This is an article Julie Westphal (Certified Veterinary Technician, Certified Pet Nutrition Consultant, and Purina Certified Weight Coach) wrote for Belle City Veterinary Hospital for their Weight Management Program. We wanted to share this for this month's topic!
Weight Management in Dogs…for Life.
Importance of a Healthy Weight:
A healthy weight is essential to your dog to help combat many diseases. As few as 3 extra pounds on your dog (or even 1 pound on a toy breed) can cause added pressure to joints and internal organs, as well as accelerate many diseases, such as: high blood pressure, respiratory and heart disease, osteoarthritis, Type 2 Diabetes, and even some forms of abdominal cancer. Before any diet is started, however, we want to perform a physical examination and rule out any potential health issues first. Hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease) are unfortunately common enemies to weight loss. If there is an underlying physical problem, a diet alone will be unsuccessful and could even prove detrimental. Shedding unnecessary weight can add months, even YEARS, to your dog’s life and help make that extra time much more enjoyable…and we can help you make the transition as easy as possible.
When your pet is overweight and we start to discuss weight loss for your dog, we realistically expect about a 1% decrease in your dog’s weight per week. We would like you to follow recommendations as closely as possible so that when you bring your dog back 3-4 weeks after the initial program start date, we will see the program working towards those results. If for some reason we are not seeing a weight reduction at that time, we may have to modify the program until the next 3-4 week recheck.
Now that you know that excess weight can cause many health problems and decrease your dog’s quality of life, we applaud you for taking the steps to better health!
Diet and Calories:
Diet plays a huge role in your dog’s health and especially when we are trying to help your dog lose excess weight, we want to make sure that we do not sacrifice proper nutrition. Unless we have discussed another diet option, please review our Diet Recommendations handout and choose your dog’s new diet accordingly.
The next step is to call us immediately and let us know what food you have chosen so that we can calculate the calories that your dog needs on a daily basis and let you know the amounts required at each feeding. By focusing on more nutritious food, less food will be required and we can ultimately have less calories going into your dog so that your dog can expend more calories, which will result in healthy weight loss. Follow the recommended guidelines on our handouts to make your dog’s weight loss program as successful as possible.
• We are suggesting _____________________________ for your dog’s diet, but if for some reason your dog doesn’t like it in the next few days, please give us a call and we can discuss another option.
• Suggested Feeding Amount for optimum weight reduction: Give _______ cup(s)________ times per day.
o If you decide you want to use treats, kongs, etc, please let us help you decide how much kibble to reduce per meal and implement those snacks, so that we can keep on schedule.
Introducing a new diet should be a transition over 7-10 days. Begin the transition by adding ¼ of the daily portion of the new diet to ¾ of the daily portion of the old diet for 2 days. Then mix ½ of the new diet with ½ of the old diet for 2 days, and then mix ¾ of the new diet to ¼ of the old diet for 2 days. Typically by day 7, the new diet has been implemented fully. If you still have leftover food from the old diet, go ahead and continue using ¼ portions until it is used up.
To increase palatability of the new diet and help out your dog’s joints, we suggest using an Omega Fatty Acid supplement that can be given in the food. Also, feeding smaller, more frequent meals (or implementing snack-times) may help your dog not notice the quantity or availability difference.
Take special note of where your dog chooses to spend most of their time. Many overweight dogs will lay and sleep near the food bowl or outside doorway so that they do not have to move a lot to get what they want. If your dog sleeps near the food dish, move the dish to another room or upstairs so that your dog has to move a bit more to get to it. Be careful, as some dogs will then start lounging in that room or upstairs, so you may have to move it every few days to different locations. Also, if your dog’s bed is by the doorway, move the bed to another location every now and then to encourage more exercise to the doorway.
One challenge that may arise is that your dog “seems hungrier.” This is generally due to the calorie adjustments being made to help your dog reduce caloric intake, but can be redirected appropriately by taking some of the following actions to stimulate your dog mentally as well as physically. Just remember to ONLY feed the recommended amounts per day…if you want to use kibble in a kong for redirection, take away the same amount from the dish. Some successful ways of redirecting your dog’s focus are:
• Buster Balls (Cubes) or Tricky Treat Balls – Available at pet stores or online, etc. These hard plastic balls (cubes) have a maze inside and you can add the kibble to the ball instead of feeding straight out of the bowl. This helps stimulate your dog to work a little for the food (and even perform more exercise if playing the game outside in the yard) by rolling the ball (cube) around. This can also make the meal more exciting by encouraging some of your dog’s natural foraging and problem-solving behaviors.
• Kongs – Stuffing a kong can also make your dog problem-solve while foraging for kibble, especially if a small film of low-fat rice cakes and low-fat cream cheese is applied to the inside walls and openings and then frozen! You can always add low-fat tuna and juice to kibble and then freeze inside the kong as well. There are many healthy, low-calorie recipes that you can use to make dinner-time more enjoyable!
• Food from your hand – Never underestimate the power of simply giving your dog kibbles from your hand. Spending a few minutes here and there giving your dog kibbles (and don’t forget to reduce that amount from the daily feedings) or having your dog perform (or learn new!) behaviors or tricks is even better! You’ll strengthen your human-animal bond even more by the interaction! During walks, have your dog perform doggie push-ups at corners (ask your dog to sit, then down, then sit, then down, then sit, and move forward) or work on attention, tricks, etc, in the house on rainy days.
o Hide and Seek Games are GREAT ways of having your pet move about the house AND learn better Recalls! You can play by having a person hide, then call your dog and give your dog a piece of kibble for coming when called.
• Encourage your dog to increase their water intake by giving them ice cubes and even simply increasing the availability of fresh, cold water.
• Treats can be given (especially if your dog does doggie pushups for them!), but you have to keep in mind the added calories are NOT included in the feeding recommendations we have given you and most likely will only give your dog empty calories. So what treats are good?
o Baby carrots work very well and most dogs like the crunchiness of them.
o Frozen vegetables (cucumbers, peas, green beans) or fresh vegetables (broccoli, celery, asparagus, etc) can be used for same reasons.
o You can make treats out of canned food and kibble…I like to make mini “meatballs” of canned food and kibble. I mixed canned food and kibble together in a bowl, then place small “meatballs” on a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet and place the cookie sheet into the freezer. I now have frozen treats for my dog for training!
o We also have Lean Treats and prescription diet treats available that are healthy and low-calorie.
o You can also make some homemade healthy cookies for your dog. Ask us for some recipes!
Suggested Exercise Program:
• Try to walk your dog 2-3 times a day. If you currently walk around the block…try to walk around the block and go a little further each day. Increase distance in smaller amounts at first to help your dog build stamina.
o If your dog is older or already arthritic, talk to a doctor about pain management medication to help your dog move and feel better.
o Other great exercise ideas include: allowing your dog to run around, play fetch or Frisbee, or play tug every day.
• Remember that it is the DISTANCE in your exercise program, not the time allotted. For example, if your dog walks around the block or runs around the block…it’s still only once around the block, although running took less time. But if your goal is 15 minutes of running, you’ll probably go many times around the block during that time and burn a lot more calories.
• Also, please remember CONSISTENT walking at the same, brisk pace (no stopping and sniffing every few feet) is what counts. We want to keep your dog moving. Any warm-up exercises should be done by you before putting your dog’s leash on…dogs were built to go from no effort sleeping to full out strides chasing prey with very little risk of injury.
• Start your walk with a purpose and your dog will follow suit. As the sessions progress, you’ll most likely be finding out that your dog really anticipates these fast-paced “missions”.
We like to have our dogs re-weighed every 3-4 weeks to monitor progress and ensure our program goals are being met. Most programs will take 6-8 months to begin to see a marked progress, but remember, every month, for most dogs, we are looking for 3-4% decrease in body weight. Some dogs’ needs may be less, some more, but we can safely achieve the goals for your dog by checking in every month and “tweaking” your dog’s program as needed. The secret to weight lost for your dog is…You, a committed and motivated family member.
If you have any questions regarding a weight loss program for YOUR pet, please feel free to give us a call at 262-308-2523 and we can go from there!
CVT & Owner of Awesome Paws Academy