Managing an Overweight Dog Through Diet

Those pleading eyes, that non-stop whine-it's hard to resist an overweight dog. But obesity causes joint pain, heart problems and a shortened lifespan, so it's important to return your dog to a healthy weight.

How Overweight Is Your Dog?

First, decide if your dog is truly overweight. Run your hands along her ribcage. If you are not able to locate your dog's ribcage, you've got an overweight dog. You should be able to feel-but not see-individual ribs.

If your dog seems to be fighting a battle of the bulge, it's time to design an overweight dog diet. Before you rush out and buy a special weight loss food, look at your current feeding patterns.

  • Are you measuring the food you give your dog?
  • Are you counting treats and snacks as part of her rations?
  • Is your dog sneaking food from another source? Neighbors? The cat?

Smaller Portions of High Quality Ingredients

Trimming down may be as simple as measuring food, cutting out treats and moving the cat bowl. Read your food labels and follow the feeding guidelines for your dog's target weight, not her current weight.

Ideally, feed your dog twice a day. This will keep her belly full and help her metabolize her food throughout the day.

If these measures don't work, shop for high-quality overweight management dog food. Most brands will have reduced calories and fat as well as higher amounts of fiber.

Meat Should Be Primary Ingredient

Look for a brand that contains a named meat as its primary protein. Avoid foods that simply add inexpensive and potentially allergenic fillers such as corn, wheat and soy.

An easy way to add bulk and fiber to your dog's diet is through the addition of vegetables. Many dogs readily accept carrots, green beans, peas and squash. Fruits such as apples, melon and banana are tasty, healthful and low calorie additions, too.

If treats are a big part of your dog's diet, consider switching to one of the many popular treats for overweight dogs. They can take the edge of your dog's hunger. Don't limit yourself to packaged treats; some dogs enjoy a carrot chunk snack. Cut carrots small enough to safely swallow or large enough to require chewing. Presented with enthusiasm, your dog may come to prefer veggie treats over dry biscuits.

All dogs require exercise to stay fit and trim. A sedentary lifestyle will put pounds on your dog and may lead to weight-related illnesses like arthritis and diabetes. If your dog is very overweight, start your exercise program slowly, building up to at least two size-suitable walks per day.

Unexplained Weight Gain

If your dog is experiencing unexplained weight gain-if her feeding and exercise routines have not changed but she's still putting on weight-speak to your veterinarian. Hypothyroidism, a treatable hormonal condition, can cause weight gain.

Warning: If your dog suddenly develops a "pot belly," it could be a serious condition. Abdominal distention can be a sign of bloat, liver disease or cancer.

Putting your overweight dog on a diet will improve her health and may extend her life. Measure her food carefully and ignore those pleading eyes-it's for her own good!