Feeding An Overweight Dog

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Fat is not fit. As with people, overweight dogs are more prone to health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and painful joints. How can you tell if your dog’s overweight?

Just look at him. He should have the hourglass figure of a swimsuit model. When you look down at him, you should see a waist, not a block of dog. Put your hands on him. You should be able to feel the ribs easily beneath a layer of muscle and fat.

No ribs? He’s too fat.

If your dog needs to lose weight, make an appointment with your vet for a checkup and weigh-in. The checkup will rule out health problems that can cause weight gain, such as hypothyroidism, and the weigh-in will help you figure out how much he needs to lose.

What kind of food?

You don’t have to switch to a “lite” food, but you might want to since it means you won’t have to cut back quite as much on the amount you feed your dog. (Hey, if it was easy for us to deny our dogs we wouldn’t be in this fix in the first place.) Regardless, he’ll be eating less, so help him feel satisfied by adding low-calorie, high-fiber foods to his bowl. These can include fresh steamed green beans, low-sodium canned green beans, and plain canned pumpkin. Your dog will still feel as if he’s getting a lot of food; he just won’t be taking in as many calories.

How much?

A diet starts in earnest after you’ve cut back on his food by one-third to one-half. Stick with this plan until he reaches a healthy weight. Be strong. In spite of those pleading looks, your dog will not starve.

Also, keep in mind that the amount recommended on the bag or can of food is only a starting point. Dogs are individuals, and the amount they need to eat depends on a number of factors, including their metabolism, the type of food they eat, their age, how much exercise they get, and what the climate’s like where they live. So after he loses his excess weight, continue adjusting the amount of food he gets until you find an amount that can sustain a healthy weight.

When?

Make much ado about mealtime, by feeding your dog twice a day and sticking to the same times as much as possible. Don’t leave food sitting out the rest of the day. Ask him to sit politely while you prepare his food. And consider scheduling his meal so he’s eating at the same time as the rest of the family.

As for snacks, give him one only if he’s earned it–and then make eating it a fun challenge. Try placing some dry food inside a Kong or puzzle toy, such as a Buster Cube. Your dog will have to shake or roll the toy to get the food out. (This works only if there are no other dogs or pets around to tease out the food before your overweight dog does.) Make sure it’s not too difficult to release the food from the toy; you don’t want your dog to give up in frustration. You can even make him work for one of his regular meals.

Related articles:

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Expert Q&A: Feeding an overweight dog

Ten steps to a healthier dog