Is my dog overweight? What should I do?

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It was my dog’s groomer that brought it to my attention: my Labradoodle, Murphy, had just gotten a sleek trim for summer when the groomer and I were chatting.

“He sure is a big boy,” she said.

“I know!” I said with pride. One of the largest Labradoodles I’ve seen, he’s just a few inches shorter than I am when he stands on his hind legs.

“Um, big, like sort of round, I mean,” said the groomer.

Uh oh. Was my dog fat? A trip to the scales confirmed that he had gained almost 20 pounds since last fall. How had I let this happen?

Considering the rate of obesity in America, it’s not surprising to learn that up to 40% of our dogs and cats may be overweight, contributing to obesity-related pet illnesses and increased veterinary costs.

If your veterinarian thinks your pet is overweight, make sure they evaluate the pet’s thyroid function. Hypothyroidism is a common cause of flabby tabbies and pudgy pooches alike.

Does your overweight dog have normal thyroid function? Are they physically healthy? Ruling out other factors, they are probably eating more food than they need, plain and simple.

Your vet will be able to give the best advice on getting Rex back into shape, but here are a few points to remember:

  • Make sure you are feeding your dog a quality kibble; be sure to consult your veterinarian on your pet food selection. Often, grocery-store dog foods don’t supply all the nutrients your dog needs, and they overeat to try and satisfy their body’s demands for nutrition.
  • If you are already feeding a high quality, meat-based food, you may need to reduce the dog’s food ration by a third. This should include their regular meals as well as any snacks or treats you give them.
  • Your vet may also recommend that you supplement your dog’s diet with a vitamin/mineral/fatty acid product. This could further help to satisfy their hunger by satisfying their nutritional needs.
  • With normal aging, dogs will begin to burn calories more slowly. Don’t be surprised if your dog requires less food as he or she gets older.
  • Consider mixing cooked, unseasoned vegetables, such as broccoli, into your pet’s meals. This will provide a feeling of fullness without too many calories.
  • Try not to feed your dog table scraps. Human food is often packed with spices, salt, or fat, which can cause stomach distress in pets and could lead to serious health problems.
  • Make sure everyone in your house agrees to follow your pet’s new regimen. All it takes to ruin the dog’s weight loss plan is one family member who sneaks them extra food or snacks. Instead, they should take the pet for a walk or a run to burn off a few calories.
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In short, if you provide high quality, meat-based food, control the amount fed, provide more exercise, and be persistent, you’ll help your pet live a longer, leaner and more enjoyable life.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Murphy and I have a date with a leash and a sidewalk.

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