Warning: I am not a veterinarian. All advice I give should be taken with a grain of salt, as with a lot of advice you may read online. I just like to help animals, through helping their pet parents, with the 19 years of experience I have gained by working in veterinary medicine.
Ultimately, you should consult your veterinarian before trying anything yourself at home.
Over the years I have seen many dogs suffer from being overweight. Heck, even my dogs have had to be put on a diet after I was told by a family member that they were looking a little on the hefty side!
It makes me sad when I see a dog walk through the door at my work who can hardly carry his weight on his arthritic legs that’s only exacerbated by his excessive weight.
You may look at a dog, who seems to be a little on the heavy side, and say “He seems to get around just fine. There’s really no need for him to loose weight.”
But that extra weight they’re carrying around, either a few or 20 extra pounds, puts more strain on all the joints in their legs and even along their spine.
By the time you start to realize that your dog may be suffering from arthritis, the pain of it makes if more difficult for them to get the weight off. They become painful getting up or and laying down. Walking, playing or exercise can hurt and get harder for them to do as the arthritis progresses.
These pet parents have no less love for their pets than the next person, sometimes they don’t even notice their pet’s are overweight until its brought to their attention, they just have a super soft heart when their dog looks at them with those big, round, sad eyes hoping to get a little more food, their left overs from dinner, or an extra doggie cookie.
Some dogs, like people, have faster metabolisms and can eat more food, but never gain an ounce. Other dogs, if they get an extra calorie, will gain 5 pounds.
But it’s very important for your dog’s health to make sure that they stay at a healthy weight for their joint, heart, and overall health. It will also help to keep them in your life longer.
If your dog shows signs of lethargy, having a sparse (or thinning) flaky coat, and is putting on weight despite being fed a normal portion size of food, contact your veterinarian. There may be an issue going on that only they will be able to diagnose and treat, like hypothyroidism.
Dieting for your dog:
Start by finding out how much your dog weighs. You can use your home scale, or take your dog by a vet’s office. They usually have a scale to weigh large dogs right in the lobby.
If you’re not sure if your dog is overweight or not, ask your vet what they think about your dog’s size and if they would recommend weight loss, gain, or if they’re fine the way they look now.
Typically, at your pet’s annual physical exam, the veterinarian will outwardly inform you if they think your dog could loose a few pounds. If they don’t mention it, ask. It never hurts to find out what they think. A lot of pet parents can take offense when the doctor tells them their pet is overweight, so unless it seems like they’re morbidly overweight, they may not bring it up.
**PLEASE NOTE*** This is my personal opinion on food, if you’re happy with your dog’s food, you don’t need to take my recommendations.
Because that’s all it is, a recommendation.
A good diet for a dog consists of good, quality food. I like Purina brand dog food, but Hill’s Eukanuba, or even Iams are good foods to try.
I usually don’t recommend feeding a ‘grocery store’ brand of dog food. Iams is the only food sold at a grocery store that I feel is good enough quality to feed your dog.
If you end up changing your dog’s food, at any point or for any reason in their life, make sure to do it gradually so that you don’t make their stomach upset from the change.
If you’re re not currently measuring your dogs food, you can try that before totally changing the type of food you’re feeding them. Your dog’s food will typically have a feeding guide on the bag that tells you how much to feed based on how much your dog weighs. If it doesn’t, look online. I can usually find a guide with a little bit of research.
Make sure you use an actual measuring cup when measuring out the amount of food you’re feeding them.
If you’re already feeding them the amount the bag says, try decreasing slightly based on the size of your dog, anywhere from a few kibbles for small dogs to 1/4 cup for the large ones, and see how that goes over a month.
If you’re feeding them more than what the guide recommends, then start measuring the food out and see how that goes over a 30 day period.
Try and add in exercise as well. You want to start slow and gradually increase the amount as your dog starts to show a better tolerance to what you’re doing.
Going for walks is a great start. If they like chasing a ball, just make sure to go slow. Extra weight can make your dog more prone to injury. Swimming is also a great exercise and it’s also easy on their joints.
If they’re already exercising, then continue and adjust the food quantity.
Your dog should be loosing gradual amounts of weight, fairly slow, over several months.
If you are not seeing any changes, you either need to change your food (sometimes a restricted calorie food is needed) or decrease the amount you’re feeding a little bit more. Usually feeding them slightly less than the recommended amount, is safe to do.
For example: If the bag instructs you to feed your 60 pound dog 2 cups per day, and they’re overweight or not loosing weight at that amount, then decrease it slightly to see if that helps.
If you still don’t see any changes over 2-3 months, then consult your vet. There may be a health condition or they may benefit from a prescription, restricted calorie, food to get them on the right track.
If you’re feeding your dog canned food mixed in with their dry, you need to make sure to take those calories into account. If your dog is used to having canned food and you want to decrease the amount, then try mixing a tablespoon into their kibble with some water and mix it around to help it coat the kibble.
If they get doggie biscuits, then you need to take those calories into account as well. They’re just like junk food for dogs, not really necessary, but good to have every once in a while.
My dogs LOVE raw baby carrots. I give them multiple baby carrots with their food twice a day to help fill them up, since they too are on a diet and I feel guilty feeding them less than what they used to get. You can give them multiple baby carrots to help fill the gap for the missing kibble, or as treats instead of dog biscuits. You can also give them canned green beans.
There are many health concerns overweight dogs can have, joint health being one of the biggest.
As the dog ages, their joints naturally start to break down. Having to carry around that extra weight makes the process happen much faster and earlier in their lives, especially if your dog’s breed is prone to joint health issues.
Feeding your dog table scraps, or your left overs from dinner, can not only make their weight a problem, but it can also upset their tummies.
Diarrhea and vomiting from eating fatty foods off your plate can quickly turn into a nasty gastroenteritis that will require a trip to the veterinarian.
I know it can be a difficult transition, It was for me. I know that my dogs are healthier and happier being able to move around better, and I know they will be with me much longer at a healthier weight.
If you have any questions, or ideas that you would like to see me write about, I would love to hear about it.