Feeding your dog is one of the ways you communicate care and affection, but if your pooch is starting to look more like a beach ball than the lean mean barking machine he once was, he might be getting too much of a good thing. Carrying around excess weight stresses his heart and puts him at an increased risk of developing other health problems. A canine weight-reduction diet should focus on choosing nutritious foods without overfeeding.
Fit vs. Fat
The ideal shape for most breeds, according to “Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals,” is one where you can feel the dog’s ribs with light hand pressure but not see them unless the dog is in motion. If you look at your dog from the top, he should have a slight hourglass shape. From the side, you should see a concave abdominal tuck. With longhair breeds, it can be tough to visually determine a dog’s body shape unless he’s sopping wet, so use your hands and feel your dog’s body contours. If you can’t feel his ribs without increased pressure, if he has a hefty appearance, a broad back, a plump abdomen or fat deposits over his spine – he might benefit from a weight-reduction diet.
Choosing a Healthy Commercial Dog Food
You’ve heard that you should feed a “high quality dog food,” but what does that mean? Cheap dog foods contain large amounts of low-cost fillers, which fill your dog up but don’t provide any nutritive value. According to veterinarian Dr. Donna Spector, a good weight-reduction dry dog food should contain more than 29 percent protein, and less than 16 percent fat. Canned dog food should have more than 40 percent protein and less than 23 percent fat. The higher protein content is essential for helping your dog feel full. Calories also play a vital role. Choose a dog food with no more than 350 calories in 1 cup of dry kibble, or in 13 ounces of canned food.
The recommended feeding amounts on the dog food package are estimates and meant to maintain a dog’s weight, not reduce it. Because dogs come in different sizes and activity levels, your vet can help you determine how many calories your pooch needs daily to lose weight. Online dog food calculators are also available for estimating a dog’s caloric needs. To keep your dog from feeling hungry, divide his daily caloric allotment equally over 2-to-4 individual meals. Measure his food to make sure he gets the correct amount.
Raw Food Pet Diets
The idea that dogs are naturally healthier and less prone to obesity if they eat foods similar to what dogs have eaten for millennia started with Dr. Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinarian. Pet owners feed their dogs raw meat and vegetables, avoiding commercial dog foods that contain grains, which Dr. Billinghurst claims are the source of many dog health problems. Although some dog owners swear by its success, the diet is controversial and not all dogs can safely digest raw bones. If you’d like to transition your dog to a bones and raw food (BARF) diet, do so under the watchful eye of your vet.
Modifying Your Dog’s Diet
Your dog depends on you for his health needs. He can’t change his diet and eating patterns unless you change the way you feed him. This can be difficult for pet owners who think their dogs are feeling neglected or are going hungry. Keep in mind that your dog will enjoy life more if he doesn’t develop obesity-related health problems. An initial health assessment from your vet and a reduction program that includes biweekly evaluations will help you stay committed to the plan. In addition to the diet, gradually increase your dog’s daily activity to help him burn extra calories.
- FDA: Selecting Nutritious Pet Foods
- Dog Food Advisor: How to Help Your Overweight Dog Lose Weight
- Dr. Ian Billinghurst: The BARF Philosophy
- Canine and Feline Nutrition; Linda P. Case, MS, Michael G. Hayek, PhD
Glenda Taylor is a contractor and a full-time writer specializing in construction writing. She also enjoys writing business and finance, food and drink and pet-related articles. Her education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.