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3 Steps to Healthy Dog Weight Loss

Losing Weight the Right Way

By Gina Carey. November 24, 2013 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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A Golden Retriever Running After A Ball

Overweight dogs are becoming more common now than ever before. Most of the time it tends to sneak up on pet parents. If your dog is a bit overweight and needs to shed a few pounds, it's important to go about it in a healthy way.

In order for dogs to live long, comfortable lives, maintaining healthy weight is key. Overweight dogs are prone to a number of disorders, including joint injuries, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, respiratory problems, diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers.

And though pet obesity is a largely preventable medical condition, overweight dogs are on the rise. A survey of veterinarians by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 53% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. So how should you go about dog weight loss if your dog is one of these?

How to Assess if Your Dog is Overweight

Many dogs gain weight gradually, so pet owners who see their dog on a daily basis may not notice a pet’s extra bulk. Examining a dog’s physique is one way to determine weight gain without breaking out the scale.

  • Feel around the sides of your dog’s body and pinch the skin. A layer of skin and muscle between the ribs is normal, but pet owners should be able to feel rib bones underneath.
  • Examine your dog’s profile from the side. Overweight dogs may have a low-hanging belly rather than a natural curve in the abdomen.
  • From above, a defined waistline should be visible along the torso. A bulging waistline indicates that a dog is overweight.

Simple Steps for Dog Weight Loss

Depending on a dog’s breed, medical history, age, and size, the steps to healthy weight loss will vary. Follow these steps to ensure all weight loss measures are effective and not harmful.

1. Set Up a Weight Loss Regimen for Your Dog

Meet with your vet to determine the weight loss plan that will work best for your dog. After performing a check up, your veterinarian can rule out any medical conditions that may be responsible for weight gain.

If your pet is overweight from inactivity and overeating, then a diet and exercise plan will help them get back on track to a healthy weight. The plan may include:

  • Setting weight loss goals and benchmarks.
  • Doing frequent weigh-ins to track your pet’s progress.
  • Determining a nutrition, calorie, and meal plan.
  • Recommending an exercise routine.

2. Monitor Food and Calorie Consumption for Weight Loss

Once your vet has determined what caloric intake is ideal for your dog, make sure to follow strict portion control. Measure out food portions and set up specific meal times. Avoid letting your dog graze from a full bowl all day, and discontinue use of self feeders. If you have multiple dogs, be sure each pet eats the amount of food set out for them. You may decide to feed pets in different rooms to make this easier.

Portion control will ensure pets are not overeating, but you can make sure calories aren’t being over-consumed in other ways:

  • Reduce or Eliminate Treats: Like any diet, frequent snacks should be the first thing eliminated. Overweight dogs should avoid regular treats. For special occasions or training, buy low calorie treats or try natural foods that are low in additives and preservatives, like carrot sticks.
  • Cut Out Table Food: It may be harder to keep a diet on track with table food or scraps in the mix. Stick to measured meals and treats, and keep a watchful eye on dogs that have a tendency to eat unattended food.
  • Avoid Fatty Chews: Some chew toys can pack on unintended pounds. Try switching out chews that are high in fat, like pig’s ears, to leaner, more protein-rich chews.

3. Exercise and Dog Weight Loss

Increased exercise is not only a great weight loss solution — it will also benefit a dog’s overall health and well-being. Always check with your vet to make sure that the exercise regimen you have in mind will work for your dog’s age and current health condition.

Try these exercise tips to mix things up and increase your pet’s step count.

  • One simple way to increase your pet’s activity is to take longer walks.
  • Frequent games of catch at the park or a dog run is an enjoyable way to get the heart pumping.
  • Getting in play time with toys at home daily will also increase movement in general. If old toys aren’t cutting it at play time, try switching them up for variety.
  • If your dog is able to climb stairs, try moving food or water upstairs or downstairs so that your pet burns off a few extra calories.

Be sure that your dog has access to plenty of water during a weight loss regimen, especially after walking, playing, and exercise.

Maintaining Your Dog’s Healthy Weight

Once your pet has achieved optimal weight, talk to your vet about the best nutrition and exercise plan to maintain it. As your dog ages, you may need to adjust exercise and caloric intake. Schedule regular checkups, and be on the lookout for signs of weight gain. Your dog will be grateful for it in the end!

More on Weight Loss

Recognizing if Your Dog is Overweight
Grain Free Dog Food: Cut Down on Carbs
Getting Your Dog or Cat to Lose Weight

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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