Best Way To Get A Dog To Lose Weight – 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, and this excess weight is associated with a staggering array of health problems.
When it comes to preventing obesity, or even a slow creep of extra pounds, simple awareness—knowing what your dog’s weight should be, and keeping track of any fluctuations—is the first step (read more about the importance of weight awareness and the difference just a few pounds can make here).
Best Way To Get A Dog To Lose Weight
You can ask your vet for advice on your dog’s ideal weight, but a quick way to assess your dog’s health at home is to ask:
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If you get three “no’s”, there’s a good chance your dog needs to lose weight. so what now? Here are some vet-approved tips to help your dog safely shed excess pounds and keep them in good shape.
For dogs, as for humans, weight loss really comes down to two things: food and exercise. And for a dog owner trying to manage or reduce their dog’s weight, food is the most important thing.
“Weight loss begins and ends in the dog and cat food bowl,” says Ernie Ward, DVM, and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). “Weight loss for humans and dogs is 60-70% diet and 30-40% exercise.”
For dog owners who lead an active lifestyle, it is easy to overestimate the effect of physical activity on weight maintenance. So even for active dogs, it is important to set clear guidelines for daily calorie intake.
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This is where things can go sideways. People may choose not to count calories as a guide to what they eat, and some will choose other methods to stick to a healthy regimen (Do my pants fit? Great). But when it comes to long-term management of the dog’s weight, it is important to set a concrete threshold for how much to feed. This means determining the number of calories your dog needs each day.
It’s not a good idea to rely on feeding guidelines for an average pet food package. There are many factors that will affect your dog’s nutritional needs, including breed, size, activity level and whether he is spayed or neutered. Standard pocket feeding intervals are usually too wide for your dog, and many owners end up overfeeding based on overly generous and vague portion sizes, usually measured in cups and tablespoons.
The feeding guidelines on pet food packages, Ward says, are based on active adult dogs of all life stages. “For example, spaying or neutering reduces energy requirements by 20 to 30%,” he says. So if your pet is spayed or neutered, and not very active, you could already be overfeeding by 20 or 30% or more.
When it comes to determining the ideal calorie intake, it is important to consider several factors. “We take into account several things – we look at the body condition scores, we look at the muscle condition scores, we look at the lifestyle and any medical condition that exists at the same time,” says Dr. Ward. “We start by deciding, OK, how many calories do you need eat?”
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As a starting point, there are also many tools online to provide roughing guidelines based on weight and breed (you can start by looking at the guide published by the Pet Obesity Prevention Association).
For home calculations, you can use the Resting Energy Requirement (RER) formula. Take the dog’s weight in kilograms, multiply by 30 and add 70 (or take the weight in kilograms, divide by 2.2, multiply that number by 30 and add 70). You can then take into account Metabolic Energy Requirement (MORE) depending on things like health, if they are spayed or neutered etc.
These tools provide an estimate, but every dog’s metabolism is different, so be sure to continue to monitor your pet’s weight.
You can also sign up for a fresh food program (like the ones we offer to Farmer’s Dog customers). Such a plan makes it easy to determine overall caloric intake and food portions based on your dog’s very specific needs, and also makes it easy to adjust daily calories based on changing weight management needs.
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In addition to counting calories, another important part of weight maintenance or weight loss is providing lower carb, whole and fresh foods.
Many ultra-processed dog foods are full of carb-based fillers—as Dr. Ward pointed out, when you actually break down the ingredients on the label, many come in at upwards of 60% carbs or more. A healthy diet provides quality protein, but also Fiber and moisture that can make your dog happy, without the carb fillers.
Another way to help your dog lose excess weight is by controlling, and perhaps reducing, his intake of treats. Here again, it’s quality and quantity that matter.
No one wants to deny their dog treats, as they are often useful training aids and it’s fun to see the excitement they create. But it is important to keep an eye on how many treats your dog really eats per day and what its caloric effect is. Treats should be included and make up no more than 10% of total daily calories.
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Dog owners who feed their dog healthy food but still feed treats high in carbohydrates and processed calories may be missing a major source of weight gain and health problems. And if you give your dog too many treats (more than 10% of his daily food intake), you can undo the benefits of the balanced diet you feed him.
Many veterinarians recommend using one-ingredient treats such as fresh vegetables and fruits. Baby carrots, celery, broccoli, green beans, cucumbers, blueberries, apples and bananas are all healthy treats and, unlike mystery meat treats, can contribute to your dog’s health (use apple and banana in smaller amounts due to higher sugar content).
As for peanut butter, make sure it’s really a special (rare) treat, and distributed in limited quantities; This canine and human favorite has a hefty 100 calories per tablespoon. Also, make sure the peanut butter you use does not contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. For an easier, and perhaps better, substitute, try regular canned pumpkin, which weighs in at just five calories per tablespoon.
You should also go back and consider why you give your dog treats. Our bond with our dogs is so special and every dog owner wants to see the happy excitement that a treat brings. But you can get that happy response with healthy treats, or with smaller portions. “I usually tell owners that dogs get the same pleasure, and you can get the same response, from a small piece of treat as you can from the whole thing or a handful,” says Alex Schechter, DVM. “There are many ways to show love and bond with your pet. It doesn’t have to be through food.”
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Food is key, but no weight loss plan, or health maintenance plan, is complete without exercise. The most obvious and important activity for your dog is walking. Regular walks not only exercise the dog’s body, they provide crucial mental stimulation and the all-important opportunity to sniff. The amount of walking your dog needs, or wants, depends on its breed and overall health. But while conventional wisdom says that some dogs need less exercise than others, all dogs need exercise.
While the recommended minimum daily exercise is 20 minutes, twice a day, many dogs will need much more. For many breeds, an hour of exercise a day is a good goal. If your dog needs to lose weight, try increasing the amount of exercise he is currently getting. So if there is none, or barely, start with short walking intervals. If you already exercise, try increasing your walking or other activity by 10-20%.
Ask your veterinarian about the best types of activities based on your pet’s breed, age, sex, and current physical condition. Introduce new activities slowly to avoid injury. Unless your dog is trained for these types of activities or has been introduced slowly, leave the extreme sports to your weekend classes – too vigorous or repetitive activity can put your dog at risk of joint problems. Also keep in mind the weather conditions – such as high sun – if your activities are outdoors. The sun creates the potential for heat stroke and burnt paw pads.
If you’ve been consistent and staying within calorie limits and are still having no luck helping your dog lose weight, a visit to the vet may be to rule out a medical condition. Weight gain and fatigue can be symptoms of conditions such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome. The latter, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, usually occurs in older dogs and can also cause frequent urination, hair loss and weakness.
How To Get Your Dog To Lose Weight
If you find that you are overfeeding, work with your vet to create a weight loss plan based on the correct calories so your dog doesn’t lose weight too quickly, which is unhealthy.
“People (people) want to speed up weight loss,” says Dr. Ward. “30 days until bikini season! But it is a long process. It’s years of making small decisions that help. When you decide to share your pizza crust with your Pomeranian, if you do it once, fine. But if you do it once a week for five
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