First, the Good News…
I am sure you have heard the many downsides to excess weight in dogs. I am going to tell you some of the upsides, and hopefully encourage you that weight loss is a project worth taking on and a very attainable goal.
- There is no more risk of overweight dogs developing diabetes than there is for other dogs.
- Overweight dogs are not at an increased risk of developing fatty liver disease, as overweight cats are. This makes a safe and effective weight loss program much easier with dogs than cats.
- Most dogs LOVE to exercise. Imagine having an exercise buddy who ran in circles and jumped at the door if you so much as spelled W-A-L-K. You have that buddy!
- There are many very good weight loss diet choices available for dogs. Once you find a nutritious choice that your dog likes, you only need to measure and stay the course for as many months as it takes to reach your goal.
- You have control over what your dog eats. Resisting super cute puppy eyes, as difficult as it is, is still easier than resisting unhealthy snacks for ourselves!
- Obtain a starting weight and body condition score.
- Rule out potential medical causes of excess weight (for example, hypothyroidism), and obtain any further medical information needed to develop a safe weight loss program.
- Determine a weight loss goal and ideal weight.
- Develop a food plan that includes food type, snack allowances, meal frequency and measured amount of food per meal.
- Develop an exercise plan that is fun, safe and doable. The core of your plan – if you and your dog enjoy it and it can be safely and comfortably done – will probably be walking.
Determining Body Condition Score
A body condition score is a visual and tactile approximation of how fit or fat your pet is. Body condition score is most often measured on a scale of 1 (too skinny) to 5 (too fat) or 1 (too skinny) to 9 (too fat). Illustrated versions of both scales can be found online, and your veterinarian may have a printed body condition score chart that you can have. Determine a score with your veterinary team, and aim for a score of 2 or 3 on a 1-5 scale or 4 or 5 on a 1-9 scale.
Track your weight loss success! Slow, steady weight loss over several months followed by lifetime maintenance of a healthy weight is the goal. Your veterinary team will be happy to see you every week or every month for a quick weight check as your dog gets healthier and fitter! Have a member of the veterinary team record your dog’s weight in the medical record at each visit.
When your dog reaches an ideal weight, readjust diet and exercise details for weight and health maintenance. Stop and acknowledge what an incredible thing you have done – You have restored and protected the health of your pet.
What have been your successes and challenges in reaching and maintaining ideal weights for your pets? Do you have words of encouragement for dog lovers who are on the weight loss journey with their own dogs?
May you and your dogs enjoy a lifetime of wellness.