How to get an overweight dog in shape?

We love our pets as they are, and we are often ready to turn a blind eye to some of their faults. Our dogs are our soul friends, not fashion icons, and they don’t have to be perfect. Many people even think that a chubby dog looks cuter and happier than a thin one. Do you also think that excess weight is not as harmful to your dog’s health as it is commonly believed? PetsExpert knows that a simple yes or no answer is not enough as this topic requires a more in-depth consideration. It is important to remember that you can’t estimate all dogs the same way. A lot depends on a dog’s breed, its individual characteristics, and its age. However, in general, excess weight is a result of overeating and low activity, and these bad habits are often caused by dogs’ owners. For any dog, those extra pounds may cause any of the following dangerous consequences:

  • Joint and spine issues
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Liver disorders and, as a result, fatty liver disease
  • Endocrine system disorders

So, what do you need to do to avoid these consequences and protect your canine friends? PetsExpert is here to tell you how to keep your dogs healthy and get them into a great shape.

Step 1: Visual assessment

mops overweight dog

Photo: Ezzolo – Shutterstock

The first thing we need to know is: how much weight has your dog gained? The simplest way to find that out is to weigh it! You can easily find a chart with ideal weight limits for every breed online. However, it is important to remember that these charts contain average data, so you still need to visually examine your dog for an exact individual assessment.

You can do so by following these steps:

  • Stand over your dog and look down at its back. You should be able to see a waistline right before its hind legs and a clear taper from its chest to its abdomen.
  • Look at your dog from the side. You should see a taper from its chest to its abdomen, its waist should be clearly defined, and its abdomen should be closer to the spine than its chest.
  • Place your hand on the dog’s ribs. You shouldn’t be able to see them, but easily feel them with your hand.

Please note that a wide and flat back, a sagging abdomen, and an inability to feel the dog’s ribs with your hand – these are all indicators of an excess weight. But don’t panic or try to make any changes on your own. Your next step should be a visit to the vet. Only your vet can say for sure if your dog is overweight and prescribe ways for losing weight.

Step 2: Dietary food

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Has your vet prescribed a special weight loss food for your dog? Don’t worry that your pet wouldn’t like its new diet, as this dietary food does not have to be unappetizing! Dietary dog food does indeed contain less fat, more protein and vegetable fiber, but it is also made from delicious, low-calorie types of meat: turkey, rabbit, and lamb. Dietary dog food is intended to make your dog healthier while keeping it happy, so it will be just as full and active as before.

What should you do if your dog does not eat a dietary dog food? Make sure to make a gradual switch to a new food. It is quite simple to do this: just mix the usual dog food with a new dietary one in 3 to 1 proportions and feed it to your pet for 3 days. During the next 3 days, feed it a mix that contains 50% of each food. Then, change it again: during the last 3 days, give your dog a mix containing only a third of the old food. At the end of those 3 days, your dog won’t even notice the switch to a new food and will gobble it up in no time!

For a better control of your dog’s nutrition, follow these steps:

  • Measure how much your dog eats at each feeding.
  • If you have several pets, separate them when feeding them: it is important for them to eat only their own portions, no more and no less.
  • Keep track of all food and treats that your dog eats during the day.
  • Remember that treats should compose no more than 10% of the total amount of food.
  • Make sure that your dog has enough fresh water to drink.

Step 3: Training

Dog training

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When it’s time to turn to physical activity, remember that your goal shouldn’t be to make your dog do something it doesn’t like, but to teach it to be more active. An answer to this simple question might help:

What does your canine friend like to do?

  1. Does your dog like to fetch toys? Perfect! Find an open area far away from cars and roads. Throw your dog a toy and command it to fetch it. When it does so, reward it with a snack. Let your champion catch its breath and throw the toy again. Gradually increase the distance.
  2.  Does your dog love to dig holes? What a wonderful activity! It can dig holes on a beach, in a field, or in a forest. Encourage your dog by offering it to find a hidden treasure!
  3. Does your dog like to jump? If your dog can jump over obstacles, let it enjoy this activity often. If not, tie an empty plastic bottle with a treat inside to a low tree branch. Your dog will have to sweat a little to get to the delicacy! And it’s important to hang it low enough so that your dog could jump and reach the target here.
  4. Does your dog like to swim? It’s a wonderful exercise to stay healthy and in shape. Swimming in a river, lake, or sea is the best activity for warm weather.

Before starting the training, consider your dog’s age, health, and breed characteristics. Follow these simple recommendations to make sure your chosen training does not harm your dog:

  • Before training, give your dog 20 minutes to calmly do its business, run around, and meet her fellow canines.
  • Do not train your dog in hot weather.
  • Train before meals.
  • Feed your dog no sooner than one hour after the training.
  • Always take enough water for your pet while walking.
  • Stop training at the first signs of fatigue or sickness, namely if you see changes in your dog’s motor coordination or notice a shortness of breath.

The main thing to remember is that physical exercises should be regular and adequate, then your dog will be healthy and happy.

Step 4: Your dog’s age

Photo: eva_blanco – Shutterstock

This article is intended for adult healthy dogs with excess weight. If you have a puppy or an old dog, it is important to remember to make significant adjustments in your weight loss program, taking into account the age of the animal.

  • As a rule, healthy pups are not overweight, and hyperactive games can impede the correct development of a growing dog. Therefore, do not overexert your puppy. And remember that puppies need more food than adult dogs: they need 5 meals a day consisting of a specially balanced feed designed for puppies.
  • Old dogs also require a special mode of training. It is very sad that with age, the mobility of a dog is reduced due to problems with the cardiovascular, respiratory, and hormonal systems. Many also notice that their pets have problems with coordination, vision, hearing, and orientation. But age is not everything! Old dogs can also enjoy moderately active games that are not very tiring.

The main thing is to follow the recommendations of your vet, and if your friend’s health is ok, play with it!Keep in mind that you should control the weight of your dog only under the supervision of a veterinarian. Your vet will choose a perfect plan for training and a healthy diet, taking into account all the specifics of your dog.

If you have any questions about overweight dogs, PetsExpert will be happy to answer them!

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