Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center

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Obesity and weight management tips

Effective weight-loss tips: Strategies to help your dog take off extra pounds

Obesity, a rampant problem in dogs, stresses your dog’s joints and overall health. But you can help them! Start by weighing your dog every month. After consulting your veterinarian about your individual dog's needs, they might suggest a goal of lowering your dog's weight by 3-5% per month. These tips may help you achieve that.

Use a commercial weight-control diet

With the epidemic of overweight pets in our nation, pet-food manufacturers have developed a number of high-quality, tasty weight-loss labels. Nearly every manufacturer has at least one choice, sometimes by breed or by size. 

Be sure you read the label to ensure that it is formulated to the Association of American Feed Control Officials' standards for adult maintenance and that it truly is lower in calories than what you’re feeding now — some aren’t!

The biggest benefits of this choice are that you can usually feed the same volume of food, and you are providing the proper amounts of nutrients that your dog needs to stay healthy.

Measure food accurately

If you want to stick with your current food, that’s fine. Cut it back 10% (you can do it by volume, if it’s easier) and monitor your dog. 

“Use a measuring cup to accurately portion food for meals, and make sure to fill the cup so it is level and not heaping,” says Dr. Leni Kaplan, senior lecturer in the Department of Clinical Sciences. 

Limit treats

“Monitor or significantly cut back on treats,” says Dr. Kaplan. “Many pets tend to carry extra weight simply because they get way too many snacks and treats.” 

Treats are often calorie-dense, meaning that even a few can throw off your dog’s diet. Many trainers set aside part of one of the dog’s meals to use as treats throughout the day.

Add veggies and water to your dog’s meals

“To help pets feel more full, add healthy veggies such as green beans to their kibble, or add water to their meals. When pets are well-hydrated, they feel less hungry,” says Kaplan. 

Plain canned pumpkin is a good option that many dogs enjoy. Adding a small amount of pumpkin (between one teaspoon and one tablespoon, depending on your dog’s size) helps your dog feel more full and improves stool quality. 

Adding water may take some experimentation. Some dogs enjoy slurping up “kibble soup,” while others prefer when the kibble has already soaked up the extra moisture. This can also help senior dogs or dogs who have dental pain.

Exercise

Just like us, dogs need exercise. Lengthen the daily walk by 10% per week. If time is a factor, can you add a little speed? If your dog enjoys playing ball, toss it a few extra times each day. 

Always watch your dog’s reaction to the increased exercise and move up gradually. If you note any difficulty with your dog's breathing (panting hard) or if they're clearly trying to slow things down, then stop. Discuss the possibilities of other health issues with your veterinarian.

This article has been reprinted with permission from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s DOGWatch Newsletter, published by Belvoir Media Group. Subscribe online to DOGWatch Newsletter here.