Modern society produces overweight dogs as well as humans. As dogs rely on humans for their food and exercise, it is easy to see that a life of inactivity and feeding more than the daily requirement soon produces an obese dog.
Of course, some breeds require much more exercise than others. Small, alert terriers that spend their lives darting between the back yard and the front door require less added exercise than the large Labrador or boxer, which tend to sleep when there is nothing of great interest going on.
Some dogs seem naturally more demanding of food. Dachshunds and beagles are great scavengers and if their owners won’t provide enough tidbits, they will go in search of food – especially on garbage days.
The overweight dog is much more uncomfortable in hot weather, it is more prone to heat stroke, seems more prone to skin diseases and is more likely to suffer arthritis in its old age. Of course, the risk of heart disease is much greater in the fat dog. If surgery is required at any time, the obese dog’s wounds do not heal as well, and they are poorer anesthetic subjects.
It is not an easy task to reduce a dog’s weight. It is difficult to drastically reduce the dog’s rations and then become oblivious to the pleading eyes of the hungry pet. To suddenly increase the amount of exercise is unwise, especially in the hotter weather. The very obese dog is incapable of safely sustaining much exercise so that the increase in the amount of exercise must be in proportion to the weight loss.
There are very many suggestions for a slimming diet for dogs. Diets composed of tripe or ox-cheek have long been used, but with little success. Some drug manufacturers have formulated capsules which are supposed to reduce the animals’ desire for food, but so ingrained is the association of eating with other routine happenings in the household that any chemical suppression of appetite is easily overcome.
One fairly simple weight-reducing diet has proved quite successful. It involves the feeding of only canned dog food during the desired period of weight reduction. First, the ideal weight of the dog should be estimated. This can be derived from breed standards and with the aid of your veterinarian. The intake of food required to effectively reduce weight is 60 percent of the dog’s maintenance diet.
Canned dog food alone is chosen since the calorie content of this food is less per weight of food than the dry forms of dog food. This means that a greater volume of canned food can be fed, thus satisfying the dog’s hunger. If the ideal weight of your dog is 20 kilograms (40 pounds), then about 750 g of canned food should be fed or two-thirds of a large (1.15 kg) can. This amount of food should be divided, and fed at least three times a day.
Your veterinarian can advise you on the amount of canned food to be fed, according to the ideal weight of the dog. The reducing diet must be fed for at least a month, but probably three to four months may be required. It is important that no extra food is available at this time. When the ideal weight has been achieved, a maintenance diet must be strictly adhered to. If it is desired to add some dry food, the amount of canned food must be reduced in proportion.
Regular exercise in gradually increasing amounts can be given as the dog loses weight. When feeding the maintenance diet, the amount should be increased as the weather gets colder, especially if the pet has to stay outside for long periods. As the dog’s activity increases with the loss of weight, more food can be given daily. Regular weekly checking of the dog’s weight aids these adjustments.