What to Feed an Overweight Dog
by Jane Meggitt - 8/9/19
What to feed an overweight dog depends on the individual animal. First, determine what your dog should weigh versus his current weight. If your dog is a purebred, look to the breed standard for the proper weight. Females usually weigh less than males of the same breed. If your dog isn’t a purebred, you can figure out his ideal weight based on his height and overall size.
Health Risks for Overweight Dogs
Many of the risks overweight dogs face are similar to those facing overweight humans. According to the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, excess weight puts dogs at greater risk for many issues, including: Joint problems: Too much weight puts extra pressure on joints, exacerbating arthritis. Intervertebral disc disease: Also known as slipped or herniated discs, this back problem is more common in overweight dogs and may result in the need for surgery or render a dog immobile. Cardiovascular problems: Overweight dogs find it harder to breathe and may experience cardiac changes. Respiratory issues are especially prevalent in overweight animals in hot weather. Inflammation: Inflammation leads to all sorts of diseases, and fat can cause inflammation.
Perhaps the most important reason for keeping your dog at a healthy weight is a selfish one. Overweight dogs don’t live as long as canines at a healthy weight, and obesity deprives dogs of as much as two years of life. If you want your beloved pup around as long as possible, don’t let him get fat.
Is Your Dog Overweight?
Is your dog really overweight, or just big-boned? Sometimes, it’s obvious that a dog is too fat, but often the signs are more subtle. One of the best ways to determine if your pet needs to lose a few pounds is by standing over him and then examining his shape. Can you see his ribs? If you can’t see his ribs, put your hands on the side of his chest. If ribs don’t appear, your dog needs to lose weight.
Your dog’s waist should taper, so that the area between his hips and abdomen resembles an hourglass. If there’s no taper, he needs to shed some pounds.
If you’re unsure whether your dog needs to diet, ask your vet. She can take your dog’s measurements and enter the information into a computer to assess your dog’s body fat index. The vet can then figure out his daily caloric requirements and exactly how much weight your pet needs to shed.
Best Dog Food for Weight Loss
When it comes to the best dog food for weight loss, much depends on whether your dog is obese or just needs to lose a few pounds. The former requires more radical dietary changes than the latter. Your vet may have specific dietary recommendations for slimming down your pet. What any dog owner should seek, however, is food high in protein and low in fat. Purchase a quality dog food without fillers or artificial ingredients.
There are lots of canine weight management foods on the market. You might also consider using the low-calorie version of his current food, or continue feeding your dog the same food but cut back portions by 25 percent. Rather than feed him once or twice daily, consider giving him smaller portions several times a day so that his blood sugar levels remain steady.
The Importance of Exercise
It takes more than just smaller meals for a dog to lose weight. Regular exercise is necessary to get the pounds off your dog and keep them off. Start by taking your dog for longer walks than usual, increasing the distance as stamina increases. For best results, take your dog out for walks based on his size and breed type. An active breed, such as a Lab, requires more exercise than a toy breed. The good news is that regular walks or other types of exercise with your dog will help you get rid of unwanted pounds, too.
Jane Meggitt’s work has appeared in dozens of publications, including USA Today, The Alternative Daily, nj.com, The Happy Cat Site and The Nest Pets. She is a graduate of New York University.