When puppies dogs put on weight and become overweight it can be really tough to help them lose weight.
I don’t often cover things mainly aimed at adult dogs? But helping dogs lose weight is something that is important, and their weight may not be your fault! So, being a responsible dog parent, you’ll help them lose weight, and I agree with you on that. Let’s help them lose weight today.
First, let’s think about why dogs get overweight…
Sometimes it’s to do with the fact that your dog is scavenging, sometimes it’s because they love food. And sometimes? We humans feel that giving them the food they love so much, is our way of bonding with them.
Food is not equal to love, that’s the first thing to understand.
It’s tough for sure, but with the risks of carrying too much weight on our dogs, it’s no one’s responsibility but our own to make sure our dogs stay in tip-top shape! So, other than restricting the access to food (and if they’re a scavenger, it could be an idea to consider a basket-style muzzle), these tips should help you to bring your dog back to a healthy weight.
Before we start, let’s answer a couple of questions.
How Do You Know If Your Dog Is Overweight?
Essentially? Look at body shape. A healthy dog you will be able to see their waist tuck in and up, and you should be able to feel a couple of ribs by the stomach. A body that is ‘sausage’ shaped is not healthy. Please do bear in mind that different breeds will be different in their requirements, for example, Azawakhs? It’s very natural for their hipbones to show! So do remember your breed, when considering their size, shape and weight – and if you’re unsure? Ask your vet!
Is It Bad For A Dog To Be Overweight?
In short? Yes. Overweight dogs (like overweight people) have extra strain on their body, organs, muscle and bones. It can be limiting to them socially (especially as developing puppies!). These extra strains can make your dog cranky, they can (ultimately) decrease the life expectancy of your dog, and god only knows that their lives are short enough anyway! So, let’s opt for happy and healthy.
Can My Dog Be Overweight For No Reason?
Not for no reason. The reasons are always how much food goes in, how much exercise they take or medical issues. So, do check with your vet if there seems to be no obvious reason why your dog is gaining weight or overweight – though do ask anyone in your family to be honest.
What Do I Do If My Dog Is Overweight And Can’t Walk?
Well, this depends on why your dog can’t walk? If your dog is severely overweight to the point that they can’t walk far but that their joints are fine? then it will be a case of building them up slowly towards longer and longer walks, but if they’re physically incapable? It may be useful to take them to hydrotherapy! If their joints aren’t working at all? It’s off to the vet.
Do Overweight Dogs Pant More?
Typically, yes, they’re under more pressure at all moments, and it does tend to make them pant more overall. Life is tough for overweight dogs!
So, here’s some tips from me about how you can help your dog shed a few kilos (and no, brushing them doesn’t count, even if you feel like they lose a kilo of fur!)
1. Cut meals back, weigh meals and treats!
This is the fundamental part of helping your dog lose weight. A fairly ‘logical’ answer, but weighing each meal and being precise really helps, I read that 10 pieces of kibble extra per day? Can be the equivalent of roughly half a kilo of weight to your dog over the course of the year, and you have to admit, Tesco is right, Every little helps! (Tesco is a UK superstore)
Maybe you can also try a slow feeding bowl to stop your pup guzzling it all down far too quickly?
Remember to figure out how many treats too, and this should be deducted from their daily meal amount. Dividing them up with ziplock bags ahead of time can be really useful. Or, if you love a gadget, why not try this feeding bowl with a built in scale!
2. Cut out the tidbits!
Yes, it’s lovely to share your dinner, crisps or your sandwich with your dog, but … do they really need that? Did you know that a chocolate digestive to a Jack Russell is almost the same as a portion of chips to a person? Think twice before sharing your bourbons! Enable your dog to Lose Weight and get your whole family on board!
3. Switch biscuits for fruit, veg, or biltong!
Carrots, apples and bananas are fantastic treats for your dog. They can be crunchy and tasty! And allow you to treat your dog as much as you need without pumping in some serious carbs and sugars to your pup’s diet. Jerky or Biltong (dried meat) is also almost pure protein! Which is much better for your dog (though slightly more expensive…), just make sure it’s not smoked or flavoured and you’re good to go!
This can also be a hugely valuable reward if you need something to entice your dog to follow your commands if you’re needing to train. If you’re looking for a great supplier for some good quality Biltong try bybenji.com if you’re based in the UK! If anyone knows great US suppliers, let me know! I’m desperately looking for great US suppliers.
4. Treat with a long lasting chew
More for when you’re at home, why not pick a treat that’s a slightly longer munch? Don’t necessarily let them consume the whole thing in one sitting, consider cutting it down or give them a few minutes with it and let them work their jaws for the slower reward and much fewer calories… Great examples of these are beef hide strips (pick a good thick one!), a deer antler, a yak cheese chew, or something like a buffalo horn or cow hoof (Just remember to pick the right treat for your dog! It may take a little experimentation to get it right.)
Reward smart, and help them lose weight.
Did you feed the dog already? Maybe it’s a really simple thing that you and your other half are doubling up on meals occasionally! We all live busy lives and it’s very easily done. You come home and Fido waits by their bowl, looking super sad, and you feed them… Only to find out that your other half already did – yep, you’ve been scammed!
But something simple like a routine of picking up the bowl before bed, and before you leave for work only, and otherwise it living by the dog food storage could be one way of denoting that your dog has been fed, a more obvious way is one of these contraptions! Simply slide the slider over to show your pet has been fed, and that those puppy dog eyes don’t just overpower your other half!
6. More exercise with a Cardio focus
Exercise is the counterpoint to food! Similar to us, dog’s benefit in weight loss by upping the cardio. Cardio is where you raise your heart rate, make your blood flow faster and your muscles work harder.
You could try something as simple, add a mile to your walk, maybe situating yourself at the top of a hill and throw a ball for your ball oriented dog (so long as they bring it back!), let them sprint down the hill and work hard to get back up hill to you! You could walk your route faster, or jog it perhaps? It would be a great intro to Canicross too (Neewa is a fantastic brand for this by the way!).
Maybe switch your route to a beach walk every now and then, or against the flow of a low stream. Of course things like swimming and hydrotherapy or something like agility or fly ball work great! All of these will help your dog turn fat to muscle.
I must stress that you have to pick something appropriate for breed and ability, and include any specific equipment they may need such as life jackets.
7. Work smarter, not harder with a doggy backpack!
When the weather isn’t extreme, and depending on the breed of dog involved, why not train them to wear a backpack on walks? Not only does this test their brain more, but it adds a temporary extra strain on their muscles which makes them work harder, and consequently burn more calories per walk in the same amount of time. This is fantastic for dogs who are leash-bound, or even cold climate or sled dogs!
Personally, I love the Ruffwear line, and the Singletrak pack is a great starter! Just remember this will take training and time to increase the load carried. It is recommended that you do not go higher than 25% of your dogs’ weight (though this does depend on your dogs’ breed).
We encourage you to research this before using this method, as it’s certainly not suitable for the old, sick or young. We also recommend you lookout for our upcoming blog piece on this subject!
8. Check the fibre content of your pets food, consider switching to something higher in protein.
Dogs are largely protein driven, so check the label on your dogs’ food, and consider switching to some ‘higher quality’ food. 30% protein is what your should be seeing in your kibble, or … I can’t lie, i’m a massive advocate of raw food, and it really does tick this box! All you have to remember with this is that some meat types are more lean than others. Venison, goat and turkey, for example are much more lean than lamb and duck. You can also count calories for your pet and keep a food diary.
9. Add in some omega-3
A fairly interesting discovery, but fish oils aren’t just good for hair/fur, skin and nails – but also promote weight loss – in humans too in case you’re wondering! EPA and DHA (or eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, if you’re really interested) is contained in fish oils and has been shown to increase a dieters satisfaction levels. It’s recommended to add roughly 1.5mg/lb for your dog.
It also has the benefit of making their coat gorgeously soft and glossy, increasing skin quality and even the strength of their nails. A good salmon oil can be purchased from either Meatlove, Pooch & Mutt, Green and Wilds or Grizzly!
Note: Do be careful with this though, these are fatty acids, so by definition can be a risk to weight gain, balance is important.
10. Activity trackers
Some of them are really clever! They’re basically a Fitbit for your dog. They can do steps, a GPS tracker, targets and all sorts! They can be your very best friend in helping your dog lose weight!
We’ve actually got some of these trackers and upcoming? We have a piece about the Fi Tracker… very exciting.
BONUS TIP! Make them realise what they’re eating
Much like humans, dogs can be prone to gorging and not realising how much they’re eating. So, by feeding from a tool like a slow feeder, Scatter feeding, an interactive toy, or a buffalo horn – you can actually get your dog to slow down their eating and value each bite a little more!
All in all…
…there should be something in there that you can do for your dog! Even small changes. Just remember to be patient, nothing changes overnight and it will take time for this to happen. Remember with exercise, they may not be able to do a 10 mile run straight away, and please do remember to factor in weather conditions. Work them up to the goals.
Get the whole family behind it, and even the friends you walk with. Consider even make a chart to track your pup’s progress. It’s so good to see as they’ll have more energy and unlock so much more character.
Naturally, we do encourage you to seek relevant veterinary advice or train where appropriate. Not all of these will be suitable for every dog, but here’s hoping you can cherry-pick a few things that will really work for you and your woof.
If you have any other ideas, share them in the comments below! And why not share it with your friends on social media!
Further reading or watching for helping your dog lose weight
1 – How to tell if your dog is overweight – Scruffy little terrier
2 – Interview with Alex German from Royal Canin’s weight loss clinic
3 – how can owners know if their dog or cat is overweight or obese?
4 – calorie calculator for your dog
5 – Omega-3 to help weight loss in dogs