It is important to recognise any significant weight gain your dog experiences in order to prevent associated health issues. Large breeds are somewhat predisposed to excessive weight gain. Senior dogs also tend to gain more weight as they continue to age and become less active.
If your dog needs to shed some weight, here are six easy steps to help your pet achieve a healthy weight.
Step 1: Know how to see the extra weight
It is estimated that one in every four dogs is either overweight or obese. There are simple, everyday methods you can use to check your dog for any weight issues.
- Bird’s Eye View: Stand over your dog and check for narrowing at the waist, the area between the abdomen and the hips. It should resemble an hourglass shape. If it is shaped like an oval, your dog is overweight.
- Feel the Ribs: Your dog’s ribs should not be visible, but they should be easily felt. Run your hands along each side of your dog without applying any pressure. If you cannot easily feel or count the ribs, your dog is gaining too much weight.
- Take a Walk: Dogs who pant heavily during or after a walk at a normal pace may be showing the effects of being overweight or obese.
Step 2: Visit Your Veterinarian Annually
Your vet can help you determine if your dog is experiencing any weight gain. Since every dog is unique, consulting your vet about any weight issues is key to protecting your dog’s health.
- Compare Previous Weight: Since your dog is weighed at each visit, your vet has historical data to use as a comparison.
- Calculate Body Condition Score: Utilising a 9-point scoring system (BCS), your vet can measure your dog’s percentage of body fat.
- Create a Weight-Loss Program: Your vet can develop an effective plan to help your dog lose weight through proper nutrition and exercise. It is important that you follow this plan to ensure that your dog is able to reach a healthy target weight.
Step 3: Implement Your Vet's Recommended Weight-Loss Program
A plan to help your dog reach a healthy target weight should transition into a long-term health and wellness program. As your dog continues to age, a healthy weight will be a key factor in helping prevent associated health issues.
- Feed a High-Quality Diet: Talk with your vet about choosing the right food to help your dog reduce weight without losing valuable nutrients. Your vet may suggest switching to a different food and continue using it even after the excess weight is lost as a way to maintain your dog’s healthy target weight.
- Measure and Supervise Feeding: Your vet might suggest using a more precise way to measure your dog’s food at meal times. Follow a meal schedule and make sure anyone who helps with feeding your dog uses it. Eliminate table scraps and limit healthy treats, which should make up less than five percent of your dog’s total daily requirements.
Step 4: Weigh Your Dog Regularly
Continue to visit the vet to track your dog’s weight loss. Weight should be recorded every two to four weeks.
Step 5: Cut Out Unhealthy Treats
Avoid using treats unless you take the treat’s energy content into account when calculating your pet’s total daily calorie intake. Experts advise keeping treats to under 5 percent of your pet’s daily allowance. Ideally human food should not be used as treats for your dog as they may not contain the nutrients your pet needs.
Step 6: Exercise Your Dog Regularly and Keep it Fun
Be sure to give your dog regular exercise. Based on your pet’s age, there are various methods you can use to increase activity levels. Take longer walks, add extra playtime with games of fetch or consider using specific dog-based exercise routines, such as treadmills or swimming. Keep exercise time fun by using different toys on different days: tennis balls, frisbees or the humble stick all work well.
Always consult your vet before starting an exercise regime to ensure your dog’s safety. Take care with dogs with illnesses: Always check with your vet first. And take care with the amount of exercise per day and amount per session.
Tips to Take Away
- Know how to check to see if your dog is overweight or obese.
- Schedule annual vet visits to determine and address any weight issues.
- Implement the vet’s recommended weight-loss program to help your dog reach and maintain a healthy weight.