Whether it comes in the form of a vet recommendation or a sudden realization as you watch your dog walk in front of you, recognizing that your dog needs to lose weight can be surprising and, quite often, stressful. After all, with dogs such avid fans of treats and human food as well as their own, helping them cut down on calories is not always easy.
But with so many dogs now classed as overweight, finding ways to help them lose those pounds has become a popular topic of conversation – with lots of products and solutions out there to help. From additional exercise and movement to a change in their food and dietary restrictions, let’s take a closer look at some of the ways that you can help your dog lose weight.
How Dogs Become Overweight?
Weight gain in dogs can be a gradual thing that occurs over time, or it can be something that becomes apparent much more quickly. If your dog has seen a spike in its weight quickly, this can be a sign of a more serious condition such as a thyroid problem, Cushing’s disease, or even cancer. If you are at all concerned about sudden weight gain, then you should see a vet immediately. 
If your dog looks or feels overweight but there is nothing seriously wrong with them, then this is likely a sign that you are overfeeding and under-exercising them. Just as humans need a balance of energy consumption and exertion to maintain a healthy weight, so do dogs – with effective weight loss programs available online and through your vet.
But before you turn to one of those more extreme diet plans and weight loss programs, we have a few tips that can help you support your dog with lifestyle changes that will help them lose that excess weight – leaving them comfortable and healthy.
A number of prescription drugs can cause dogs to gain weight if used for a prolonged period of time. For example, prednisone mimics Cushing’s disease when given for a long period of time and it can contribute to overall weight gain.
When dogs get overweight, chances of getting secondary conditions are present. Some of these conditions include;
- Heart Disease
- Diabetes type 2
- High blood pressure
- Intra-abdominal cancer
Loose Dog Weight – What is it and is it Healthy?
Perhaps you’ve wondered about this commonly asked question “Is that flabby, dangly, loose dog weight and skin healthy?”. Loose skin and its impact will obviously vary by breed, with each breed of dog having its own silhouette and ideal shape. For some breeds, loose skin is completely normal and beautiful – while for others it can be a sign of genetic conditions, a loss of collagen which causes the skin to sag, and even a condition known as cutaneous asthenia.
To determine whether or not loose and flabby skin is a symptom of weight loss or something more serious, your vet will hold onto a handful of the skin and pull it away from the body. How far it stretches will let your vet know whether there is an underlying condition at play, by dividing the measurement’s Skin Extensibility Index with the length of your dog. Anything over 14.5 percent indicates an issue that your vet will diagnose and address. 
Ways You Can Help Your Dog Lose Excess Weight
Weight loss for dogs is 60-70% diet and 40-30% exercise.
Change Their Diet
This is an easy one, and it doesn’t just revolve around reducing the amount of food your dog is given at mealtimes. If you have owned a dog from the early puppy stages into adulthood then you will know that as a dog ages, its food requirements change – with the most obvious being the move from three meals a day to two.
But it’s not all about quantity. Changing the quality of the food your dog is fed can also have a big impact on their weight. For example, the best dog food to support weight loss is one with above-average protein and below-average fat content, allowing your dog to feel fuller for longer (and may even prevent them from begging at your feet while you eat). 
If you can’t find a store brought dog food with the right ingredients and nutrients for your dog, why not make your own! Speak to a vet nutritionist for some advice and recipes that could help.
Change the Way They Are Fed
Another major factor that can help you support your dog through weight loss is a change in the way you feed them. When dogs are given 24-hour access to their food, you nurture habits that are unnatural, and which enable your dog to eat when they are bored rather than just when they are hungry. Stick to strict feeding times, and if your dog doesn’t eat their food within a certain window then take it away – you aren’t doing them any favors by leaving it there.
Neutered dogs can gain more weight if they are fed the same as intact pets. Androgen and estrogen stimulate roaming behavior in dogs, so they remain active. After being neutered, dogs that are overfed and underexercised can become obese. Spayed dogs are at risk of getting hypothyroidism. Physical changes in the body make them prone to weight gain.
When you do more exercise, you burn more calories, and you lose excess weight. The same rules apply to dogs. Giving them more opportunities to exercise is one of the best things you can do to support your dog’s physical health and weight stability. Best of all, dogs often love to run so getting them up and out the door won’t take much effort on your part!
The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on the breed and general health of the dog. Walking is the most obvious and essential activity for your dog. The minimum recommended exercise time is 20 minutes, twice a day. This can vary a bit from breed to breed. Fit dogs tend to live longer than obese dogs. Obese dogs interact less with their human companions and are less active and playful.
This one’s simple. Sometimes, like us humans, dogs are not hungry but actually thirsty and dehydrated. While 24-hour food is never a good thing, having constant access to water is essential for your dog’s overall health – and may stop them from eating quite so much.
Change Your Reward System
This comes back to the idea that more food can equal more weight. Rather than rewarding your dog’s good behavior with treats, find other ways to show them they’ve done well – for example, give them a tickle on their tummy or an extra 5 minutes around the park during their walk. Many dogs recognize and respond to the tone of your voice as much as your actions, so keep it light when you are letting them know they’ve done a good job. 
Weight Loss (and Prevention) is a Long Process – Be Patient
Finally, know that it takes time to lose weight – just as it takes time to gain weight. And once your dog reaches their ideal weight, it’s up to you to help them maintain it. Take your time when making any long-term changes to your dog’s nutrition intake and eating habits. This will give you the opportunity to recognize if things are headed in the right direction.
If you determine that you’re overfeeding your dog, work with your veterinarian to create a weight reduction timetable. Base this timetable on feeding them the best calories possible at the right times throughout the day so that your dog doesn’t shed pounds too quickly, which can be very dangerous.
If your dog is overweight, a change in diet combined with more exercise can work wonders – but results will not come overnight.
For more support and guidance in understanding what has caused your dog to gain weight and how you can help them, make an appointment with your local vet.
The best strategy for weight loss is to develop habits that can be applied consistently over the long term. People rush to reduce their dog’s weight but it takes time to happen.