Just as with humans, one of the biggest health problems today for dogs is obesity. Many owners think their pudgy dogs are adorable, when in fact they are extremely unhealthy. Overweight dogs can develop the same kinds of problems that overweight humans can, such as diabetes mellitus, which can be very tricky to treat. Obesity can also reduce your dog’s life expectancy by up to 30%.

If you are not sure if your dog is overweight, there is a very easy way to check, both visually and by touch. A dog of normal weight should have an indentation at his waistline, and his ribs should be easily felt under his skin. An overweight dog will not have a waistline and there will be a thicker layer of fat over his ribs.

There are several factors that can contribute to obesity in dogs. Among these are overfeeding, not enough exercise, health conditions such as hyperthyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism, age, gender, and breed. If your dog is overweight, the first thing you should do is have your veterinarian do a full examination. This will help rule out any underlying health conditions.

If no health conditions are present, the next thing you should look at is the quality and quantity of food you are feeding your dog. Many store brand, low quality (cheap) and generic foods do not have the proper nutrients required to keep your dog fit and healthy.

“If your dog is overweight, you will want to choose a high quality food specifically designed to be low in calories. Many prescription and over the counter diets are available. Talk with your veterinary staff to help determine which food is right for your dog. If you will be switching to a new food, you will want to do this gradually, over the period of about a week. This will help reduce digestive problems like vomiting and loose stools. Feed your dog the amount that the label or your veterinarian recommends.”

The information above is the standard recommendation for ‘commercial dog food.’ Personally I have a lot of reservations when it come to commercial dog foods and do not feed them to my dogs who are on a combination home-cooked and raw diet. I do not like the fact that many, if not most, commercial dog foods are filled with fillers such as corn, wheat and various other miscellaneous ‘stuff’ as well as by-products and preservatives and colorings. A dog’s body does not need all of that. My personal recommendation if you are going with a kibble style food is to go with some of the wonderful organics and the smaller company brands that are becoming more readily available.

As for vet prescribed dog food, vets to not tend to be up on nutrition and your average vet will hawk whatever brands subsidize the best. Sorry vets, but this is something I have found to be true far too often.

When if comes to feeding, if you really care about your dog, take the time to read and research. Find out the good and bad. Dogs are carnivores and they need protein and meat. If you really care about your dogs health and nutrition, don’t buy into the standard line of feeding, that’s my advise!

While your dog is losing weight, ideally you should cut out treats. Many people feed their dogs the appropriate amount of food, but do not realize how high in calories many treats are. Keep track of what kinds of treats and how many you are giving your dog. You may be amazed to find out that his caloric intake of treats is greater than that in his food. If you must feed your dog treats while he is dieting, choose healthy snacks like carrots or a low calorie treats such as natural jerky.

Watch feeding leftovers and scraps. Not only is this unhealthy for dogs because most of the leftovers tend to be things like meat trimmings, ie. fat, etc., it can also lead to unwanted behaviors such as begging if you tend to feed from the dinner table. In general, your miscellaneous leftovers do not have the proper balance of nutrients that dogs require and are often higher in fat and calories than dogs should have.

Proper nutrition is not the only factor in reducing weight in dogs. You must provide them with appropriate amounts of exercise. Many people do not understand that many dogs require quite a bit of exercise to maintain proper health. If your dog is overweight, you will want to go for at least one walk in the morning and the evening for up to 30 minutes each time, depending on the size of your dog. Dog parks are an excellent place for both you and your dog to get exercise. Sign up for a class like agility or flyball to help keep your dog active. Play lots of games like fetch and Frisbee. You have to be an active partner in helping your dog reduce his weight.

Weight loss in dogs should be very gradual. Dogs should only lose between one and two percent of their overall weight per week. You should weigh your dog on a regular basis to keep track of his weight and to check your progress.

Dogs become overweight by overeating and inactivity. By following proper feeding guidelines, reducing the amount of treats given, and increasing the amount of exercise and activity your dog gets, you can help your dog lose weight and become the healthy and happy dog you want him to be. And as an added benefit, you’ll also be getting some exercise too!

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