It's hard to explain the concept of calories to a dog, so you'll need to find a way to help your dog reduce excess poundage through diet. Fat dogs may be cute but excess weight on a dog can cause serious health problems, especially in certain breeds.
Commercial Dog Food
Don't just look for labels that say "low-fat" or "low-calorie" because manufacturers sometimes cut down on necessary protein in order to avoid fat. While low-fat diets are essential for dogs with certain conditions, such as pancreatitis or severe obesity, they're not ideal for a dog who just needs to reduce his weight a little. The editors at Dog Food Advisor have selected the best products for canine weight loss based on a below-average fat content coupled with a product that has earned four or more stars based on other criteria. Their list includes canned, dry and raw dog foods and can be found in the resources.
Rules humans adhere to in order stay fit apply to dogs too. Select the right kinds of food for a healthy homemade dog food. Active dogs who get plenty of exercise need more carbohydrates than sedentary dogs. Keep your dog's lifestyle in mind and check with your veterinarian to ensure you're making the right choices. Most dogs can tolerate animal-sourced protein such as poultry and fish. Stay away from red meats. Always add a complex carb, such as rice or potatoes, and some fiber like lentils, pumpkin or carrots. Many fruits and vegetables are fine for dogs, but there are some exceptions, so check before offering any "people food" to your dog. The amount you feed your dog will depend on your dog's size, breed, overall health and activity level. Consult your vet to learn how often and how much to feed your dog.
It's not always the quality of the dog food that's the problem, it's the quantity. If your dog is eating the recommended amount of food as listed on the package, watch out for extra treats. If you like giving your dogs treats as a reward for good behavior or to assist with training, take those calories into consideration. It's easy to give in to those unrelenting puppy dog eyes so if your dog is mysteriously gaining weight, maybe there's a family member feeding your dog table scraps. Extra calories in treats or scraps add up. Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that raises service dogs, requires their trainers to use the puppy's own kibble as training aids during training. The kibble used in training is in place of, not in addition to, his normal kibble allotment.
Many dog food companies compete for your specialty dog food dollars. Prescription diets exist for just about every malady from allergies to kidney stones. Some national brands sold in grocery stores are adding low-calorie and low-fat foods to their line of products. Higher quality prescription diets are available through your veterinarian. If your veterinarian feels your dog is sufficiently overweight to warrant a special kibble, he will prescribe a diet for either short-term use or will switch the dog's food permanently to one of the pricey prescription diets sold only in clinics. Less costly, off-brand dog foods are full of fattening fillers; higher quality, and therefore higher priced, foods will have more nutritional ingredients with less calories.
If all else fails, ask your veterinarian about Slentrol, a medication made especially for dogs that suppresses the appetite. This medicine is easy to administer and can be used in conjunction with your dog's regular food as long as his regular food is nutritious and balanced. It is FDA approved to treat obesity in dogs and dog owners who have given their dog this product report that it works very well in suppressing their dog's appetite. It is available by prescription only.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.