Your dog is your family—so you’ve likely already noticed if he has gained weight over a relatively short period. But it may be a bit more difficult to recognize the extra bulk if he’s been slowly packing on the pounds over a longer period. Here are two ways to determine if your pup is at the correct weight.
- Feel his ribs: Run your hands along his sides toward the tail, feeling for his ribs. If you can find them beneath a thin layer of flesh, he is probably at the correct weight. If you can barely feel them under a layer of fat, he is likely overweight.
- Look at his body from the top and side: A visual inspection of your dog’s body is also important. Look at his body from above. Does he have an hourglass shape, with a slight narrowing behind the ribcage? Also view the lines of his body from the side. Does his stomach tuck up behind the ribcage? If the answer to both questions is yes, he’s probably at the correct weight. If his body has no definition from above or from the side, he is probably overweight.
Get to the Vet
Start with a visit to the vet. She may run a series of blood tests to check for low thyroid levels, which often causes weight gain. Once that is ruled out, the vet may suggest that you switch to a low-calorie, high-fiber food or even a prescription diet.
Gradually Cut Portion Sizes
If you suddenly reduce your dog’s rations dramatically, his metabolism will decrease to compensate. Cut back gradually, over a period of days.
Remember that treats and snacks add to the day’s intake—feeding less food won’t help if your dog also gets all sorts of other goodies. Set aside part of his daily food allowance to use as rewards—it’s amazing how wonderful most dogs find a single piece of plain old dog food. Low-calorie goodies, like small bits of raw carrot or green bean, or sugar-free oat cereal, also work well.
Measure Food Portions
Use a standard measuring tool to measure the amount you feed your dog. If you use a mug or something else to dish up the food, there’s a good chance you are feeding him more than you think you are.
Feed Healthy Foods
Healthy meals do no good if your dog is munching on junk food all day long. Dogs love to beg, and of course, fatty treats and table scraps also contribute to obesity. Treats should make up no more than 5 percent of his calorie intake. Feed carrots, cooked sweet potatoes, or green beans as treats between meals. If you use kibble for training or treats, deduct that amount from your dog’s meals.
Help Your Dog Feel Fuller
If your dog has eaten his daily calorie allotment and you really think he’s still hungry, you can add bulk without calories. Take a meal’s worth of dry food, divide it in two, and soak one half in water for a half hour or so, letting it absorb water and expand. Then mix the dry portion into the soaked portion and serve. The swollen kibble will take up more room in your dog’s stomach, making him feel as if he has eaten more food.
You can also mix high-fiber, low-calorie food into your dog’s regular food—some foods that work well include unsalted green beans (uncooked fresh beans or frozen beans are fine; canned beans should be rinsed thoroughly to remove salt); lettuce or raw spinach; or canned pumpkin (not pie filling, just plain pumpkin).
Exercise Your Dog More
Just like people, diet and exercise help an obese dog lose weight. If your pup is not exercising every day, try going for extra walks and playing games like fetch together. Begin slowly if he’s uncomfortable or gets tired easily, and work up to several sessions of activity every day.