It is estimated that roughly 40% of dogs in the United States are over-weight. That trend of obesity matches the trend we Americans have toward being over-weight. If your dog is fat, or over-weight, there is usually only one reason. We over-feed our pets just as we over-feed ourselves.
Chloe is a 9 year old Chocolate Labrador. She is what is commonly called an English Lab. That means that she is larger and stockier than what is known as an American Labrador. She has the normal Labrador personality. She is lovable, friendly and cheerful. Chloe definitely loves to eat. Nothing will put her off her appetite. Any food left unattended becomes fair game for her. Unfortunately, she is what I would call a low-energy dog. She is content to lie around in a patch of sunlight for hours, just sleeping away her day. This means that she consumes far more calories than she needs.
When Chloe tipped the scale at my vet’s office at a whopping 98 pounds, I finally decided that I had to do something drastic. My loveable Chocolate Labrador was not going to live much longer if she continued to carry around all of that excess weight. I experimented with methods to help her to lose weight and put together what I found that worked for me.
Measure food carefully
I was limited on my choices when it came to switching to a healthy weight formula dog food. I have other dogs and we have experiences with food allergies. I continued feeding the same food and reduced the amount that Chloe was eating.
Carefully measure out the usual amount of food that you normally feed your dog on a daily basis. If you feed twice a day, or whatever your normal feeding schedule is, make sure that you include the same amount for each meal. Add all of this together.
When I started this new feeding plan, Chloe was eating twice each day and receiving 2 cups of food at each feeding, which made a total of 4 cups of dog food each day.
Reduce the daily amount of food and feed smaller meals more frequently
When you have a total amount of food for one day, reduce it by 1/4. Chloe was receiving 4 cups of food each day. I reduced it by 1/4 to make it 3 cups per day. Most dogs are receiving far more calories in their daily meals than they need.
I watched my daughter shed pounds very quickly by using a process of eating smaller and healthier meals more frequently, and that gave me the idea to use the same principle with my over-weight dog. Divide the total amount of food by 3 and feed that smaller amount 3 times a day instead of two. Just as people are advised to eat smaller meals more frequently, so should dogs.
Eliminate table food, and unhealthy treats
It’s very tempting to give our dogs little bites of everything we eat. Generally, in a household where you find an overweight dog, you will notice that dog being fed tidbits and scraps from the table. This is not healthy for our dogs. It’s hard to resist the sad begging eyes, and forlorn expressions our favored pets give us when we are eating. Feed your dog her meal when you sit down to eat and she will be too busy with her own food to beg for yours.
Dogs are creatures of habit, and it does not take long for a habit to form. You can also be rid of a bad habit like begging almost as quickly. When you stop offering the tidbits from your plate, it won’t take long before she will stop expecting them.
Exercise is an important step in any weight loss program, for our dogs and for us. If your dog is very obese, you will need to start the exercise out slowly and gradually build up. Your dog needs to gradually build up her stamina and energy. Short walks are a good way to start your exercise program. It is ideal to go for a short walk with your dog every day, but if you can’t manage that, try for at least 3 times a week.
A good way to work in some painless exercise is to throw a ball for your dog in your backyard. Dog parks are also excellent ideas for places to get some exercise. Movement is the key to weight-loss. Your dog needs to be active to burn off the calories and avoid weight gain.
It’s ok to give your dog treats, but you need to make sure they are healthy treats. Remember that every treat your dog receives adds calories to her diet. Give smaller treats instead of a large dog biscuit. Chloe is a large Labrador, and I buy dog treats made for small dogs. Chloe is satisfied with that treat, and she doesn’t get the huge amount of calories that a large dog treat would have.
Your dog will live a longer and healthier life with less pain in her joints as she gets older if you help her to lose weight now. If you have a low energy dog, as I do, you will see a noticeable increase in her activity level as she loses weight.
More by R.E. Roe