Yes, even dogs can become obese. In fact, more than half of all dogs in the United States are overweight. While most of us don’t mind our dogs putting on a little bit of chub, the truth is that this extra weight can cause major health problems. As such, it’s become incredibly common for dog owners to look into how their dogs can lose weight.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Obese
Clearly, the best way to deal with obesity is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, it can be hard to see that your dog is gaining weight until he or she hits the point where you need to step in. There are, however, questions that you can start to ask to figure out if your dog needs to lose weight.
Does your dog have an hourglass shape from above? Does he or she have a waist? Are you able to feel your dog’s ribs? Those are the big questions, and answering ‘no’ to all three of them means that your dog has probably put on some extra weight.
Now that you know that your dog needs to drop some pounds, you can start looking at weight loss methods.
Dog Weight Loss Plan: A Focus on Food
As most humans know, how much we weigh usually depends a great deal on diet and exercise. The same applies to dogs, but it’s the food that matters the most to dog owners who are trying to help their dogs to lose weight.
If we’re going to work on helping our furry friends lose weight, there are a handful of food-related items we need to consider. As with humans, most of those require taking a much more careful look at the calories that are in our dogs’ food.
Pay Attention to The Amount Of Food
If you want to help your dog to lose weight, you’ve got to start counting calories (1). While there are plenty of cheats for humans who want to find other ways to lose weight, we have to start by looking at what kind of caloric intake dogs need to get through the day in a healthy way. Unfortunately, finding that information isn’t as easy as one might hope.
Many dog owners assume that the ‘right’ amount to feed their dogs is the amount specified on the back of their dogs’ food packaging. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be the right information for every dog. There are simply too many variables at play here, with issues ranging from your dog’s overall health to how much he or she runs around outside impacting how much your dog really needs to eat.
So, how do you actually determine what your dog’s caloric intake should be? Well, you’ll start by keeping a number of factors that range from your dog’s body condition to his or her lifestyle into account. While there are absolutely formulas you can use here, it’s generally a good idea to consult some great online resources to get a rough guide to how much your dog should be eating.
If you’re more of a fan of doing the math yourself, you can plug your dog’s data into a lengthy formula. The RER, or Resting Energy Formula, requires you to take your dog’s weight in pounds, divide by 2.2, multiply by thirty and then add seventy to get your basic energy requirement number. The equation looks something like this:
[(Weight/2.2) x 30)] + 70 = RER
From here, you’ll start to add in a number of other factors. Whether your dog is active, neutered, obese, or even whether or not he or she needs to gain weight will all add in different multipliers.
The only downside of using this formula is that even it is a little less precise than some might like. Every dog is a little different, so even using a ‘perfect’ calorie count might not help as much as you like. The only thing you can really do is to keep monitoring your dog as he or she eats.
As a note, you can make things even a little more easy by using any number of different dog food plans that are geared towards providing your dog with the precise number of calories he or she needs. Most of these plans start with what they assume your dog needs to hit his or her ideal weight, but they always allow you to adjust things if the initial calorie count doesn’t end up being right for your dog.
Think About Portions
Dogs love to eat. Unfortunately, dogs are almost always going to eat anything you put in front of them, even if it’s not a good idea. One of the best ways to help keep your dog happy by letting him or her eat more often is to break up your dog’s meal into multiple smaller portions throughout the day.
As any good human dieter knows, there are some real benefits to breaking up meals throughout the day – an automatic dog feeder with a timer can be very helpful with scheduling meals. Multiple little meals boost a dog’s metabolism, help him or her feel full throughout the day, and helps to ensure that your dog’s insulin levels never drop too low. Breaking up the meals also helps your dog feel like he or she is eating more, which is always a win for your pet.
Pay Attention to Where the Calories Come From
It’s not enough just to count calories. You also need to make sure that your dog is getting those calories from the best dog food.
Unfortunately, most standard dog kibble is full of fillers that don’t do much for your dog’s health. These foods are very high in carbohydrates – not something that’s necessarily bad for your dog, but something that needs to be balanced. You generally want to make sure that your dog is getting meals that are more balanced towards proteins for his or her health.
Don’t Forget the Treats
One of the hardest things about counting calories is remembering that you have to count the contributions from dog treats.
Do you need to stop giving your dog treats? Of course not. These are great training tools and fantastic ways to reward your pet. What’s important, though, is that you pay attention to how many treats your dog is getting every day and what kind of impact those treats have on your dog’s calorie count.
Your dog’s total calorie intake from treats shouldn’t be more than ten percent of his or her total calorie intake. Even if you’re keeping a fairly balanced diet, getting too many calories from highly processed treats is going to undo a lot of the work that you’ve already done.
So, what can you give your dog other than highly processed treats? Vegetables and fruits are usually a good choice, as they tend to be full of vitamins and nutrients while contributing less to your dog’s calorie total. Peanut butter is a high-calorie treat that might also be a good sometimes treat, but it’s even better to give your dog canned pumpkin instead. The latter is much lower in calories and tends to be just as beloved by most dogs.
As a final note, you do need to stop and figure out if you are giving your dog too many treats during the day. As nice as it is to make your pup happy, you might be doing your dog a disservice by using those treats to forge an emotional connection. You really don’t have to give your dog giant treats to make him or her happy, and you certainly don’t have to use the treats as your only way to show your dog that you care. Sometimes a few minutes of playtime are worth an awful lot more than any treat.
Dog Weight Loss: Increasing Exercise
While the food might be the big thing to watch when you’re trying to help your dog lose weight, you will need to look at your dog’s activity levels to make sure that he or she is on the right path to getting more healthy. It’s absolutely vital that your dog gets up and moving, and not just because of his or her weight. Dogs who go on regular walks tend to get more mental stimulation and have better dispositions.
How much exercise does your dog need every day? The bare minimum might be somewhere close to twenty minutes a day, but in truth, the vast majority of dogs are going to be better off if they are out and moving for about an hour a day. With that said, anything is better than nothing and those dogs who tend to be very sedentary really can benefit a lot by even getting out for a ten-minute walk every day, and outfitting your yard with an invisible dog fence can be a great way to boost their outside time on an ongoing basis.
There are, of course, other activities you can pursue other than walks. Taking up new activities can be risky, though, so make sure that you go into them slowly and gently. You’re not going to get an overweight dog who typically never moves to master an agility course in a weekend, and trying to do so might cause more harm than good. Try to make sure that you pick activities that aren’t going to stress out your dog and that won’t put him or her in a position that could end up with the dog getting hurt.
Dog Weight Loss: The Medical Question
What happens if you get your dog to exercise and eat right, only to find that he or she can’t manage to drop a pound? The answer is that you’ll have to visit your vet to make sure that your dog’s weight problems aren’t connected to another health issue. Problems like hypothyroidism can exist and dogs and they can lead to a whole host of issues other than just weight gain. If you think you’re doing everything right and you aren’t seeing progress, medical intervention might be necessary.
At the end of the day, you are signing up for a long-term plan. You’re going to want to work with your vet to help figure out the best way to not just help your dog lose weight for now, but to stay healthier for the rest of his or her life. You’re not looking for crash diets here – you’re looking for a way to help keep your dog in great shape.
Don’t be afraid to start looking at ways to help your dog stay healthy. This doesn’t mean that you can never throw him or her an unhealthy treat, but it does mean you need to pay more attention to how often you are doing so. If you can pay attention to your dog’s health, you’ll be rewarded with a happier canine companion. It may even help to lower the cost of dog insurance, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for a dog to lose weight?
Though this one does vary a bit by a dog, you can usually expect your dog to hit his or her ideal weight in less than a year. This does mean that you’re going to spend the entire year counting calories and ensuring that your dog gets the right amount of exercise, though, and the numbers are predicated on the idea that your dog’s weight is currently based on how he or she is fed and exercised rather than any kind of medical condition.
How much should I feed my dog to lose weight?
You will definitely want to take a moment to look at several factors. You’ll need to know your dog’s age, breed, whether or not he or she is neutered, and how active your dog is before you start. There are a number of great calculators you can use online that will help you to figure out exactly how many calories per day your dog should consume, but the best way to figure out how much you should feed your dog is to monitor his or her weight loss progress and to make adjustments as necessary.
What is the best diet for an overweight dog?
There’s no miracle diet for overweight dogs. Just feed your dog healthy, protein-rich foods in the correct portions every day. If you can pay attention to how your dog is eating and how much exercise he or she is getting, you’ll eventually see results.