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    Help for Overweight Dogs

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

    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.

    When to Try an Rx for Your Overweight Dog

    If diet and exercise aren’t working, medication could help, but only as a last resort.

    Tams recommends Pfizer Animal Health’s prescription drug Slentrol. "We always try exercise and diet modification first," he says. "But some animals have seen weight loss with Slentrol, which helps to decrease appetite and fat absorption."

    Still Not Losing? Maybe it’s Medical

    If cutting out unhealthy snacks and table scraps, serving diet dog food, increasing physical activity, and medication don’t do the trick, an underlying health condition likely triggered the weight gain. "That’s why consultation with a vet who can perform blood work is so important," Tams says. Your vet will check for:

    • Low thyroid level
    • Hormonal imbalances, such as Cushing’s disease, an excess of adrenal hormones

    Just like people, overweight dogs can face a litany of health issues, so a diet may save your pet’s life. The potentially devastating consequences of obesity include:

    • Trouble breathing
    • Greater risk for heat stroke
    • Pancreatitis
    • Diabetes
    • Orthopedic concerns
    • Compromised immune system
    • Reduction in life span
    • Mammary tumors (particularly in un-spayed females)
    • Skin conditions
    • Heart problems
    • High blood pressure
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