Is your dog overweight? Could your dog benefit from losing a few pounds? Do you know what a few extra pounds on your dog’s body does to it?
9. Weight Loss
14. Saving Money
Almost 60% of dogs in the United States are overweight. This number keeps rising each year and it is preventable.
Overweight and obese dogs are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, urinary bladder stones, and increased risk of developing cancer, along with developing joint pain, deterioration of the joints, increased whole-body inflammation, and anesthesia complications. All of these can lead to the dog not living as long a life if it would have it not been obese.
Most clinics charge extra for patients who are overweight if they need to go under anesthesia due to the increased risks to the patient, and the extra time and extra material it takes for the doctor to be able to perform the procedure. There are extra layers of fat that the doctor must go through to get to the area they need to perform the surgery. Since the lungs cannot expand properly, they may need help breathing during the procedure too.
How do you know if your dog is overweight or obese? The best way is to talk to your vet. Even though there are different opinions on what an ideal weight is they will be able to determine if your dog needs to lose weight or not. The actual number is not as big of a deal but the amount of fat that is on the dog is the problem. Dogs should lose no more than 3-5% of their body weight per month. If your dog is 50 pounds, they could lose about 3 pounds a month.
The layer of fat you can feel on the outside of the dog’s ribs is about the same amount of fat that is around the dog’s heart causing the heart to have to work harder and the lungs cannot expand as well as they should. The heart also gets misshaped due to the fat around it causing the heart to not be able to work properly and have a higher risk for heart disease.
Rubbing your hands along the ribs of the dog you should be able to feel the ribs. If you feel fat then your dog should lose weight. This is a quick way at home to check to see if your dog needs to lose weight or not.
This chart is a great starting point to help you follow up with how your dog is doing.
It is best to do monthly weigh-ins at your veterinary office to make sure your dog is losing weight. Talk to your veterinarian before starting your dog on a weight loss journey to make sure your dog can handle it and the best way to go about it.
The best way for your dog to lose weight is to reduce calories. There are many ways to do this but most of the time it is treats that cause dogs to gain the most weight as they are normally high in fat and calories. If you switch out store-bought treats for veggies this can cut out a lot of calories that you are feeding your dog and they are normally happy to get something out of the refrigerator. See my article on Healthy Dog Food and Toxic Foods for Dogs for which foods to give and which ones to stay away from. Also, check out these low-calorie treats.
Normally, switching to a lower calorie and higher fiber food is a good idea if just taking out the treats is not enough. Since you do not want your dog to lose too much weight too fast start with one thing and get monthly weigh-ins to make sure the changes you are making are helping your dog or not.
Having one person in the house give food is a good idea to make sure the dog is not getting extra food they should not be. If other people in the house want to give treats throughout the day put out or have a bowl in the fridge of what the dog is allowed to have for that day. This is a great way to make sure the dog is not getting more than it should each day. If you are only going to be feeding kibble you can give some as treats throughout the day. Make sure to measure what the dog can have for the day, and you can take some out and leave it where you previously had the treats. This way the dog is only getting the correct amount of food per day and not getting extra calories but still getting something between meals. This works well for all people in the house so everyone can give treats when they want or see fit.
Exercise is the next thing to start doing with your dog. Depending on what season it is and where you live will determine how much and what kind of exercise you can do with your dog. The best type of exercise is walking your dog. Just like with people you do not want to take a dog that has not exercised in a long time running for long periods right away. Their bodies cannot handle it so take it slow and watch your dog for tiredness. Start with short walks, getting the dog to smell new things is great to help stimulate their brain too.
Playing with a ball or frisbee can help once they are more used to exercising. If you are stuck in the house, try walking around the house – with or without a leash on – some dogs think the leash is fun and will do fine with walking around the house with it on and others will not. Depending on the size of where you live, and the size of your dog will determine what works best for you and your dog.
Weight loss for your dog is a commitment for the entire household but can help your dog to live longer, have fewer health issues, cost less money due to needing fewer drugs and lower weight ranges i.e., heartworm and flea preventatives, and have less joint pain which can save you money on joint supplements and treatments.