 50% of the new food and 50% of their old food
  • On Days 5-6 – Feed your dog 75% of the new food and 25% of the old food
  • On Days 7 – Feed your dog 100% of the new food


Stick with it

Like human, like pet! Numerous studies have shown that roughly half of all dogs regained weight after successfully losing weight. The good news is that researchers also found that rebound weight was substantially reduced by keeping dogs on a weight-loss diet,even after their target weight was reached. So, now that you’ve done the hard work and switched to a new weight-loss formula that works, stick with it!

As with many things in our dogs’ worlds, consistency is key. Too many dog owners give up after only a few weeks, not sticking with it long enough to see any substantial results.

Author: Amena Juli

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