Obesity and weight loss thread

Thread started in order to share information and tips re keeping dogs at their correct weight.
Pet Obesity (University of Minnesota) contains some useful and a diagram to help assess body condition.

We have a number of threads about obesity and weight loss so I will gather some of the information into this designated thread for easy access. Those threads can be found by using the search box at the top of the Board Index. The term ‘weight loss’ will bring up relevant ones.

These are just general guidelines, some of which I have found helpful in the past.

Psychological aspects:
It’s useful to address why a dog has become obese. Lack of exercise is one aspect. Many pet owners find pleasure in feeding their dog, especially if it enjoys eating. Before dieting a dog it is worth thinking carefully about the health problems that can occur due to obesity. In addition it can shorten it’s life. A quick Internet search will reveal the negative effects of obesity. If the owner can take this on board it will increase motivation and make helping the dog to achieve a healthy weight much easier. Many dogs scrounge and if yours does this, you may need to develop strategies for dealing with it. At meal times it is kinder to shut the dog in another room rather than be tempted to feed it. If there is someone in the house who is persistently feeding the dog then that has to be tackled. It is kinder not to be tempted to use the dog as a receptacle for meal leftovers.

How do you know your dog is overweight?
Sometimes it is quite obvious that the dog is overweight but it can be subjective. Regularly using body condition scoring as a tool is helpful; there are many charts and videos about the subject on the Internet. Example 1 and Example 2 I also weigh my dogs from time to time because I know what the correct weight is for them but with mixed breeds it is not always as straightforward.

Weighing food
When starting out on a diet it is essential to weigh food so you know exactly what is going into your dog’s mouth. Digital scales will give better accuracy - Example. Other reasons why weighing is important:

  • The owner overestimates the amount of food that the dog actually needs. The owner will not have to judge this if the food is weighed properly.
  • If weight loss is not occurring on any given amount of food it is necessary to reduce it by 10%. If it hasn’t been weighed in the first place the owner will not be able to do this correctly.
    Manufacturers’ RDAs (recommended daily allowance) are frequently higher than necessary. When starting out on a diet, it might be helpful to choose the bottom figure for the size and weight of your dog and take off 10%. If the dog does not begin to lose weight, it can be reduced again by 10%. Once the weight starts coming off stick with that quantity but continue to weigh the food.

Aims of dieting
Just as the weight crept on slowly and gradually, the pet owner needs to aim for a slow, steady reduction. Sometimes veterinary surgeries run weight loss clinics and these can be helpful to increase motivation and get advice. Also the dog will be weighed regularly so you know you are going in the right (or wrong) direction.

Exercise can improve the speed at which weight is lost and improve fitness but it is inadvisable to increase exercise markedly, at least at first. Over exercising, particularly energetic exercise is likely to strain the dog and can lead to other health problems, especially if they are unfit. Continue with moderate, gentle exercise. Giving the correct type and amount of food is better for the dog long term.

My personal view is that if a dog is getting a good quality diet, treats should not be necessary. In fact regularly giving treats could perhaps increase the dog’s fixation on food. If the owner wishes to continue with treats, reduce the food slightly to take account of this and choose low calorie ones.

Types of food:
There are many types foods that claim to help with weight loss. They are often labelled as ‘light’ or similar. If the dog is doing well on it’s current food there should be no reason to change. Simply reducing the amount and not giving anything else should effect weight loss.

A dog that is dieting needs higher levels of good quality, digestible protein so that it does not lose muscle. Fat can be a problem so look for a product that does not have high amounts of fat.

To simplify matters, it can be helpful not to mix foods because it can add calories. If dry food is given then it is alright to enhance it with cooked, low fat protein and non starchy cooked, mashed vegetables but don’t add carbohydrate and reduce the food slightly to take this into account. Link.

Please share experiences if you have successfully dieted your dog.

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That’s a really helpful post Dottie. Thank you for putting it together.

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There is a short article on obesity/joint health in pets by My Pet Nutritionist - Obesity and Musculoskeletal Health in Dogs. There is mention of the pet owner’s perception of what is a healthy weight. I have experienced this myself when I compared my two with two overweight dogs that we met in the park (similar breed). Mine looked a bit skinny but actually their body condition is just about perfect. Sometimes people don’t actually realize that their dog is overweight, especially if they rarely see dogs who have a healthy weight.

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Useful blog from My Pet Nutritionist website: Top Tips to Help Your Dog Lose Weight.