Dr. Ernie Ward lists seven great (and perhaps unexpected) ways to help your pet lose weight. For more from Dr. Ward, find him on Facebook or at www.drernieward.com!
According to the latest veterinary surveys, over half our nation’s dogs and cats are overweight. This means almost 80 million pets are at risk for developing crippling arthritis, debilitating diabetes, catastrophic kidney and heart disease, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer. How can you slim down your super-sized pet, keep them fit and reduce their risk of developing many serious diseases? The answer may be easier than you think. Try these seven tips to trim excess pounds from your pet and keep them trim.
1. Calculate Calories
If you don’t know how many calories your pet needs each day, you don’t know how much to feed. And don’t think you can trust the bag; feeding guides are formulated for adult, un-spayed or un-neutered active dogs and cats. That means if you have an older, spayed or neutered indoor lap potato you’re probably feeding 20% to 30% too much if you follow the food’s instructions. Instead, ask your veterinarian to calculate the proper number of calories your pet needs each day. Another good starting point is to use this formula: Divide your pet’s weight by 2.2. Multiply this figure times 30. Add 70 and you’ve got a general idea of how many calories you should be feeding a typical inactive, indoor spayed or neutered dog or cat weighing between 6 and 60 pounds. ** [(pet’s weight in lbs/2.2) x 30] +70 ** Of course, each pet’s metabolism is different so be sure to consult your veterinarian before starting a diet.
2. Measure Meals
A pet parent’s single greatest tool in the fight against excess weight is a measuring cup. Too many pet owners simply fill the bowl or “guesstimate” how much they’re feeding. Even worse, some pets, especially cats, are fed an “all-day buffet” that results from the “just keep the bowl full” feeding method. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention has done studies to show that feeding as few as 10 extra tiny kibbles of food per day can add up to a pound of weight gain per year in indoor cats and small dogs. After you calculate how many calories your pet needs, determine how much food you should feed each meal – and measure it.
3. Tactical Treating
First off, I’m not anti-treats. I am anti-junk treats. If you’re going to give your pets extra goodies, make ‘em count. Too many pet treats are what I call “calorie grenades” laden with sugar and fat blowing up our pet’s waistlines and destroying their health. Choose low-calorie, no-sugar goodies that provide a health benefit. I like single ingredient treats such as sweet potato, salmon, and blueberry bites or functional treats that provide a bonus such as helping to keep teeth clean or promote mobility. Whatever treats you give, be sure to count those additional calories. Many pet owners feed the proper amount of food but sabotage their efforts by adding one or two snacks throughout the day. As few as 30 extra calories per day means your pet gains over three pounds in a year.
Better yet, dogs don’t do division. Break treats into peewee pieces and divvy them out whenever your pet earns it. Be cautious of “guilt-treating” – the practice of giving your pet a treat because you feel guilty leaving them home alone. Instead, use treats only as a reward for good behavior. Pets (and people) need to learn to earn extra goodies.
4. Vital Veggies
As an alternative to highly-processed store-bought treats, try offering baby carrots, green beans, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, sliced apples and bananas or ice cubes. These naturally nutritious tasty tidbits are a healthy option for many dogs. Be sure not to feed dogs a full apple or banana, as they have high sugar content. For cats, try a flake of salmon or tuna when you’re feeling generous. While you’re at it, put down the potato chips and share a carrot with your pooch. You’ll both be healthier for it.
5. Hustle for Health
When it comes to living a long, pain-and disease-free life, research proves our most powerful partner is daily exercise. Speaking of partners, anyone with a dog has a built-in, no-excuse exercise buddy. For dogs, as little as 20 to 30-minutes of brisk walking is all it takes to boost immune function, improve cardiovascular health and reduce many behavioral problems. For cats, try playing with a laser pointer, remote-controlled toy or ball of paper for 5 to 15 minutes each day. Do yourself and your dog a favor and commit to daily walks, rain or shine. The health benefits of walking extend to both ends of the leash.
6. Smart Supplements
A couple of supplements may help keep your pet (and you) fit and trim. Almost every dog, cat and person can benefit from taking a daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement. These powerful fish oils pack a potent anti-oxidant punch that has been proven to help prevent and treat numerous diseases. In addition, they may help ease achy joints and perhaps encourage weight loss. L-carnitine has been shown to aid weight loss and promote lean muscle mass in some studies. I’ve been prescribing (and taking) l-carnitine for over 13 years and been impressed with the results. Ask your veterinarian if either (or both) of these supplements make sense for your pet’s condition and which ones are good quality.
7. Cut Down the Carbs
Most of the pet dogs and cats I treat for don’t need a high-carbohydrate diet. Yet that’s exactly what most of us feed our pets. Many diets contain 60% or more carbohydrates when you analyze the food label. I suggest diets that have balanced protein and carbohydrates. As a general rule, I recommend trying a higher protein / low carb diet first for weight loss in my patients. Be sure to check with your veterinarian before making any diet changes. Pets with certain conditions, such as kidney failure, may do better on a different type of diet.
It’s the responsibility of each of us to help our pets maintain a healthy weight. Just as you’d never walk your dog without a collar and leash or allow them to eat only pizza and ice cream (which many dogs would LOVE!), it’s up to pet owners to feed healthy, nutritious foods and treats and exercise daily. By using these seven simple suggestions, you’ll be on your way to your pet’s best – and healthiest – year yet!
For additional information, visit www.PetObesityPrevention.org or www.DrErnieWard.com. Join the conversation at www.Facebook.com/DrErnieWard.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
How To Help An Obese Dog Lose Weight
Many pet owners struggle with figuring out how to help their obese dogs lose weight. Animals often have food cravings that can be hard to say no to, especially since you want to keep your dog happy. Over time, however, obesity in dogs can increase their risks for developing diabetes, as well as respiratory and arthritic conditions. Sadly, these are often chronic, incurable diseases that generally are preventative. It’s worth noting that there are some underlying endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism that can contribute to weight gain in dogs.
The good news is if you’re asking yourself how to go about helping your dog, you’re on the right track to tackle the problem. In this article, we’ll explore the most effective approaches to help a dog lose weight and provide you with all the knowledge you need to get your canine healthy and active in no time.
How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
Last Updated: September 2, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.
There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 13 testimonials and 90% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.
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A 2018 study shows the median lifespan of overweight dogs is about 2.5 years shorter than that of dogs at healthy weights.  X Research source Dogs that are overweight are more susceptible to illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other debilitating problems. By carrying too much weight on its body, a dog that is overweight is also putting extra strain on its joints and backs, which can lead to arthritis. If your dog is overweight, it's in your and your dog's best interest to get it slimmed down as soon as possible.
Overweight Dogs: Blame the Breed
Some breeds are prone to obesity, while others (Greyhounds, German Shepherds, Yorkshire Terriers), are typically slim. Small breeds with a propensity for heftiness include:
- Cairn Terriers
- Scottish Terriers
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Cocker Spaniels
- Basset Hounds
- Golden Retrievers
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Saint Bernards
PET TALK: Working out pet weight loss
A healthy diet is integral to successful weight loss in pets.
For pet owners with an overweight animal companion, there can be a difficult balance between wanting to treat a pet and wanting to keep them in the best health possible. However, with moderation and consistency, owners can ensure their pet reaches a healthy weight without discomfort.
Dr. Lori Teller, an associate professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says that a healthy diet is integral to successful weight loss.
Treats, whether specially made for pets or table food, should not make up more than 10% of an animal’s diet, and when given, the calories of a treat should be included in a pet’s total daily intake, she said.
“Healthy treats may include green beans, baby carrots, celery sticks, or apple slices,” Teller said. “There also are other ways to treat pets besides food many pets may be satisfied with some attention, whether that is a game of fetch, a catnip toy, or a chin scratch.
Veterinarians can make recommendations on healthy treat options as well.
Owners with an overweight pet also should consult with their veterinarian to set a weight loss plan that is best for their animal. As a general rule, Teller says that a gradual reduction in body mass is safest.
“Weight loss should be done in a stepwise fashion pets should be weighed monthly to determine if they are losing weight appropriately,” Teller said. “Rapid weight loss can lead to problems, such as liver disease or nutritional imbalances, and weight loss that is too slow prolongs the adverse effects of excess weight to the pet’s health.”
Exercise can also be a healthy tool in promoting weight loss. For dogs, this can include walks, swimming, frisbee, or fetch.
If a dog is resistant to exercise, Teller recommends starting slowly. Taking walks in new areas may help mentally stimulate your dog in new ways, and, as a result, your dog may not even realize that they are going out for exercise.
If your dog is hesitant to get moving, Teller also recommends ruling out underlying health problems that may make exercise painful for them.
“Dogs that are extremely overweight or obese may have an orthopedic problem, such as a torn cruciate ligament or herniated disk, that causes pain or discomfort with exercise,” she said. “Rule out or treat underlying medical problems and talk with your veterinarian about an appropriate exercise plan. Some dogs may benefit from a few sessions of physical therapy to gain better mobility.”
Cats and other non-walkable pets can also benefit from exercise. Cats may be encouraged to move with certain toys, such as a laser pointer. Teller says owners can place the cat’s food in a location where they will have to work to get it, such as on top of a tall cat tree.
“It is possible to train a cat to walk on a leash and go for walks,” she said. “This needs to be done slowly over time, but there are many owners who make this work.”
Just as humans trying to lose weight may find themselves tempted by snacks, pets can also get impatient between meals. Teller recommends breaking a pet’s food into multiple meals throughout the day — anywhere between two and four — and providing food on a regular schedule to reduce hunger.
“One more way that owners can help their pets is to feed the pet’s entire daily food supply in puzzle toys,” Teller said. “This is both mentally and physically stimulating. The pet will need to figure out how to get the food out of the toy. This will also make the pet eat more slowly, thus helping the pet to stay satiated for longer periods of time.”
Although saying no to a begging pet’s puppy dog eyes may be difficult, the health of a beloved pet is well worth the discipline.
“Remember that animals that maintain at a healthy weight throughout their lifetime can live an additional two years over that of an overweight pet,” Teller said. “That two years is worth the effort to keep your pet at a healthy weight!”