Diet for overweight dogs

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Diet for overweight dogs

Obesity in dogs is by no means just a visual problem. Depending on the severity, it is a disease. Obesity can cause significant other health problems, for example diabetes mellitus and joint diseases, but also skin problems and tumor diseases. In addition, the lifespan of overweight dogs can be shortened.

Recognize obesity in dogs

Dog owners can usually judge for themselves whether their dog is overweight or not. To do this, the following points must be taken into account:

  • Regular weighing: As a rule, dogs have reached their normal weight by the time they are fully grown (between one and two years depending on the breed), which can serve as a guide.
  • Body condition: In a dog of normal weight, the ribs should not be visible, but should be felt with light pressure. The waist is easy to see when viewed from above and when viewed from the side, the belly line extends upwards towards the pelvis.

When is a dog overweight?

The following guide values ​​can be used to estimate the extent of obesity:

  • less than 10% above normal weight: slightly overweight
  • from 10% above normal weight: beginning obesity
  • from 20% above normal weight: manifest obesity

If the obesity is manifest, a controlled, strict diet is essential. This requires a lot of consistency from the dog owner.

How does obesity arise?

Insofar as certain metabolic diseases such as hypothyroidism can be excluded, the development of obesity is the result of an imbalance in the energy balance. This means that more energy is absorbed than the dog needs or uses. This is also where a diet begins by reducing energy intake. It is important that the dog continues to take in sufficient quantities of all essential nutrients despite the diet.

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Factors such as genetics or castration can also promote the development of obesity. Certain breeds tend to eat more food and gain weight as a result, which many Labrador, Cocker Spaniel or Beagle owners can confirm. Not every neutered dog automatically gains weight, but for many the food intake increases with decreasing activity, so that the response should be to adjust the food.

Dieting reduces the dog’s energy intake. © alexugalek-stock.adobe.com

Measures for slightly overweight

If the dog is slightly overweight (less than 10% deviation from normal weight), the dog owner can consider for himself where the energy intake can be restricted. It is advisable to reduce the supply of treats or to omit them completely. Many dog ​​owners are not aware that various chews and dried meat products are very high in energy and therefore real calorie bombs. These include, for example, pig ears, bull pizzas, but also dried lungs, rumen, tendons or scalp.

If a dog does not get any treats, the food can be reduced slightly if the dog is slightly overweight. This should only be done for a short period of time. A maximum duration of the feed reduction is difficult to define across the board because it depends on the individual feed. If there is no weight loss after about six to eight weeks, a veterinarian should be consulted.

In order not to have to do without treats completely, the following alternatives are possible:

  • If you feed your dog with dry food, this should also be used as a treat and subtracted from the daily ration.
  • If you feed wet food, you can use dry food as a treat. The wet food is then reduced using the following rule of thumb: 10 g dry food corresponds to approx. 40–50 g wet food.
  • In the case of homemade rations, whether raw or cooked, 20 g of fresh meat (raw weight) can be replaced by approx. 5 g of dried muscle meat.
  • With all forms of feeding it is possible to use vegetables such as carrots or cucumbers as treats.
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For dogs of normal weight, treats should make up a maximum of 10% of the daily energy intake. For dogs with illnesses, including obesity, a maximum of 5% of the daily energy requirement should be covered by treats.

Treats are real calorie bombs for dogs. © elmar gubisch-stock.adobe.com

Diet for Overweight Dogs

If a dog’s body weight exceeds its normal weight by more than 10%, it is advisable to contact the veterinarian directly. There are special diet foods for overweight dogs, both dry and wet. Compared to commercially available dog food, these have a lower energy density. They have a reduced fat content and enough protein so that when you lose weight you lose fat but retain muscle mass.

If dogs are barked or if they are given self-cooked rations, it is possible to keep these forms of feeding. However, a balanced and individual calculation of the rations should then be carried out by specialized veterinarians so that the demands on a corresponding diet are guaranteed.

Feeding plays the main role in weight management. It can be supported by sufficient exercise, provided that there are no joint diseases.

Diet for dogs: not like this!

A “zero diet” should not be carried out for an overweight dog, not even for a few days. Otherwise there is a risk of an insufficient supply of minerals, vitamins and water. Furthermore, a total withdrawal of food would lead to the fact that not only fat tissue, as desired, but also muscle mass is lost.

A reduction in the usual feed over a longer period is also not recommended. This not only reduces the energy intake, but also the intake of individual nutrients, which, depending on the feed, can lead to incorrect supply in the long term.

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Weight reduction should take place very slowly and can take several weeks to months. The dog should lose a maximum of 2% of its current body weight per week.

Exercise helps combat obesity in dogs. © Alex Green-stock.adobe.com

Conclusion: feed dogs that are overweight

If a dog is slightly overweight, the owner can first try to regulate this himself, preferably with the treats. If you are clearly overweight, you should consult a veterinarian to discuss how to proceed.

However, it is best to prevent the development of obesity right from the start, i.e. already during the growth phase. Care should be taken to ensure a balanced diet, adequate energy intake and, in particular, a controlled supply of treats.