Tips for Getting the Weight Off Obese Dogs

by on March 7th, 2015
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Obesity, as in people, is a growing problem in the domestic animal world. And while being rolly polly may be cute, obesity is leading to all sorts of problems for our pets. Diabetes, arthritis and serious orthopedic disease have all been linked to obesity and are on the rise in our pets. With pets living longer as well, we need to make sure we are helping them maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle for those extra years.

We all know what we need to do to keep our pets at optimal weight, and your veterinary surgeon can help you determine the right regimen to keep your pet fit. The problem is when the dog in question is already fat and it’s causing them health issues. This is where we need to rise to challenge and get the weight off. Just like in people it will not be an easy battle, but there are things we can do to make it easier.

Here are a few tips to get your pet back on track:

Treats: It’s a habit. Not just their habit, but ours too. They know you are a soft touch and they target you. Or they have been genuinely good and you want to reward them for it. Whatever the reason, we have to remember that we are in control of what our pet eats (for the most part). And that goes for treats. Therefore, if your pet is getting a lot of tid bits from the table in the evening or the milk bone box is always running dry, there is only one person to blame. And when I say person, I am not referring to the dog.

The problem with store-bought treats is that we don’t really take them into account when we are trying to help out pet lose weight. But the treats alone could be undoing any of our good works in helping our pet lose weight. Therefore, you have two options. Either abstain from treats completely, or adapt your treat giving.

There are a number of alternative ways to give your dog treats. The simplest option is to take kibble from their daily feed ration and use this for treats. They will get their reward but it will be part of his daily allowance. If you want something different, you can always substitute carrots or other vegetables for treats. Vegetables will provide fibre, roughage but little in the way of calories. Many dogs enjoy the addition of carrots, peas or broccoli. (AVOID onions, garlic, grapes and raisins, as these can be toxic to dogs). Another option is to bake your own biscuit treats. There are a number of dog friendly options on line, but make sure you keep an eye on its caloric content and factor that into your diet.

For the dog that is begging, ice cubes can be an alternative treat. A lot of dogs will play with the ice cubes and they are calorie free. If you dog turns his nose up at the suggestion, well he didn’t really need a fatty treat anyway. Its tough love, I know, but between meal snacking isn’t going to help them. For dogs that are begging for food, if you are currently feeding them once a day consider splitting their meal to twice daily to improve their satiation.

Exercise: Just like people exercise and increased activity is a good way to get the weight off and obese dog. This may mean increasing the length or frequency of daily walks or even engaging in some playtime with your pet. Be it tug-o-war or a good game of fetch, getting your dog moving will help get the calories burning. In addition, it will refocus your dog’s energies on something other then his food dish and get you away from those “puppy dog eyes” begging for treats in the house. Furthermore, exercise will mentally stimulate your dog, as well as wear him out. So, hopefully with some good old fashion exercise you can break the cycle of a sedentary treat seeking lifestyle.

Of course, there will be a number of obese pets that aren’t ideal candidates for intense exercising. Often arthritic dogs, and those with poor joints from an early age can be the victim of obesity. Owners find themselves in a catch 22, wanting to get the weight off their pet for better orthopaedic health but being unable to significantly exercise their pet. In these cases, persistence is key. Exercise should still be implemented but must be tailored to what that dog can achieve without subsequent pain. In this vein, swimming should be considered. Swimming can be a good low-impact exercise that can allow these dogs to exercise without further damaging their joints. Speak to your veterinarian to see if swimming would be an exercise option for your pet.

Veterinary Nurse Clinics: The availability of veterinary nurse clinics for obese patients will vary from veterinary practice to veterinary practice. But it is an option to consider. Most clinics are free for patients of the practice, and these clinics can provide you the support you need for getting you pet down to a proper weight.

Nurses will help you monitor your pet’s weight, while advising you on making feeding plans and exercise regimes. They will be your cheerleaders when the going gets tough. You don’t have to do it alone, and they are there to help. So, if the task is daunting get in touch with your veterinary practice rather than give up.

Remember, you have the advantage in this weight control regime. You determine how, when, and what your pet eats. You decide the number of treats and the amount of exercise. Your pet’s life is in firmly in your hands. Help your pet get the most out of it.

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