Weight Control in Dogs

With recent studies showing up to 30% of all British pets are obese, and as we start the new year, it’s time to start thinking about the waistlines of our furry friends.

Unfortunately more and more pets are becoming overweight. This affects mobility, can predispose to diseases like diabetes and arthritis, and can worsen heart disease. It can also affect an animal’s coat condition if they are unable to groom themselves properly.

Over half the dogs we see every year are overweight, many extremely so. Being overweight has some serious consequences for dogs, just as it does for people. In fact, the average lifespan of an obese pet is years shorter than that of pets that stay slim and healthy.

dog at scott vets with food bowl

Weight related diseases include arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, bladder problems and many types of cancer.

Most of our house pets are not very active. Not only are many of them overweight but they also don’t get enough exercise.

So what should we do to help our pets?

Some dogs have higher metabolic rates than others, but for most dogs the recommended feeding amounts on dog food bags/tins is usually too much. If you are feeding a good quality food your dog can often eat much less than the label says and still get all the nutrients necessary for good health. Feed only what your pet needs to maintain a healthy weight.

You should be able to easily feel your dog’s ribs and backbone under his skin. Look for bulges over the hips and around the ribs where excess weight shows up.

Choose a good quality pet food that fits your pet’s lifestyle. If your dog is very active, look for a food made for active dogs. If your pet is lazy, he needs a low calorie food. Limit treats, snacks and table food.

Just as with humans; it doesn’t take many extra treats to tip the scales, especially in small dogs. Avoid processed treats – they are loaded with fat and salt, and are not good for your pet’s teeth. If you must feed treats, give small pieces, or bits of your pet’s regular food. Some dogs enjoy bits of carrot for example – these make perfect low-calorie snacks.

Make sure your dog gets the exercise he needs. If your garden is fenced, let him run all he wants and if he tends to be lazy, get him up and moving with a game of fetching a ball.

To achieve a reasonable amount of weight loss in a reasonable amount of time you usually need to cut back your dog’s food by 25-30%. The easiest way to achieve this is to feed a prescription weight loss diet. These foods are lower in fat and higher in fibre, so you can feed an amount large enough to keep your pet feeling full, while still achieving weight loss.

Most pets become less active with age, so their metabolic needs often go down, as they get older. Decrease their food accordingly. Most senior pets benefit from a food made for senior pets which is lower in fat and salt.

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