Weight Loss & Management Information
Get fit together
Here at our center, we try and make sure that you and your dog get a programme that suits your dogs condition. Every dog is different,but all dogs will benefit from the right excersize and diet programme.
In addition to reducing calorie intake, it is important to increase the calories used. Exercise, may in fact, be more important than feeding a diet food.
Exercise programs will need to be tailored to the dog taking into account the condition of the dog's muscles and joints, heart, and respiratory system. It is important to choose activities appropriate for your dog and do not overdo. Start slow and work up to higher activity levels. Rest if you notice signs of fatigue, like heavy panting. In general, leash walking for 20-60 minutes a day, five days a week would be a great way to start. Swimming is also an excellent activity for obese dogs, since it places less stress on joints.
Exercise is a great way to give your dog attention and can be a substitute for treats. Exercise will help your dog build muscle, and increase mental stimulation, taking his focus away from food.
One of the main reasons weight reduction programs for dogs fail is that one (or more) member(s) of the household, or even the neighborhood, is not following the recommendations. Everyone must agree that the program is essential for the life and health of the dog. Each must follow the recommendations regarding diet, treats, exercise, etc., if the program is to be successful.
Eliminate table scraps and reduce treats
Table scraps are often high in fats and sugars, and thus in calories. Feeding your dog before you cook or eat may help decrease his begging. If you cannot resist giving treats, choose a treat that is made for dogs and is low in fat. Examples include:
Air-popped popcorn, non-salted and non-buttered
Cooked green beans
Baked or frozen canned diet food (Cut small slices of canned food and bake them at 350ºF until crisp. Store in refrigerator. Alternatively, simply freeze slices of the canned food and feed it frozen to your dog.)
Commercial low calorie dog treats
Treats should never make up more than 10% of the daily intake. New toys are often a good substitute for treats, as is exercise. For dogs who like to be groomed, a good brushing can take the place of food treats. If you ask your dog, she will probably say your attention is the best treat she could have.
Most weight loss protocols for dogs recommend estimating the dog's ideal weight, calculating the energy needs (maintenance energy requirements-MER) for a dog of that weight, and then feeding 25 to 50% of that amount of energy (calories). The calculated MER is based on the amount of energy used by an average, moderately active dog in a room temperature environment. There is extreme variability (up to 20%) in the actual MER of dogs weighing the same amount, since their activity level can vary greatly. For this reason, the dog's response to the program is monitored and adjustments made as necessary.
There are two basic ways to cut down on calories. One is to feed less of the food the dog is currently eating. The second is to switch to special weight reduction diets. And of course, with either way, table scraps are a no-no and treats need to be minimized.
Any dog with a weight problem should be examined by a veterinarian prior to initiating a weight control program.
Certain medical conditions can cause obesity in dogs, and any dog with a weight problem should be examined by a veterinarian prior to initiating a weight control program. The veterinarian will determine if there is an underlying cause for the obesity or if there are other medical conditions present, which could complicate weight reduction. The veterinarian is also a valuable resource in helping you establish a weight reduction program specific for you and your dog. Certified veterinary nutritionists are also a good resource.
When starting a weight reduction program, your veterinarian can help you determine a realistic weight goal and timeline. It is important to understand how long the process may take. In general, a good goal to aim for is 1-2% of the body weight per week. We do not want the dog to lose weight too fast, since rapid weight loss increases the likelihood the weight will come back after the weight reduction diet is stopped.
Keep a written log of food intake (including all treats), exercise, and weekly weight. Weigh your dog weekly on the same scale at the same time of day. (Most veterinary offices will be more than happy to have you come in and use their scale.) It is sometimes helpful to plot out this information (dates and weights) on a graph. Remember, you may hit 'plateaus' in which your dog seems stuck at a certain weight. This is common. Do not despair, but continue with the weight reduction program.
A good way to help you enjoy your success is to take a 'before' diet picture, several during the weight reduction process, and then one at its conclusion. You will be amazed at the difference.
Make appointments with your veterinarian every 2-4 weeks to make adjustments in the weight control program.
Once the weight is lost, the last thing we want is for the dog to regain it. To be sure that does not happen, continue weighing your dog as you gradually increase food intake. You can either feed more of the weight reduction diet or change to a diet that is less restrictive. Do not start feeding free choice (the bowl of food is always there). If weight is regained consistently for 2 weeks, or more than 3% of weight is regained in one week, go back on the diet program. Remember, exercise needs to continue after the weight is lost or pounds will start to accumulate again.