Heathside Veterinary Surgery Blog

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How can I help my dog lose weight?

Previously we have discussed What is an ideal weight for your dog? and Health implications in the overweight dog. This blog I hope will complete the cycle and make the process of weight loss less daunting for those who do not know where to start.

So what is weight gain?

Weight gain is the result of an increase in body fat...usually caused by eating too much or eating the 'wrong' food types.

The simple equation is this... calories going in must equal the calories being used up in exercise and in maintaining bodily function.

 Did you know that feeding a dog a plain biscuit is equivalent to a human eating a beef burger?!!! Imagine giving your Border Terrier a couple of biscuits as a treat when you have your morning cuppa. By the end of the week he would have consumed the equivalent of fourteen burgers; he will love you for it in the short term but you would not be doing him any favours. I don't know about you but one burger a month would be as much as I would feel comfortable with. Fourteen a week and I would be unable to get off the couch!

So where do you start? 

Lets discuss other factors that contribute to weight gain in order to know where to start.

Like age for example; as dogs  get older they usually become less active and require fewer calories. 

Some breeds appear more likely to gain those extra pounds such as Labradors, King Charles Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels and more.

Neutering can affect a dogs metabolism and slow it down thus causing weight gain if food intake is not monitored.

Finally the one we frequently hear  trying to convince ourselves with is...'it's me hormones!'.  And yes weight gain can be associated with several medical disorders such as Hypothyroidism and Cushing's Disease.

So in light of the above...

If you feel your dog is overweight and you can put your hand on heart and say that you or the kids or granny do not feed the dog tidbits it may be worth visiting your veterinarian for a health check.

Alternatively book in to a free nurses weight clinic for assessment and she will be able to advise you if your dog does indeed need a consultation with a vet because of health concerns.

Diet...

A weight problem can be successfully managed through diet and lifestyle changes. Combining a change of diet and increased exercise is the most effective way of achieving a healthy weight.

There are veterinary prescription diets specially formulated for weight loss. These foods provide a complete, balance nutrition to help keep your pets satisfied and most importantly healthy whilst losing weight. The prescription food comes in both tinned and dried which can be used alone or together to suit you and your dogs preferences. It tastes great and is good value for money.

You  may even find that it costs less per day to feed then your previous food.

We are often asked if the 'light' diet will help a dog to lose weight, however 'light' diets are designed to maintain an ideal weight and not to encourage weight loss. These foods tend not to be so filling and may leave your pet feeling hungry.

A prescription diet formulated for weight loss is usually recommended. They are high in fibre to help your pet feel more satisfied. They are rich in L-Carnitine to help burn fat, retain muscle mass during weight loss, as well as providing important antioxidants to maintain a strong immune system.

If your dog is only mildly overweight it may help decreasing his current diet and upping his exercises. Although recent scientific studies have shown that it is the quantity of food eaten that is crucial in weight loss rather than exercise (there's my excuse to give up the gym!).

...and treats

Often by reducing the amount of treats you give your pet and by increasing opportunities to exercise and play (it still plays a role)  will make the biggest difference to those animals with little weight to lose.

However if your pet is more than mildly overweight, by feeding him less of his usual food you could be restricting important nutrients if you decrease the amount by too much or for too long a period. If your dog falls into this letter category of being more than just a little overweight then the metabolic diet is the safest and healthiest route to take.

By joining our free weight management clinic,  our nurses will be able to assess your pets weight and body condition and recommend a feeding program to help your pet reach a healthy target weight safely. Depending on how much weight loss is required depends on how long it will take to achieve this. All dogs are different and therefore will respond differently.

Take for example our Pet Slimmer for February 2017 Max. A beautiful golden Labrador who weighed in at 48 kg last May. He has steadily lost weight down to 40 kg in February 2017. You may think that 8 kg is not a lot of weight to lose but this 8 kg represents a 20% body mass loss. Max still has a couple of kilos to go but has become a very different dog from that of spring last year.

See Max's post on our Facebook page.

Once on your weight loss program, your nurse will take your dog's current weight and advise you what his ideal weight would be. You will then be invited to return with your dog every two, four or six weeks for regular weigh-ins and monitoring. But do feel free to pop in and weigh your dog whenever you are passing just to make sure you are on track.

Let reception know that day's weight and it will be logged into your  dogs notes for future reference.

If you would like a free weight assessment or you would like your pet to regain a healthy weight please contact the surgery on (01489) 607001 to book your free appointment a our nurses weight loss clinic.

Remember it is vital to the health and well-being of your dog to maintain a healthy weight for them to have an increased quality of life with a longer lifespan. 

Danielle Giles

Heathside Veterinary Surgery