Overweight Dogs (Obesity)

Americans and their dogs appear to have one thing in common; they are both overweight. The problem is that they eat too much and too often. Along with excessive eating, the amount of exercise needed to burn up the calories is not sufficient. Also, the foods we feed to our pets (as well as what we eat ourselves) are very high in calories.

Obesity in dogs is usually due to over-eating

There are several reasons why your dog may be overweight. The most common causes include over-eating, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism) and obsessive-compulsive eating disorder. Obesity is more commonly due to over-eating than disease !

Obese animals tend to live a shorter life than animals that are trim. Fat dogs have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, liver disease, diabetes, orthopedic problems, and even neurological problems. Dogs that are overweight often experience difficulty breathing and become less able to tolerate heat. They may also experience difficulty walking or be unable to tolerate regular exercise due to muscle weakness. As responsible pet owners, we need to make sure that our pets are eating properly and not excessively overweight.

Recent studies have shown that 40-50% of American dogs are overweight. In comparison, about 25% of cats are fat.

More than half of American dogs are overweight

Planning a Diet

If your pet is overweight, work with your veterinarian to decide on and stick to a proper weight-reduction plan. Your veterinarian can help assess your pet's obesity and weight reduction plan and determine whether there are any complicating disease concerns. In some cases, a prescription type of diet may be recommended.

Weight should be lost gradually. Starvation or crash diets are inhumane and rarely work. Most dogs require 10-12 months on a weight loss plan before results are achieved. Dogs should eat twice a day and fed reasonable amounts of high fiber low fat dog food. Also, treats should be suitably formulated, small, and strictly rationed.

Change your dog's diet gradually

General Weight Loss Instructions

Weight loss should be a family effort. All members of the family must admit the animal is overweight and commit to a weight loss program.

  • One person should take charge of feeding the dog.
  • If the dog is extremely overweight, the diet must be changed to a therapeutic veterinary diet specifically designed for weight loss. Simply feeding less of your dog's regular food is rarely, if ever, successful.
  • Owners must be willing to measure exactly the amount of food offered.
  • Minimize treats. If treats are necessary, offer low calorie snacks such as air plain, fresh popped popcorn or a piece of vegetable (such as carrots or green beans).
  • Most dogs do achieve ideal or near ideal body weight when the owner and family members are committed to improving the pet's health.
  • In order to maintain the ideal weight, it is often necessary to continue feeding the weight loss diet. The amount of food however, is generally increased.

Food Recommendations for Feeding Overweight Dogs

Lower your pet's daily caloric intake by 50% of that required at their ideal body weight.

Change the pet food product to one designed for weight loss and containing:

  • less than 340 kcal per 100 g of food on a dry matter basis.
  • between 5-10% fat.
  • between 10-30% crude fiber.
  • greater than 25% crude protein.

Feed your pet twice a day.

Feed the prescribed measured amount of food.

Give treats only as directed. Use specifically designed low calorie treats or give cooked or raw vegetables.

Exercise is an important factor in weight loss. As with humans, exercise provides an outlet for pent-up energy. Another benefit from exercise is that it leads to the production of serotonin - a neurotransmitter in the brain. Serotonin has two effects that might be relevant: First, it helps to prevent depression and has anti-obsessive properties. Second, it reduces appetite. Both are desirable for weight loss.

Your dog's weight contributes significantly to his (or her) well-being. A fat dog is generally lethargic and does not live life to the fullest. A trim healthy dog is much more active and truly makes a more enjoyable companion.

If your dog is overweight, a visit to your veterinarian is the best first step.

[ Search Articles ] [ Article Index ] [ Previous Page ]