Is my dog obese?
It is often difficult for us to see that our own pet is overweight. Look at your dog from above can you see a narrowing of the body behind the ribcage (a `waist')? Run your hand gently over your pet's backbone and ribs. You should be able to feel the bones without pressing hard. If you can not then your dog is overweight and is at risk of illness as a result.
My dog hardly eats anything, so how can it be fat?
Many overweight animals do not eat very much, but a little food can keep an animal fat. If your dog is overweight it means that it is eating more than it needs. Often obese dogs take very little exercise and so don't use up much energy.
Surely it doesn't matter if my dog is overweight?
Obesity makes it more likely that your dog will suffer from some medical conditions, such as arthritis, breathing problems and heart trouble.
How can I help my dog lose weight?
Reduce the daily calories that your pet is eating. Increasing exercise is not enough and may sometimes be harmful. Start by listing everything that your dog eats in a day, including leftovers and treats. Cut this by half in order to start weight loss. The amount left may look tiny, but remember that most dogs are smaller than people. You can increase the amount of food offered by bulking it up with green vegetables, carrots or plain unsweetened bran. This will help you to feel less guilty and your pet to feel fuller. The number of meals per day is not important, but the TOTAL amount fed is. Feeding your pet smaller meals more often may help to reduce hunger during weight loss.
Weight reduction in dogs
You are likely to make more progress using a special low calorie diet from the vet. These are higher in fibre and lower in fat, and the amount of food looks greater and fills your pet up more. Look on the side of the packet or tin of low calorie foods to see how much to feed, and remember that this is based on TARGET (slim) weight. Estimate this by reducing your pet's current weight by 15 per cent. This should be lost over a 12 to 14 week period. If not, you need to reduce the food further. No two pets are the same, so no one can say how much any animal should be fed. The only way to tell is to check the weight regularly and adjust the food accordingly.
What about treats?
Think low calorie, such as raw carrots or apple, rice crackers or rawhide chews. Give a tiny quantity of diet food and subtract this from the daily allowance. Do you really need to give a food treat? Don't think FOOD = LOVE. Play with your pet, or fuss it instead as a reward for good behavior. If you can't resist those pleading eyes, shut your pet out when you are eating. Don't let your dog be a food vacuum around the children!
Can't we just walk off the excess?
It is a good idea to gradually increase your pet's exercise but it is difficult to achieve real weight loss without restricting calories as well. Heavy exercise may be dangerous for fat, elderly pets, especially in hot weather. Little and often is the key,so take your dog out more frequently, and gradually increase the distance and pace.
How do I know my dog is losing weight?
Your vet will weigh your dog for you and suggest how much weight it should lose. Many veterinary practices offer `weight watcher' clinics for pets. You can take your dog along at regular intervals to be weighed and discuss progress.
My dog has reached its target weight, so what now?
When your dog reaches its target weight think of it as a new beginning with your dog happierand healthier. Don't go back to old habits or the weight will creep back on. But increase food intake slightly (start with ten per cent or 1/10th) to prevent weight loss continuing. Weigh your pet every month or two to check. Knowing the right amount to feed can be hard. All dogs are different and so it is impossible to recommend a single diet plan for all.