7 Tips to Slim Down Your Overweight Dog

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A very overweight dog sits down.

By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats.

Does your dog display more waddle than wiggle? Nearly half of the world’s beloved pets are overweight or obese. Extra pounds in dogs hikes their risk for developing diabetes, respiratory and arthritic conditions. Sadly, these are often chronic, incurable and generally preventable diseases.

The root cause for pet obesity is guilt. Far too many people feel guilty that they live busy lives and don’t have time to walk or exercise their pets, so they show their love by doling out too much food and too many treats. Pet obesity starts at the food bowl.

To curb chow hound tendencies and shed excess pounds gradually but steadily off your dog, try these tactics:

1. Smile, doggy.
Help your dog slim down smartly by taking a “before” photo of her and put this photo in a visible place such as on your refrigerator door. Start a food diary and weigh your dog once every week.

2. Set realistic weight-loss goals.
It’s best for a dog to lose only a few ounces per week (or a pound or so for large breeds) so that the excess weight comes off gradually and doesn’t return. Don’t cut back too quickly. In dogs, the dangers of “crash dieting” can lead to hepatic lipidosis, more commonly known as fatty liver disease.

3. Count the kibble.
Feeding as little as 10 extra pieces of kibble per day would add one pound of weight in a year in your small dog who weighs 10 pounds. So, use a measuring cup at meal times.

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4. Scheduled feedings.
Opt for scheduled feedings instead of free feeding. Instead of filling up your dog’s bowl whenever it is empty, use a measuring cup and portion out your dog’s daily meals twice a day. If you are unable to be home at a specific mealtime, consider buying a timed self-feeder that can dispense controlled portions of kibble at designated times.

5. Champion the can.
Canned food is what veterinarians regard as a close-calorie environment because you know precisely how many calories are in a can. Canned foods also tend to benefit dogs because of moisture content, higher fat and protein and lower carbohydrate content than found in some dry foods.

6. Stick with simple food choices.
When it comes to selecting healthy treats, look for ones with a single ingredient listed such as sweet potato, blueberry, salmon flakes or dehydrated beef lung. If the label’s list of ingredients read like a chemistry equation, avoid this product. These treats contain additives, preservatives and way too many calories.

7. Five questions.
Play the five-question game with your veterinarian. “To keep tabs on your dog’s health, ask your veterinarians these questions: What should I feed my pet? How much should I feed my pet? How much exercise does my pet need? What types of exercises are best for my pet? What vaccines does my pet need and why? Remember, for the health of your pet, you need an open relationship with your veterinarian.

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