Obesity is an epidemic in pets and people in the US. Many of the same deleterious effects, including insulin resistance, arthritis, respiratory difficulty, inflammatory diseases and shortened life expectancy have been associated with obesity in dogs. The big difference between obese people and obese dogs is that we control how much our dogs eat, so it’s up to us to make the differences that will help our canine family members live long, healthy lives.
If you think your dog is overweight, it’s a good idea to start with a visit to the veterinarian. Have them do a full physical examination and give your pet a body condition score. This ranges from 1 (emaciated) to 9 (grossly obese). Evaluating body condition will help you monitor your dog’s weight loss. The optimal body condition score for a dog is between 4-5. Any dog that has arthritis or any other known orthopedic condition should be kept at a 4. That means you should be able to easily feel the ribs on either side when they are standing straight.
The hardest part about cutting back calories for most owners are the treats. It’s essential to eliminate all unnecessary treats from the diet to cut calories. Your average 50 pound dog has a resting energy requirement of only 800 calories per day. A milkbone contains about 30 calories, so if you give 3-4 daily you are adding a lot! Dieting doggies can get vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, squashes and green beans (low-sodium canned, fresh or frozen, raw or cooked) as treats instead. You can also put some of the base diet in a jar with a piece of beef jerky. The jerky will add a different smell to the diet and make it seem more “treat” like. Be sure to keep track of how many of those treats you give out and subtract them from the evening meal.
You will also most likely have to cut back their base diet by about 20-25%. Unfortunately, over the counter “light” foods often add carbohydrates and do not result in good weight loss. Vegetables can be used to add bulk to this meal and decrease hunger pangs (and subsequent whining and begging) between meals. Dividing the daily food into 3 meals daily may also help. In addition, just like in people, daily exercise is extremely important to meeting your dog’s weight loss goals. Commit to adding 15 more minutes daily. During the hot summer months, be sure to try walk pets in the early morning or late evening to avoid the peak heat and humidity, or try to increase swimming or other cooler temperature activities.
The most important component to weight management in pets is MONITORING! You need to weigh dogs at least once per month to ensure that you are making progress. Your goal is between 0.5 - 2% body weight loss per week. At DIAH we are happy to weigh your pets as often as you like at no charge and enter the weights in our computer so you can track your dog's weight. If you are implementing a consistent set of strategies but your pet is not losing weight, then you may need to pursue some medical diagnostics, such as a test for hypothyroidism, or perhaps obtain a prescription diet that is especially formulated for canine weight loss.
Come see us at the Get Fit Dog Walk, Saturday, August 14, 2010, at 7:00AM for more information!