More than half of America’s dogs can be classified as overweight (source). This is alarming because overweight pets are more susceptible to a host of health problems like diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis, and typically have a shorter lifespan.
To determine whether your dog might be overweight, Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, offers this tip: ”move your palms over your dog’s ribcage and back. You should be able to feel some definition of their ribs and spine but they should not be too bumpy. If you have to press inwards to feel bones, he may be too heavy.”
Of course, you should also check with your vet about your concerns over your pet’s weight.
To get started on a sensible weight loss plan for your pet, follow these strategies:
- Portion control at meal time
- Reduce calories from treats
- Give more exercise opportunities
How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
1. Portion control at meal time
The first step to help your dog lose weight is reducing calorie intake. Chances are, your dog needs less food than you think. Feeding guidelines on dog food bags tend to overestimate portion sizes, too. Use a measuring cup for precise portioning.
You may also need switch foods. Many commercial dog foods are full of fillers like corn, soy, or potatoes that increase calories but not nutrition, leaving your dog with inefficient energy and excess waste. Consider switching to a higher-quality, high-protein food. See this article for more on switching out your dog’s food.
2. Reduce calories from treats
Using food as a reward in training is important, but watch the calories. Use mini-treats designed for training, or break treats into bite-sized pieces. Also, don’t give your dog a treat unless it’s a part of training and designed to reinforce a desired behavior. If you are using treats frequently for training or in puzzle toys, reduce the calories your dog is receiving at meal times.
While dogs are often food-motivated, you don’t necessarily need to use treats as a reward every time. Try offering a quick game of tug-o-war, an enthusiastic “good boy!”, or a belly rub. Be sure to let your pet sitter or dog walker know about this, as well.
Some of our favorite lower-calorie training treats include:
- Zuke’s Mini Naturals (6-pack for $23)
- Blue Buffalo Bits (4-pack for $25)
- Wellness Soft Puppy Bites (2-pack for $14)
- Natural Balance Mini Rewards (3-pack for $27)
- CloudStar Tricky Trainers (2-pack for $20)
- Charlee Bear Treats (3-pack of 16-oz. bags for $26)
3. More exercise opportunities
Adding more exercise to your pet’s daily routine will not only help with weight loss, but also reduces problem behaviors and provide important mental stimulation. If your schedule doesn’t allow for daily walks, be sure to enlist the help of a dog walker. In some cities, you can even get one on-demand—within the hour!
Helping your dog get in shape can be as simple as picking up the pace on your daily walks. You’ll want to increase activity slowly. Start by extending your morning and evening walks by a few blocks, increasing pace and distance gradually.
Increase activity slowly.
If you have limited mobility, try a game that will get your dog moving while you stay relatively still, such as fetch or hide-and-seek. A trip to the dog park is also a great chance to let your dog run free while you watch.
Swimming is a wonderful option for dogs with joint problems (or any dog who loves the water). If you have the resources, consider visiting a veterinary physical therapy center with an underwater treadmill. Canine hydrotherapy takes pressure off of suffering joints, and is a lot of fun.
If winter weather makes walking harder, consider outfitting your dog with some sturdy, cozy gear designed for chilly days and nights. Check out this post for winter weather must-haves for your dog.
Patience is key. There are no quick fixes for canine obesity. Don’t expect changes overnight, but stay the course. Fortunately, with a few meaningful changes, it’s not difficult to help a dog get in shape. All it takes is consistency and time. As an added bonus, your fitness might just improve alongside your pet’s!
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you decide to buy something when you click one, we may receive a small commission. Click here to learn more.