If Rover is taking up more space than usual on the couch or seems less willing to chase his favorite squirrel, it may be time for a weigh-in. Your pup has a food drive imposed by ancestors who avoided starvation during lean times by developing an appetite for everything edible. But since the leanest time your typical American pup experiences is you being 5 minutes late getting supper in the bowl, Rover is probably getting more food than he needs. Fortunately, as his personal chef, you can get Rover back to his ideal weight and running laps with the squirrels again.
The Formula for Weight Loss
Rover's weight gain occurs the same way yours does -- eating more calories than he needs causes his body to store the leftovers as fat. To lose pounds, Rover must eat fewer calories or increase his calorie burn. He can do that by changing to a lower calorie food or reducing the portions of his current food. Adding exercise to his day increases his calorie usage and can be as simple as taking a brisk walk with Rover twice a day and playing a rousing game of fetch in the backyard most evenings.
Getting the Portions Right
Quality commercial dog foods generally contain balanced nutrition and the right calorie count for your pup as long as you give him the recommended portion. Measuring carefully will keep Rover from going over his daily dose. It's surprising how small 1 cup of food actually is, and he may drop excess weight quickly if you've been a little too generous with the kibble. Most vets recommend you split his daily portion in half and feed Rover twice, about 12 hours apart. Many brands also make high-performance formulas that have additional calories and fat, intended for herding dogs or other extreme canine athletes. If your pal is more about strolling through the neighborhood than chasing sheep across open pastures, he won't need a high-octane recipe.
Hold the Extras
One of the benefits of having a four-legged family member is his willingness to clean up spills or take care of leftovers during mealtime. But all those tidbits multiplied by three meals a day add quite a few calories to Rover's plate. Toss in a morning and evening store-bought doggy treat and you've probably doubled his daily calorie requirement. Many pups enjoy green beans, crunchy carrots or a strawberry nearly as much as processed, calorie-laden treats. If Rover's not one of them, try cleansing his palate by withholding all treats for a couple of weeks and then reintroducing the healthy snacks.
If your canine buddy is extremely overweight or having difficulty dropping pounds despite all your careful measuring, your vet can check for thyroid disorders or other medical conditions that might slow his metabolism and make it hard for his body to burn calories. If he's healthy other than excess pounds, she may review Rover's diet and exercise plan and tweak as necessary to fit his weight and age, or recommend her preferred brand of low-calorie dog food. You can help the process along by bringing in accurate records of what he eats and how often he exercises.
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