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Weight Management in Dogs

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Did you know that obesity affects more than 50 percent of America's dog population? If your pooch is overweight, he can develop all kinds of health problems, such as painful arthritis, heart disease, breathing difficulty, diabetes and even bladder cancer. For your dog, the excess weight and the resulting health problems can mean less play time and depression.

What causes weight gain?

Weight gain is the result of an increase in body fat. This is usually caused by eating too much, especially when combined with lack of exercise. But there can be other contributing factors too.

Age: Older dogs are less active, have less energy, and require fewer calories.

Breed: Some dog breeds are more likely to gain weight. These include Labrador retrievers, and cocker and Cavalier King Charles spaniels.

Neutering/ spaying: Clinical studies have shown that the basic metabolism of neutered dogs is lower. Neutered dogs actually require fewer calories.

Medical Problems: Very occasionally weight gain is associated with a medical disorder that may require specific treatment

Overfeeding: Dogs with unlimited access to food understandably eat more than they need

Overeating: Many commercial foods are loaded with salt and fat. This improves taste, which means your dog will want to gorge

Feeding habits: Feeding table scraps and "people food" can lead to obesity

Lack of exercise: Too much food and too little exercise produces a typical result: Obesity

IMPORTANT: Even if your dog does not show any signs of being overweight, it is important to have regular weight checks at the veterinarian’s to make sure his ideal weight is maintained.

Is my dog overweight?

All dogs have an ideal weight for their size and breed. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you what this is, and show you how to check that your dog is maintaining a healthy weight. Between check-ups, place your hands on his side - are his ribs hard to feel or even impossible to feel? If so, he is likely overweight.

If your dog is overweight, you may notice some of the following signs:

  • Ribs cannot easily be felt when running your hand along your dog’s side
  • Loss of an obvious waist
  • Collar needs loosening
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Slow movement
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bad temper
  • Sleeping more than usual

How can I help my dog lose weight?

Weight problems are common in dogs, and can be successfully managed through changes in dog food or a nutrition program. Combining a change in nutrition with increased exercise is the most effective way of achieving a healthy weight.

Exercise tips for dogs:

  • Enjoy regular walks with your dog — walking at a constant pace will help burn calories
  • Encourage play in the yard and in the home
  • Toss a Frisbee or a ball, or play a retrieval game

The importance of nutrition

The food your dog eats plays an important role in his overall health and well-being. Balanced nutrition is an essential part of an active, healthy lifestyle. Eating too much dog food, snacks or people food will cause your dog to become overweight, and this increases the risk of conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and breathing problems.

Food plays a very important role in treating an overweight dog. Along with exercise, a low-fat and low-calorie food is essential in helping your dog lose weight and stay fit. Fiber is also a key ingredient since it helps your dog eat less while keeping his full.

Once your dog has been overweight, he may be prone to weight gain and should have an ongoing weight-management plan based on good nutrition, exercise and regular check-ups and weigh-ins.

For accurate diagnosis and treatment options, always consult your veterinarian and ask them to recommend the best food for your dog’s weight management

Ask Your Veterinarian About Weight Management Care for your Dog:

  1. What is the target weight for my dog? What are the health risks if my dog is overweight?
    • Learn about other diseases related to excess weight
    • Learn how to tell if your dog is losing weight
    • You should feed your dog according to target weight not to current weight.
  2. What exercise program should I follow to help my dog reach target weight?
    • Discuss how you can involve your dog in your own exercise routine
    • Ask for dog exercise tips you can use at home
  3. Would you recommend a Hill’s® Prescription Diet® or Science Diet® dog food for my dog’s weight management?
    • Ask about special nutritional concerns for your dog
    • How much / how often you should feed the recommended food to your dog
  4. Can you provide me with written instructions or a booklet for weight management for my dog?
  5. What is the best way (email/phone) to reach you or your hospital if I have questions?
    • Ask if you need a follow-up appointment.
    • Ask if a reminder email or notice will be sent.