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.