An overweight dog is usually not a healthy dog. Being a little bit overweight is not that harmful, but your dog is likely to continue to put on more weight over time. An overweight dog moves slower, gets tired out more quickly, is more prone to other health problems and if obese also suffers reduced immunity. Obesity increases the load on various systems making fat dogs more prone to arthritis, cardiovascular disease, heat stress, diabetes and liver disease. Provided weight loss is carried out sensibly and slowly, your dog can regain vitality and improved health and you will be rewarded with a healthier, happier dog.
The safest approach to weight loss is to control the number of calories you feed your dog. To being with, aim for a 15% reduction in weight as your goal. Calculate your dog’s current weight less 15%, and then you and your vet can assess whether more weight loss is necessary. A weight loss of up to 15% can be achieved over 12 weeks by feeding about half the calories your dog would require at his new target weight.
Energy Requirement for Weight Loss
Before starting any weight loss plan it is advisable to first see your veterinarian, in case your dog is overweight because of a medical condition. In this case it may be dangerous for you to attempt weight loss without veterinary supervision. To work out the calories your dog requires to lose weight, first find out what the target weight should be. From the Recommendation Weight Loss Table (see sidebar), and given your dog’s current weight, you can see the target body weight you are aiming for and the energy (calorie) allowance needed each day to help reduce weight by about 1% per week (a safe weight loss). If your dog is very overweight, we still aim for the first target weight. When his weight has come down, look for the next new target weight (current less 15%) and go from there.
It may be necessary to reduce these levels even further depending on the dog’s response. If there is no weight loss then a further reduction of 10% of the food should be made.
Because you are going to feed less food, it’s not a simple matter of halving the existing diet. You will also halve the protein, vitamin, mineral and fat components, which can lead to deficiencies. Its important to use a diet formulated for weight loss to ensure that nutrient requirements are still met. Veterinarians and pet food stores stock weight control products and products designed specifically for weight loss. Alternatively you can make your own diet based on good quality protein (low in fat, but do include half the oil supplement) with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Its important to remember that dry dog foods contain about 4 times the calorie content volume for volume as tinned or fresh foods. So the first thing to consider would be to cut back on the dry food. You can calculate the calories you are feeding your dog by knowing the calorie content of the dog food, and/or using a calorie counter designed for people.
Weight Loss Diet
The following recipe has been used successfully on many occasions:
1.5 cups cooked Basmati rice
1.5 cups of vegetables (including half a cup of pumpkin or sweet potato)
2 teaspoons of sunflower oil
1 teaspoon of calcium carbonate
50 grams of dry food
L Carnitine may assist weight loss, Chromium, Flax seed oil, Multivitamin and mineral supplement, Vitamin B complex, Kelp
Herbs to Consider
Cayenne Pepper for sluggish, overweight dogs with heart problems, St. Mary’s Thistle, Parsley fresh, Brindleberry, Alfalfa
Daily exercise is the key to permanent, painless weight control. But if your dog is very overweight, this has to be done slowly and carefully, building up over time. As your dog loses weight she will have more energy, so you can begin to extend your walks further. Exercise helps to increase metabolism and to replace fatty muscles with strong lean muscle, and this in turn speeds up metabolism making weight control even easier.
It is really important that family and friends understand how important it is for your dog to reach a healthy weight. They need to understand that anything extra they give can sabotage all your good efforts and undermine your dog’s health. If they must feed your dog or give her snacks, make sure it’s from the allowances you have set. Pieces of popcorn (no butter), rice cake, carrot and apple make good snack substitutes.
Recommendation for Weight Loss
Current Current Target Target Energy
Body Body Body Body Allowance for
Weight Weight Weight Weight Safe Weight Loss
(kg) (lb) (kg) (lb) (kcal/day)
2 4.4 1.7 3.7 74
4 8.8 3.4 7.5 124
6 13.2 5.1 11.2 168
8 17.6 6.8 15.0 208
10 22.0 8.5 18.7 247
15 33.0 12.7 28.0 334
20 44.0 17 37.4 414
25 55.0 21.2 46.6 490
30 66.0 25.5 56.0 562
35 77.0 9.7 65.3 630
40 88.0 34 74.8 697
45 99.0 38.2 84.0 761
50 110.0 42.5 93.5 824
55 121.0 46.7 102.7 885
60 132.0 51 112.2 946
Adapted from Table 9.2 in Manual of Companion Animal Nutrition and Feeding edited by Noel Kelly and Josephine Wills BSAVA 1996. Based on maintenance energy requirements for target weight multiplied by 45% to allow a weight loss of approximately 1% per week.
Obesity increases the load on various systems making fat dogs more prone to arthritis, cardiovascular disease, heat stress, diabetes and liver disease. Provided weight loss is carried out sensibly and slowly, your dog can regain vitality and improved health and you will be rewarded with a healthier, happier dog.