Has your dog gained weight?
The annual vet check-up can be a nasty shock when you find out your dog’s gained weight and now needs a diet. Extra weight can creep on so gradually that you don’t notice it and it’s not like for us owners, where we notice our clothes getting tighter or that the next size up in the clothes shop is a better fit, with dogs their weight fluctuations aren’t always noticeable unless you are weighing your dog every week and recording it. So no wonder it’s a surprise when your vet suggests a new diet and exercise regime to get back to optimum weight condition.
But how to tackle this extra weight, quickly, efficiently and in a painless way for your dog who of course has no idea he’s nothing short of perfect and will not respond well to being hungry?
The first thing is to do, is not to take drastic action, instead take a look at your dog’s daily routine and see if there are some easy ways to bring up your dog’s activity level. Perhaps the long weekend walks have disappeared as other events have taken over, so try to bring these back in. Or are there errands you’re doing in the car, which could instead be quick walks for you and your dog?
Snacks and treats can be replaced by rewards for good behaviour but given more sparingly. Try out different healthy vegetables and fruits (avoiding leeks, onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms which are harmful to dogs) to bulk out smaller meals if needed or to tide your dog over to dinner time.
Healthy food is important too, a low fat, high fibre diet is the best for weight loss and condition, Dr John Silver with 6% fat and whole grain cereals is ideal for weight loss or dogs prone to weight gain.
Weigh each meal out and start reducing by small amounts 5-10g if you are overfeeding or if weight loss slows. Keep meal times calm and quiet to encourage good digestion and try a slow feeder if your dog is a fast eater.
Getting your dog back to shape might take more time than you think, as just like for us, the extra weight is much harder to lose than gain, and your dog may not be that willing participant in the new regime! For a realistic goal, veterinary weight clinics typically recommend trying to lose 1% a week until your dog reaches a healthy weight and condition.