Category Archives: Keeping Fido Slim & Trim

Suggested Weight-Loss Diet for a Healthy Dog

Several years ago, our rather sedentary but healthy dog began to pack on the pounds.  Gator isn’t your average Weimaraner.  He doesn’t hunt, and his separation anxiety keeps him glued to my side at the dog park.  My web-footed “Weimie” is terrified of water, so swimming is out of the question.  Gator enjoys his walks, primarily so he can sniff out new “smells” within the safety net our leash provides.

Since he was on a healthy, high-grade food, it became 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.

Excess weight contributes to serious health problems in dogs.  Heart disease and high blood pressure are common.  The extra pounds place stress on the animal’s heart and lungs.

Have you ever noticed the stiffness and obvious limping in some older dogs?  Fat dogs are more likely to develop osteo-arthritis 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 5 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.

He now receives Healthy Gourmet Treats from PureZa for Life for snacks.  These treats contain only a freeze-dried meat, a vegetable or two or a fruit, and Min-Lytes, their proprietary blend of trace minerals and electrolytes.  Nothing in these treats to add many calories to Gator’s diet!

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 95 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 healthy, grain-free dog food and green beans if needed.  No people food ever, except for occasional baby carrots used as treats!  Through his weight problems, we learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of obesity for our pets.

Fat Dogs Are Not Healthy

Dog obesity is reaching crisis stage.  According to “The Journal of Applied Veterinary Medicine,” nearly 35% of pet dogs are overweight.  Those extra pounds can cause serious healthy issues for a dog and determine how he lives his life and how long he lives.

Overweight dogs are predisposed to several serious conditions.  Arthritis is common when a dog is fat, because the extra weight puts undue stress on the animal’s joints.  Symptoms of arthritis include limping and stiffness, inability to participate in previous activities and can even include behavioral changes.  After all, pain would make any of us grumpy.

 Heart disease and high blood pressure affect dogs, as well as humans.  Obesity stresses the heart, arteries and other internal organs.  Look for coughing, breathing issues, loss of appetite, inability to exercise and weight loss.

If you are unsure if your dog needs to lose weight, run your hands down his sides from his neck to his tail.  Can you feel his ribs?  You should feel just a slight layer of fat covering them.  Looking at him from the side, does the abdominal area show a slight curving in as it reaches the hips?  If not, or you suspect that your dog is overweight, talk to your veterinarian.  He or she will be your best guide for choosing a proper diet and exercise for your pet.

Diet and exercise together are the keys to getting your dog in shape.  There are many choices on the market of “light” dog food.  If you can afford it, a grain-free food would certainly lower the calories.  Otherwise, look for a food that contains NO wheat or corn or by-products.  Talk to your vet about food choices.  He or she can help you decide on the correct feeding amounts in order for your dog to lose weight.

Gator, our over-sized Weimaraner who is as tall as a female Great Dane, developed a weight problem.  His daily walk wasn’t enough exercise for him.  Visits to the dog park were of little help, because Gator would not leave my side.  At my son’s Arkansas home with lots of open land and no other dogs in sight, Gator ran and exercised as a Weimaraner should.  But those visits were not frequent enough to keep him in shape.  Gator would have benefitted from younger, more active owners but since that is not his lot in life, we had to find a suitable diet to keep him healthy while losing the extra pounds.

What worked best for our dog was a high-quality, dry dog food mixed with canned green beans.  He loves those beans,  which provided fiber and a “full” feeling without adding calories.  We adjusted Gator’s portions of food down as he lost  weight, and now he is on a maintenance amount of his regular kibble, with the occasional green beans thrown in for his pleasure.  He’s happier and looks so much healthier.

Always ask your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet.  What works for one animal may not be the right diet for all.


Help Your Pet Avoid Obesity

Your dog can pack on the pounds without you realizing how many until the damage is done, so don’t wait for it to happen.  Begin right now to keep Fido in excellent physical condition and prevent him from gaining weight.

  1. Follow your veterinarian’s dog feeding guidelines.  He or she is the expert and can give you the best advice.  Breeders and other dog owners like me can offer suggestions, but for your pet’s safety, always go to the professional.  I know from experience how easy it is to overfeed a dog without realizing it.
  2. Buy the best dog food you can afford.  Best doesn’t always mean the most expensive.  Learn to read the labels.  We purchase our pet food at Walmart, and it doesn’t contain any bad ingredients.  It really is possible to buy decent dog and cat food at discount prices.  Healthier food should save you money on vet bills down the road.
  3. Eliminate free feeding.  Many dog owners leave a bowl of kibble down for their dogs to munch own whenever the snacking bug hits.  That’s not a good idea for a dog with a tendency to gain weight.  Feed your dog only at designated times each day.  Our adult  dogs are fed twice a day.
  4. Plan daily exercise for your dog.  Walks are good.  Playing ball is better and burns more calories as he runs to fetch the ball.  Swimming is great exercise, if your dog enjoys the water.  Whatever method you choose, daily exercise is crucial to your pet’s ability to maintain the correct weight and muscle tone.
  5. Choose low-calorie treats for Fido.  If your dog expects regular treats, switch from high-calorie choices to raw baby carrots or green beans.  Carrots are high in vitamins, and the crunchy texture is good for a dog’s teeth.  Green beans are low-calorie option and contain fiber.  Our dogs receive a treat when we are leaving them.  As soon as they see the treats come out, Maggie heads for her crate, and Gator runs to his bed by the living room window.
  6. If your dog is already overweight, consult your vet about a suitable diet.  Be consistent and don’t allow those soulful, pleading eyes to persuade you to slip him bites of people food or high-calorie treats.

Always talk to your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet and follow his or her advice.  What works for one animal may not be the correct diet for all.