How to Feed the Overweight Dog: Part 1

The results of the 2012 National Pet Obesity Survey found that over 52% of US dogs are overweight. Many pet owners are unaware that their dogs are overweight. The Body Condition Score or BCS is the best way to estimate a dog’s fitness. Dogs with a score of 6 or 7 are overweight. Those scoring 8 or more are considered obese.

How to feed overweight dogs

We now know that fat is much more harmful than originally thought. In addition to increasing the risk of diabetes, it is now thought to be a risk factor for some cancers, certain kidney and respiratory diseases and arthritic diseases. Shedding those extra pounds from Fido has immediate benefits in reversing risk factors. Owners also notice immediate increases in energy and willingness to play and exercise.

Many dogs are overweight because they have hormonal conditions that promote weight gain. An under active thyroid gland or hyperthyroidism slows body metabolism causing weight gain. Weight gain can also be caused by tumors of the brain’s pituitary gland or the adrenal glands. This condition is called hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s disease.

Treatment of these conditions will reverse the weight gain. A simple blood panel can screen for these diseases and is recommended before starting a weight loss program.

Feeding the BCS 6 and 7 Dog

Dogs with a BCS of 6 or 7 do not need a diet or special food. Some simple lifestyle changes will promote a slow, healthier weight loss.

How much to feed: Studies have confirmed that dogs with a BCS of 6 are 10% overweight and those with a 7 are 20% overweight. So simply calculate your dog’s ideal weight and feed according to that weight. If the new feeding amount is more than 80% of what you presently feed. Reduce the amount until it equals 80% of the present daily food intake.

Example: Your dog is a 7 BCS and weighs 60lbs. She is 20% overweight. 20% or .2 x 60lbs = 12lbs. Your dog is 12lbs overweight and should weigh 48lbs (60-12=48). Follow the feeding instructions for a 48lb dog and feed at the low end of the instructions.

Homemade dog food is particularly suited for this type of weight loss. Like our food, homemade diets contain about 60% water. Because of the water, the volume of food is more so dogs are more satisfied than they are with small amounts of dry food. They beg less and owners are less likely to add food and torpedo the diet.

Treats: Dogs do not need commercial dog treats. Most are high in calories. Some dental treats have 270 calories per treat. That is the entire daily calorie needs of a 9lb dog in one small treat!

Meats, cheese, ice cream, cookies should also be avoided. Fruits and vegetable make great treats. Raw vegetables are virtually calorie free and cooked vegetables and fruits add only small numbers of calories. A quarter to one-third cup of cooked vegetables or fruit, berries and melon is plenty of treats for the whole day.

Exercise: 30-60 minutes of brisk walking (not strolling) will help burn off extra calories and improve Fido’s health.

Next blog we will talk about feeding the obese dog.

~Dr Ken Tudor

The Dog Dietitian

Hearthstone Homemade for Dogs

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