Overcoming canine obesity

Helping your dog stay trim

To determine whether your dog is overweight, stand over him and check for a waist— there should be a visible indentation behind his ribs.

Obesity is the most common canine nutritional disease in this country, occurring in up to 25% of dogs. While the many problems associated with weight gain are frightening, it's reassuring to know that by keeping your dog at a reasonable weight, you can reduce his chances of diabetes, heart disease, orthopaedic problems, and possibly even cancer.

To determine whether your dog is overweight, stand over him and check for a waist— there should be a visible indentation behind his ribs. All dogs, regardless of breed should have a waist. Then give him a hands-on test. Can you feel his ribs? They shouldn't be sticking out, but you should be able to find them through a layer of skin and muscle, and be able to easily count them. If all you feel is rolls of fat, it's time to begin a diet and exercise plan.

Feed your dog properly

If you feed your dog a prepared pet food, the label on the package will provide a guideline as to how much to feed daily. These recommendations are a guideline only and you should make adjustments according to your dog's individual needs. Don't forget to take into account the calories in treats and other titbits he eats—they shouldn't make up more than 10% of his daily calorie intake.

Get enough exercise

Try to exercise your dog as much as he is able. The more muscle he maintains, the more calories he'll burn and less fat he'll carry. Not only that, but when you fill his time with fun activities, he'll spend less time hanging around the food bowl. This increased activity won't just benefit your dog, it will benefit you.

Simple weight loss tips

  • Instruct family members and visitors not to give your dog any treats or table scraps.
  • Don't give your dog one heaping bowl of food that he can eat whenever he wants. Instead, give him two to four small measured meals a day so you can regulate his portions.
  • Start keeping a record of your dog's weight. If possible, weigh him once a week.
  • If you have more than one dog, feed them separately. That way, your overweight dog won't have access to that "second helping."
  • To keep him from begging for food, feed your dog before you have your own meals.
  • If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, make sure that all of your garbage cans have secure covers. (That applies to indoor garbage cans, too!)
  • Keep lots of clean, fresh water available.

Finally, be sure to take your dog to your veterinarian for a check-up and expert advice. Your vet may give you guidelines on exercise appropriate for your dog's age and health as well as specific advice on how much he should be eating. He can also check for, and treat, any weight-related problems.

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