Obesity is on a rise, not just among humans but also among our pets. Owing to Covid-19, even our pets have got home bound with lesser chance to go outside. Pets living in apartments have had even fewer opportunities to exercise. While exercise and regular walks are an important aspect of keeping your dog in shape, the diet of your pet is also a very important aspect to keep your dog’s weight in control. As a practice, adult dogs should go out for a walk twice a day, with some opportunity to play and run as well.

While obesity itself may not seem to be a worrisome problem for your dog, it can slowly give way to a number of complications. It is very common for obese dogs to have joint problems, especially in the hip. Brachycephalic dogs or dogs with short noses and flat faces easily get breathing problems once they become obese.

You would often find dogs like pugs and bull mastiffs grunting and panting for breath, if obese, making it even more important to keep short muzzled dogs in good shape. It has been noted that dogs maintained at their ideal body weight live 1.5 to 2 years longer than their obese comrades. If this is not reason enough to keep your dog in shape, it is worth knowing that fat tissue also releases inflammatory hormones in the dog’s body leading to a lot of diseases such as skin rashes, liver condition etc.

Before we can actually help an obese dog, we need to know how to identify obesity in our pet. Just the physical appearance may not be enough to identify an obese dog. A very easy way to know that the dog is beyond permissible weight is to check its weight on a weighing machine. If the dog is upto 20% more than his ideal weight, the dog is considered overweight. However, if the dog is more than 20% of his ideal weight, then the dog is considered to be obese. So, once your dog has crossed 20% of his ideal weight, it is an alarm bell for taking action.

Diet and exercise will definitely be the mainstays of managing your dog’s weight. But it is also important to check whether the dog has any of the following conditions:

  • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is becoming as common in dogs as in their human parents. Hypothyroidism leads to a drop in metabolism. Not just that, the dog is also disinterested in his environment. You can detect if your dog has hypothyroidism only through a blood test. Once confirmed, your vet will set the dose of thyroxine medication for your dog. After your dog has been put on medication, then his diet should be set for ideal calories for a dog of his stature (weight, age, breed etc.).

  • Neutered Dog: If a dog is spayed or neutered, his metabolism drops which may lead to weight gain in the dog. In such cases, the caloric intake is to be adjusted for reduced metabolic rate. First, the calories for a healthy dog of similar stature should be noted. You can find them using any dog calorie calculator available online. Next, reduce the calories by 10% to 15%. These are the maintenance calories required by a dog once neutered. However, if the dog is neutered and is also overweight, you would need to reduce another 10% from the number so obtained.

Here is a DIY Guide to get your dog to lose weight:

  • Begin with noting down your dog’s current weight. You will need to weigh your dog every 2 to 3 weeks. Keep a note of every reading including the reading in grams.
  • Begin with laying down the current caloric intake of your dog. Include calories from foods, treats and snacks served to your pet.
  • Once you know your dog’s current caloric intake, reduce no more than 10% of his calories and set them as his target calories for the next 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Once you know your dog’s target caloric intake, translate it into a meal having ample protein (about 30 to 35% calories from protein and 25 to 30% calories from fat). Feed a low fat, high fiber diet to your dog. Fiber will help keep your dog feeling full even when you cut down on his calories.
  • Do account for treats while setting caloric standards for your dog.
  • If your dog is not used to a high fiber diet, you may first need to transition him to the new ingredients by slowly introducing them into his meal over seven to ten days.
  • Foods like pumpkin, apples and squash are great choices to include in your dog’s diet when on weight loss. You may also add cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower to your dog’s diet.
  • Maintain a diary for making notes about the food fed to your dog: the portion size, number of calories, frequency of food and treats. This will help you maintain discipline in your dog’s diet and also find out scope of reduction in your dog’s diet. Do not feed table scraps to your dog as they may hinder your dog’s progress towards weight loss.
  • Keep a regular schedule of walks and moderate exercise. Obese dogs should not be made to do strenuous exercises or work outs that include running or jumping as they stress the joints of an obese dog.
  • Continue with the set caloric intake until the dog reaches the ideal weight. In case the dog is not losing weight, then drop another 10% calories.
  • Keep a watch on the playfulness of your dog while he/ she is on a weight loss program. Watch out for signs of hypoglycemia. Dogs on a weight loss program may have a sudden drop in glycemic levels. If such is the case with your dog, you would need to break his meal into smaller but frequent meals.
  • In case your dog seems listless while on a weight loss plan, rub some glucose on his gums and refer to a vet immediately. This is a rare condition that may happen in dogs on weight loss.

Weight loss programs are easy to administer. But their success depends upon the dedication of the pet parent. It is important that every member in the family restrains from inadvertently treating the dog out of love. It requires discipline not just for the dog, but also in the feeding habits of the entire household.