If you want to help your dog lose weight, you’re not alone. Does this sound familiar?
“Ralph has gained ten pounds since her last visit,” the vet said to me. “That’s not good.”
I couldn’t believe it. Ralph had always been a healthy, active dog. Sure, she had been slowing down a bit in her advancing age, and I had noticed her looking a little more robust lately, but ten pounds?
The vet reassured me that it was common for older dogs to gain weight, but I felt like I had failed my dog. Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I knew I would have to make some changes to help Ralph get back in shape. These were the vet’s top tips to help my dog lose weight:
- Cut back on kibble
- Reward with fun, not food
- Provide extra exercise opportunities
- Be patient
More than half of America’s dogs can be classified as overweight. While having a few extra pounds is not an immediate death sentence for your dog, the fact is, overweight pets have a diminished quality of life, and are more susceptible to a host of health problems like diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis.
Helping your dog maintain an appropriate weight can improve and extend your life together. These tips will help you help your dog trim down the healthy way. And of course, for safety’s sake, remember to consult a veterinarian before implementing a weight loss plan.
4 Tips to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
1. Cut back on kibble
Too many calories in + too little energy out = one rotund doggy! 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, so consider cutting back. Use a measuring cup for precise portioning. You may also need to change your dog’s main source of calories.
Most commercial dog foods are full of fillers that increase calories but not nutrition, leaving your dog with inefficient energy and excess waste. Consider switching to a grain-free, high-protein food instead.
A high-quality kibble can help your dog achieve maximum fitness by giving her just the right amount of nutrition and energy, without empty calories to slow her down.
2. Reward with fun, not food
If you already feed your dog a high-quality food, it’s possible you’re giving her a few too many treats throughout the day.
I know how tempting it can be to toss your dog a bone just for being cute, but as they say: “Food is not love!”
It’s fine to use food as a reward in training, but use high-protein treats broken into small pieces to avoid over-feeding. Also, don’t give your dog a treat unless she earns it. Better yet, start introducing non-food rewards. Try offering a round of fetch instead of a french fry, or a belly rub in place of some pork belly. Be sure to let your pet sitter or dog walker know about this, as well.
Of course, compromise may be necessary. My father loves to sneak bites of his steak to my dogs, and despite frequent reprimands, he will not be deterred. I can’t teach an old Dad new tricks, but I can cut back on kibble in the bowl when I know the dogs are getting extra calories under the table.
3. Make ’em pant
Hitting the gym can feel like a chore to us humans, but for dogs, it’s all in good fun! Introducing more exercise into your husky hound’s daily routine will not only help her lose weight, but keep her mind active.
You should aim for fifteen minutes of strenuous activity two times per day. You don’t have to enroll in a fancy canine aerobics class, though they do exist, of course. Helping your dog get in shape can be as simple as picking up the pace on your daily walks.
To help your dog lose weight, you’ll want to increase activity slowly. Start by extending your morning and evening walks by a few blocks, increasing pace and distance as you both become more fit.
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-go-seek. Hydration matters for dogs as much as it does for humans, so as your dog exercises, make sure she gets plenty of water.
And speaking of water: swim therapy is a great option for dogs with joint problems brought on by aging or excessive weight. A plain old swimming pool or pond will do for most water-motivated dogs, but if you have the resources, consider visiting a veterinary physical therapy center with an underwater treadmill. Canine hydrotherapy encourages movement, takes pressure off of suffering joints, and as a bonus, it’s a lot of fun.
4. Slow and steady trims the waist
As I learned when my dog Ralph was “suddenly” ten pounds too heavy, weight gain doesn’t happen overnight, and neither does weight loss. It took about six months for Ralph to reach her ideal weight again, and I have to remain mindful to ensure she stays there.
Dogs with more extreme obesity will need more time and attention to trim down. There are no quick fixes for canine obesity, but the truth is, it’s really not difficult to help a dog get in shape. All it takes is consistency and time. Remember: gradual, habitual changes have the most impact, so focus on making lifestyle changes that integrate exercise and a healthy dog diet into the daily routine.
You can help your dog lose weight! If you need some inspiration, look to our old friend Obie the dachshund. Once dangerously obese, Obie is now a trim, healthy dog with many years ahead of him. If this sausage dog can do it, so can yours!
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.