Too much food and too little exercise can pack extra pounds onto your dog. But there are steps you can take to help trim him down.
How to Tell if Your Dog Is Overweight
Before you start a diet plan for your dog, you need to know if he's really overweight. Try these simple do-it-yourself tests:
Feel his backbone and ribs. "If the spine and ribs are difficult to feel, the dog is overweight," says David Gonsky, DVM. He's the medical director of West Loop Veterinary Care in Chicago.
Look at him from the side. His stomach should be raised. A sagging stomach is a sign that he's carrying extra pounds.
Get a view from the top. Looking down at him from above, you should see a "waist," or inward curves, between the back of his rib cage and his hips.
Tips for Losing Weight
Try these tips to help your dog shed pounds and get healthier.
Exercise more. Exercise burns calories and reduces appetite. Take him for an extra walk or start a game of fetch.
Be playful. Toss around balls, Frisbees, squeaky toys, and other dog toys to get him excited about moving around. Shoot for 10 to15 minutes of exercise, twice a day.
Reduce portion size. "Table food, treats, or even just generous portions of regular meals can lead to weight gain," Gonsky says.
If he's eating large servings of food, cut them down a little each day until you reach an appropriate portion size.
"Use an actual measuring cup to measure your pet's food, not just a cup out of the cabinet," says Thomas Watson, DVM. He's a veterinarian at Carolinas Veterinary Medical Hospital in Charlotte, N.C.
Cut back on treats. You may not realize how many extra calories you're giving your dog when you toss him a treat.
"Reducing the number of treats given in a day greatly helps," Watson says.
Give him half of what he's used to, and then reduce it even more over a few days. Or swap typical dog treats for healthy foods like carrots, green beans, or rice cakes. "These healthy treats are low in calories and can be beneficial to your dog," Gonsky says.
Feed him more often. "Multiple small meals are better than one large meal a day," Watson says. That's because it keeps your dog's blood sugar level steadier throughout the day, so his body is less likely to store extra calories.
Don't leave food out. Many dogs don't know how to self-regulate. Instead of leaving dog food out all day, feed your pup at specific times. After about 15 minutes, take away whatever's left over. But keep his water dish out all day so he has plenty of fresh drinking water, Gonsky says.
Choose the right food. Instead of buying any over-the-counter "light" dog food, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. He or she knows your pup and can determine the best ingredients and portion size.
Keep him out of the kitchen. Table scraps and food that accidentally falls onto the floor can be tempting and tack on pounds. Keep him in another room while you cook and eat so he'll be less fixated on your food and won't take in extra calories.
Remember the age-old formula. "The bottom line for pets and weight is the same as it is for people: diet and exercise," Gonsky says. When in doubt, keep this rule of thumb in mind.