Last updated on February 10, 2015
“Your dog should lose some weight.” Dreaded words, dastardly in fact, that dog owners dread being dictated at the doctor’s (aka vet). Though humans can make healthy food choices and monitor their indulgences, dogs depend on what their guardians allow them to have. Indeed, with any medical condition ruled out, the number of overweight dogs in this country is astounding. What should you do if your dog is fat?
According to a recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over half of all U.S. dogs and cats are obese. It’s an epidemic. So when my darling devouring Dexter dined a little too heavily, the vet issued me a stern reprimand. Gulp, thud, knock me over with a pin: I love dogs, I write about dogs, my dog is a portly pooch? Well, not so much portly but he had gained two pounds over the SUMMER months. The ones of frolic and play, extra outdoor exercise and much walking. Ruling out any thyroid condition, I assessed: table scraps, type of dry food I was feeding (mixed with some homemade) and not paying attention to the amount of dispensed treats.
Fast forward 2 months: My boy is leaner and I am a lot happier, especially after he stepped off that scale and lost the 2 pounds plus a teensy bit more.
How can you tell if a dog is overweight? Feel around his ribs and spine; you should be able to locate both, with only a thin layer f fat separating skin from bones. If you are unable to find the ribcage, you have an overweight dog. Viewing the dog from above, you should be able to see a moderate narrowing at the waist just past the ribcage. A large and drooping abdomen is another sign that your pet is overweight. A bulging line from the ribcage to the hips indicates an overweight dog. Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your dog’s size at every check-up. Once your canine has reached maturity, ask for his optimal weight. As a rule, 15% of that weight is obese; zero-15% is overweight. Source: Animal Behavior Specialist, Diane Pomerance PhD.
What I did about it (and you can, too):
- Talk to your vet about why the dog is overweight . It could be an underlying medical condition.
- Move. A good starting point is a regular walk around the park or neighborhood, with gradual increases. Rainy days, cold days and/or snowy days do not make for good excuses. Reference the Fidose of Reality blog post for indoor fun, next in this two-part series.
- Portion control. Keep the treats you plan to give Fido in a handy snack bag. Allocate that day’s treats. When the bag is empty, treats are done. Make it rewarding for the dog. Try stuffing a Kong toy with green bean pieces, low-fat snacks and other items like Zuke’s salmon bits. Only 3 calories a piece and a natural healthy alternative. Watch for sugars added as filler to many store-bought treats.
- Switch foods gradually. Me, who thought she knew all about dog food learned of dehydrated food recently. I cannot begin to express how thrilled I am with The Honest Kitchen. Having worked behind the scenes of the dog world for years, I’d always entertained the idea of dehydrated food but never committed. Until Dexter’s buddy, Bailey, had some and we tried it. We are now ardent fans of Verve and mix in some boiled lean ground beef with it. My dog licks the bowl clean. Bonus points for flavor options, ease of storage and preparation (add water, wait, mix, feed), and the firmness of stools. Double bonus cocker points because my finicky friend loves the stuff. Oh and you can add veggies, supplements, and more if you so choose. We’ll be talking more about The Honest Kitchen in future posts.
Human foods high in fat, sugar or sodium are to be avoided. The last thing on anyone’s “to do” list is an emergency visit to the vet due to pancreatitis. Pomerance reported that foods that are fried, oily or greasy such as chicken, turkey, ham or beef bones, gravy, stuffing, pastries, rolls, cheese, and other starchy or rich foods and desserts are all culprits and should be avoided. Never allow Fido to have grapes, raisins, chocolate, caffeine or alcoholic beverages.
To keep Fido lean, it is important the entire family and those visiting know the rules. “Each family member must realize and agree that Fido’s health depends upon them not to give him treats that could not only result not only in weight gain which is unhealthy but could actually make him sick and cause vomiting and diarrhea. Make a pact. If necessary, feed Fido separately in his own room away from the kitchen or dining table. Let him out after your family has finished dining,” Pomerance related.
More in part two of “My dog is fat: Now what” tomorrow with indoor fun and tips for keeping Fido frisky when rain is falling.
Do you have any weight loss tips or questions? Would love to hear from our readers….