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Help for Overweight Dogs

How to create a doggie diet for weight loss and good nutrition.
(continued)

Putting Your Dog on a Diet

After you’ve verified that your furry friend needs to slim down, consider everything he eats on a daily basis. "Do an honest assessment, covering all treats and snacks, including those given by other family members, neighbors, dog sitters, and dog walkers," Murray says. "You may find all you need to do is cut these out."

You don’t need to nix treats altogether. "Be realistic -- if you or your family likes to give them, it's unlikely that a no-treat policy will succeed," Murray says. "Choose healthy alternatives, such as veggies or rice cakes, and decide at the beginning of each day exactly how many the dog is allowed; put this amount in a bowl, and when they're gone, they're gone."

Another tactic to try is reducing portions. Murray recommends immediately cutting daily food intake by 15% to 20% for a six- to eight-week period, then analyzing the results. Additionally, your veterinarian can calculate the exact amount of calories your pet needs per day to lose weight based on his current size, ideal body weight, energy level, and general health.

Don’t Give In to Begging

If your overweight dog whines and cries for more food, hold firm. "That causes a lot of owners to buckle," Tams says.

Murray says: "Your dog will certainly whine if he knows that will get him more treats and snacks." If you’re serving the correct portion, more food will only contribute to weight issues.

Diet Dog Food: Making the Switch

If you've tried all these things and they haven't done the trick, it may be time for diet dog food.

Gimeno attributes certain brands of chow and lack of exercise to Lolita’s weight problem. And because smaller breeds are more susceptible to heart failure, she decided to visit her veterinarian and take action.

With a diet of organic brands, such as Newman’s Own and AvoDerm, and more walks in the park, Lolita shed her excess weight. Both Murray and Tams advocate this type of dog diet.

Consult your vet on the right food for your canine. Factors such as size, age, and overall health dictate the type or brand. Your vet may even suggest a prescription dog food.

"Some diet foods that are higher in certain types of fiber can help a dog feel fuller while ingesting fewer calories," Murray says. If you decide to switch to diet dog food, do so slowly, each day mixing in more and more of the healthier fare.

Get Your Overweight Dog Exercising

Exercise is as important for pets as it is for people. If you don’t have the time, hire a dog walker or a teenager looking for some extra cash.

"Doggy day care centers are a great option if everyone is gone during the day," Tams says. "Your dog can run and play all day long."

Tams advocates 10-15 minutes of activity several times per day. If you live in a hot area, exercise early in the morning or late at night. For heavier dogs with joint problems or those that overheat easily, swimming is a great alternative.

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