It can be worrying for pet owners if their dogs are overly fond of food. Overfeeding a dog will lead to increased weight gain, which can have several health implications. But how do you care for a food-loving dog to make sure they do not gain unwanted weight?
In this article, we explore tips on how to keep a food-loving dog healthy and keep off any unwanted weight.
How do dogs become overweight?
Like humans, dogs need a certain amount of calories in a day to function effectively. If they are fed more than the number of calories they require, this extra energy is stored as fat in their bodies. It is their body’s way of saving for a rainy day—i.e. when there is no food and those energy reserves may be needed.
Overweight dogs today rarely get a chance to use those energy reserves, as they no longer live in the wild. They do not have to hunt for their food and it is not uncertain where the next meal will come from. The 2014 PDSA Animal Welfare report believes that one in three dogs in the UK is overweight. If your dog is eating too much, it is likely they will continue to put on unwanted weight.
What are the health implications of excess weight?
It is not just a question of how fit your dog seems or how much stamina they have. Overweight dogs have a number of health problems. In the long term, excess weight can lead to arthritis, respiratory problems, high blood pressure and diabetes. Overall, it contributes to a shortened life expectancy.
Monitoring their diet
One of the most important things to monitor when trying to keep a food-loving dog healthy is diet. What your dog eats (and how often they eat it) is important. Here are some basic factors you should address:
- Number of calories: Make sure you have an accurate idea of how many calories your dog needs in a day. This changes depending on their age and their breed, as different breeds have different energy levels. In general, dogs need about 30 calories per pound of body weight per day. Smaller dogs (less than 20 lbs) can use up to 40 calories per pound per day, but check with your vet to be sure.
The guidelines above are for your dog to maintain their same weight. It is generally believed that overweight dogs should be fed 60% of their usual calories per day. Again, check with your vet to see if this applies in your dog’s case.
- Number of meals: If your dog is fond of food, it would be better to feed them more often so that they feel more satisfied mentally.
- The kind of food: Make sure you are choosing the right kind of food for overweight dogs. Why not try PURINA® BETA® Light Adult with Turkey? It is specially crafted for dogs who have too much weight, and may be more suitable for your dog than regular dog food. It has 20% less fat than the mature adult formula, but is still complete and balanced.
Creating an exercise routine
Of course, diet alone is not enough to get your food-loving dog in shape. It is important that a detailed and well thought-out exercise routine is put in place. It should address the health needs of your dog.
Remember to take the breed and age of your dog into account. Younger dogs and more athletic breeds are likely to be more open to rigorous exercise routines. Smaller dogs or dogs who are older (and therefore may have joint pain and less stamina) are unlikely to be able to keep up with a very difficult exercise routine.
You should consult with your vet before putting an exercise plan in place for your overweight dog. Make sure you do not overwork your dog, as that can lead to other health complications.
Everyday tips for dealing with a food-loving dog
The everyday reality of living with a dog who loves food can be emotionally challenging. It can feel hard to deny your pet food when they seem to need it or when they seem very sad. However, it is important to remember that by refusing them food that exceeds daily nutritional requirements, you are fulfilling your role as a caring and responsible owner.
Here are some tips for keeping a food-loving dog happy.
- Discourage begging: One of the reasons dogs put on excess weight is because they are being fed more than their required amount of calories outside of mealtimes. Begging is a major cause of this. If you have taught your dog to not beg, they will know they cannot be fed in this way and will not expect it. Remember to always ignore begging when it happens, as that is the only way to teach your dog.
- Establish regular meal times: Do not feed your dog as and when you think they are hungry. Establish regular mealtimes and make sure you measure the amount of food you give them.
- Monitor treats: Keep treating your dog, but make sure you monitor the amount of treats you give them. If you are unsure of what is a healthy amount for an overweight dog, check with your vet. You can even break up a single treat into smaller pieces so that it lasts longer.
Other causes of weight gain and seeking professional help
Some dogs may put on weight because they have a chronic disease. Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, for example, can cause a dog to put on weight.
It is therefore important that you check with your vet if you have an overweight dog. Your vet will be able to tell you the cause of the weight gain, as well as prescribe measures for losing weight that are specific to your dog.