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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Controlling your Dog’s Weight

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Controlling your Dog’s Weight
by Steve Siadek

Several years ago, our rather sedentary dog began to pack on the pounds. Gator isn't your average Weimaraner.  He doesn't hunt (anything other than smells, at least), and his separation anxiety keeps him glued to my side at the dog park.  My web-footed “Weimie” is terrified of water, so swimming was out of the question.

Since he was on a healthy, high-grade food, it quickly clear that Gator’s weight issue would have to be addressed with a change in diet.

At the time, I worked for an animal rescue organization whose veterinarian, Dr. Ronald Lott, told me how he controlled his German Shepherds’ weight using canned green beans.  By replacing part of Gator’s dry dog food with the green beans, our boy dropped 18 pounds over 6 months.  The beans provided fiber and contained very few calories, and Gator loves them.

At this point, I should add that before changing your dog’s diet or embarking on any kind of weight loss program, you should enlist the advice of your own veterinarian.  He or she knows your dog’s needs and can point you in the right direction.

That being said, extra pounds do place considerable stress on a dog’s heart and lungs, which can contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.  So canine owners should definitely be conscious of their dog’s weight.

Have you ever noticed the stiffness and obvious limping in some older dogs?  Overweight dogs are more likely to develop osteoarthritis in their joints as they age.  This painful condition can often be avoided, or at least minimized, by keeping Fido’s weight under control.

Think about what your dog eats.  Do you know what’s really in it?  Over the last 4 years, I’ve learned a great deal about pet food, and I’m committed to sharing that information on my own websites.  Both canned and dry dog food can contain ingredients that contribute to weight gain.  Read the label!  If you see any form of corn, a change in diet is in order.  Corn is used by pet food manufacturing companies as a cheap replacement for quality protein.  But corn is a carbohydrate and will contribute to weight gain.  Better dog food won’t contain corn.

Look at the first 4 ingredients on the label.  If you see corn, wheat, rice, potato or any other starch, you may want to shop for something else to help your pup lose weight.  The first 4 ingredients contain the most weight in the product, which means that any carbohydrates included translate to calories, and that translates to weight gain!

You may have to pay a bit more for a higher quality pet food but if it helps your dog lose weight and enjoy a healthier life, it will be worth it.  If budget is an issue, and for most of us it is, healthy pet food can be found at reasonable prices.  You just have to search for it.

Pay attention to other food items that your dog consumes.  During Gator’s “fatty” period, he often ate people food snacks.  If my husband made toast with peanut butter, Gator was right beside him, waiting for a hand-out.  With the change in his food, we changed his treats.  I keep a bag of fresh baby carrots in the refrigerator, just for the dogs.  Baby carrots are the right size for a treat and are low in calories.

Exercise is crucial for dogs.  Not only does it keep the weight off; it also helps the animal retain muscle tone.  If your pet is small, he might do just fine with only a daily walk or two.  But larger animals need more.

Playing ball with you or catching a tossed Frisbee are easy ways to get Fido moving.  Running around a dog park with other canines also provides cardio exercise.  Swimming improves cardio and muscle tone.

Today, our Gator is a healthy 99 pounds and at the height of a female Great Dane, this is a perfect weight for him.  His weight is maintained with a diet of a really good dry kibble and green beans.  No people food, ever, except for baby carrots used as treats!

Through Gator’s weight problems, we learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of pet obesity. Hopefully what we’ve learned with Gator can help inform healthy food decisions for your dog.

About the Author: Carol North is the president of Seniors for Pets, Inc, a 501(c)3 non-profit assisting SW Florida seniors with basic veterinary needs for their pets.  She also publishes, a website devoted to the feeding and care of healthy pets.

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