What can I do to help my dog lose weight?

According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, between 50 and 60% of Canadian pets are considered overweight or obese. Primarily affecting our pet dogs, this phenomenon can create many important health problems, and can lead concerned dog owners to put their overweight dogs on a diet. But what does a pet weight loss program involve?

How to know if your dog is overweight

Before beginning a weight loss diet, it is important to determine if your pet is obese or overweight. The average size and weight for animals of the breed is a factor but, as in humans, we must also consider the dog’s actual body size and frame, since there may be some variation between dogs of the same breed. The best solution is to ask your veterinarian to examine your dog. The veterinarian begins by weighing our dog and then touching your dog’s chest to determine if there is any excess fat covering the ribcage. Measurements of your dog’s chest and waistline may follow. A dog is usually considered overweight if his current weight exceeds his ideal weight by 20%. In addition to determining if your dog is overweight, your veterinarian will also be able to rule out any possible underlying health problems that could explain the weight gain, or that could complicate a weight loss program.

Weight loss program for dogs

When done correctly, a proper weight loss program will allow your dog to shed extra pounds without being hungry. Follow these tips for success:

  • Separate your dog’s daily ration into multiple meals per day. This will satisfy your dog’s hunger more effectively than if you were to feed him only one meal per day.
  • Avoid giving too many treats as rewards. Try giving him a toy and playing with him instead. Dogs love having your full attention.
  • Add easy walks to your daily routine. Let’s get moving!
  • Choose a good quality and nutritious weight loss diet and treats, specially formulated for pets that lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
  • Add vegetables (either raw or cooked) to complement his meals: carrots, green beans, zucchini, etc.
  • Leave fresh water available at all times.
  • Let everyone in the family know that your dog is on a diet so that no one sneaks him any extra food or scraps.

Guidelines to follow during weight loss for dogs

  • Don’t change his food drastically from one day to the next since this may cause an upset stomach. It is best to do a gradual transition over 7 to 14 days.
  • Never give any weight loss medication or supplements to your dog. These could be dangerous or potentially toxic.
  • Always have your pet examined by your veterinarian before starting a weight loss program since many dogs may suffer from illnesses affecting their metabolism, like hypothyroid disease, that could affect their ability to lose weight.
  • Avoid strenuous activity and exercise at the beginning of the program.
  • Be patient. Steady and gradual weight loss is the goal of a proper weight loss program.

Be aware that a sedentary lifestyle, high-calorie commercially available treats, stress, genetic predispositions, and sterilization status are all factors that can lead to weight gain in dogs. Your dog can benefit from increased health and well-being with a properly prepared weight loss plan.