Tips for feeding overweight dogs
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Tips for feeding overweight dogs

Dogs
Health & Safety

A great many dog owners within the UK do not even realise that their dogs are overweight; it is a common misapprehension among dog owners that the healthy dog should have a rather rounded appearance and a padding of fat around the body and the ribs. However, dogs at the peak of fitness and in the ideal physical condition should be lean in appearance, and you should be able to feel the ribs by running your hands along the flank of your dog, without having to squish through a layer of fat!

Obviously a dog with clearly protruding ribs and a very angular appearance is possibly underweight, but dog owners do have a tendency to err too far in the other direction, and almost 50% of the UK’s dogs are normally considered to be overweight to some extent, ranging from very slightly to genuinely obese.

If your dog is slightly on the podgy side, it is important to get control of the situation before it gets out of hand. While dogs will of course show a slight variation in their weight over the course of a year, if you continue with the same feeding habits that you currently utilise, it is unlikely that the overweight dog will shed their excess pounds on their own!

Read on for our tips and advice on how to feed an overweight dog, in order to get them back down to a healthy weight and maintain this for life.

Why is your dog overweight?

There are many potential causes for your dog to be overweight, but at its most simple, it will usually involve more calories being fed to your dog each day than they can successfully burn off with their current exercise regime.

There are various circumstances and points in the life of a dog when they are more likely to gain weight than at other times; for instance, after your dog has been spayed or neutered, as neutered animals usually become slightly more sedentary and burn off less calories, and so their diet should be adjusted accordingly.

As dogs age, their metabolisms naturally begin to slow down as well, something that foods designed for mature dogs are designed to account for. However, different dogs begin the gradual metabolic slowdown that accompanies aging at different times, and so this can catch the dog owner unaware.

Being fed a diet that is inappropriate for the life stage or activity level of the dog is another common culprit, as it being fed fatty food or food intended for people rather than dog food. Too many treats can also cause weight issues in dogs, as those tiny little snacks may be high in calories, and quickly add up!

Monitoring your dog’s weight

In order to establish if your dog is overweight and monitor the success or otherwise of putting them on a diet, it is important to establish a starting point and observe how this changes every couple of weeks.

Weigh your dog before you start trying to address their weight issues, and you may wish to measure their girth as well, as this can help to provide a complete picture of their build and the weight that they are losing- or not!

How to put a dog on a diet

Dogs love their food, and will generally be pretty upset if you suddenly make dramatic changes to their diet or drastically cut down on the amount of food that they are given each day. Make changes to your dog’s diet gradually, and consider enrolling them in a veterinary weight clinic, in order to monitor their weight and get advice on how things are going and how to begin.

A good figure to follow in terms of reducing your dog’s waistline is to aim for a 1% loss of the total bodyweight every week. This small amount should mean that your dietary measures will not be too extreme for your dog to cope with, but will still prove effective.

  • If your dog is only fed once per day, split their food rations into two or three smaller meals, as this will help to sustain their metabolism and ensure that they feel less hungry between meals, and do not overeat when they are fed.
  • Consider changing your dog’s food for a veterinary diet designed to tackle obesity; these foods contain more bulk and less calories, so that you can tackle your dog’s weight without having to dramatically reduce the size of their meals.
  • Cut your dog’s food intake by 10% during the first week of the diet, and then reduce this further in 5% increments in the following weeks of your dog’s weight does not begin to drop. Take care not to encourage too fast of a drop in weight in your dog, as this can be counterproductive, as well as leaving your dog feeling hungry.
  • Cut down on the treats! Feeding a lot of treats may even be the sole culprit making your dog fat, and if you cut out treats, you might find that your dog’s weight quickly falls back into normal parameters. Swap over for low calorie treats, or halve the amount of treats that you give on a daily basis. Replace food treats with other rewards, such as toys, attention and other things that your dog likes that are not food-related.
  • Increase your dog’s exercise regime slightly to assist with their diet, but don’t go overboard; remember that being on a diet will reduce the available amount of calorific energy available to your dog, and so pushing them with a lot more exercise than they are used to will lead to faster weight loss, but leave your dog permanently hungry!

Don’t fall into the yo-yo dieting trap

It is all too commonly said about human diets that “you may lose the weight, but as soon as you go back to eating normally, you’ll put it all back on!” This is entirely true, and for good reason- that “eating normally” is what caused the weight increase in the first place, and so of course returning to old patterns will ensure that any weight lost is regained!

Diets should not be viewed as a one-off or short-term solution to an issue, and something that is undertaken but then forgotten. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight means that you have to make changes to their diet and lifestyle for life, not just for a set period of time, in order to keep them healthy and fit for the long term.

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