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If your pet is obese and not responding to changes in physical activity and diet, you need to solve the underlying problem behind his/her weight gain. There are a lot of valid reasons for weight gain apart from the lack of activity and bad eating habits. Here are some of the most common offenders:
- Pregnancy – This is one of the most obvious causes of weight gain and a potbellied appearance. Although it seems obvious, most of the pet owners are unaware that their dog or cat is pregnant till they have a full litter staring at them right in the face. If a female cat or dog is not spayed, she can easily become pregnant, and it will not take that long. If you leave her unattended for a few minutes in the backyard, it could lead to an unwanted pregnancy. So do not put her on an exercise regimen or a strict diet just because she is gaining weight rapidly. She could be pregnant.
- Fluid retention – One of the common side-effects of heart disease is ascites (excess fluid in the abdomen). The enlarged belly is not synonymous with lack of exercise or overeating. Diseases of the internal organs or tumors can also cause the body to react in this manner. In young pups, excess amounts of fluid in the abdomen could be the consequence of abnormal blood flow due to a congenital defect in the heart. Another common cause of ascites is a portosystemic shunt, or liver shunt, where the circulatory system basically bypasses the liver.
- Prescription drugs – There are a few prescription medications which can lead to weight gain, particularly if your dog takes them over a long period. If your pet is on medication and has a weight problem that cannot be controlled through exercise and food management, consult with the vet to make sure that the medication is not related to the weight gain. If it is, the pet will recommend a different medication or a lower dose to avoid further weight gain.
- Parasites – Internal parasites, particularly the ones that lodge in the intestines and abdominal walls, can cause fluid build-up around the infested area, giving rise to a potbellied appearance. This is seen in young pups and kittens whose immune systems aren't strong enough to combat the effects of a parasitic infestation. Your vet will take fluid, blood and stool samples, one or more of which will show positive results if there are parasites in the body. Once your vet determines the specific parasite, he will be able to prescribe an appropriate parasiticide.
- Hypothyroidism – The thyroid glands produce hormones that are responsible for the speed at which the energy in the body is metabolized. Energy is consumed in the form of food, and in a healthy body, the energy is burnt in the course of regular activity. However, underproduction of the thyroid hormones leads to a sluggish metabolism, which leads to an increase in weight. Other symptoms associated with the condition include fatigue, slow heart rate, coarse hair coat and dry, itchy skin. Your vet will conduct a blood test to diagnose it and prescribe appropriate thyroid medication if the test is positive.
How to Choose a Weight Reducing Diet For Your Dog
Although there are a lot of foods that are marketed specifically for weight loss, not all of them are created equally. If the pet food label says “lite”, “diet” or “reduced calorie”, it does not necessarily mean that it is the best choice as most of these diets contain a lot of non-digestible fibers and carbohydrates to create a more bulky low calorie food which will make your dog feel full for a short time. Your dog will be hungry more often and end up putting on weight as it is not possible for the owners to withhold food when their dogs are begging constantly.
What should you go for?
Weight loss can be achieved by feeding less of your dog’s regular diet to him. This is very effective on dogs that are moderately overweight. Most of these regular diets are dense in calories and contain anywhere between 400 to 500 calories per can or cup, which makes it easy for you to overfeed your dog. If your dog is seriously overweight, the food must not have more than 350 calories per cup, must have a high protein content, low fat and carbohydrate levels so that you can control the overall calorie count. If you are going to feed your dog food that is high in calories, you need to feed them smaller amounts. This will not satisfy your dog’s hunger and he will end up begging for more.
Why is a high protein diet good for weight loss?
- A high protein diet fills your dog’s stomach faster, which means that he will beg less, which will make it easier for you to stick to the diet plan.
- A high protein diet is excellent for combating the muscle loss which is common during dieting. When your dog is on a diet, his body will end up burning both muscle and fat for energy. While the goal is to make him lose fat, that is usually not the case. Opting for a high protein diet will help in preserving the lean muscle mass.
- A diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrate content will have lesser fiber compared to other weight loss diets. Pet food manufacturers often add fiber to the diet to make your dog feel fuller. This decreases the palatability of the food and increases the stool volume.
Avoid diets that contain unhealthy fillers, like sugars, by-products or excessive fillers. Artificial additives – dyes, colors, digests, flavors – and preservatives – BHT, BHA, ethoxyquin – must be avoided at all costs. If you are unsure about the additives in the product, contact the manufacturer for more information. If you are having difficulty deciding, work with the veterinarian to formulate a diet plan based on your dog’s ideal body weight.