Pet Health
Preventing Obesity in Dogs
Holly Frisby, DVM, MS
Veterinary Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.

Preventing your dog from becoming overweight is easier than taking off the excess weight
once it is there. To prevent excess weight, we must feed our dogs according to their
activity level and age. In general, younger dogs will need more calories per pound of body
weight than older dogs whose metabolisms have slowed. To maintain optimum weight we
need to:

Provide exercise

Exercise has many benefits. It not only helps to burn calories but it also:

-  Strengthens r
espiratory and circulatory systems
-  Helps get oxygen to
tissue cells
-  Keeps muscles toned and joints flexible
-  Releases energy, relieves boredom, and keeps mind active
-  Aids in digestion

Choose the correct type and amount of food

Dogs need different types and amounts of food during their life stages. Younger animals
require more energy, protein, and minerals than older dogs. Active field trial dogs, and dogs
who are outside in cooler weather would also have greater energy needs. Pregnant or
nursing dogs require increased protein, minerals, and energy. 'Couch potato' dogs,
however, have much lower energy needs. Older dogs, even if they remain active, may
require fewer calories than when they were younger.

Some dogs regulate their intake well, others eat anything in sight. In general, it is best to
provide food as 'meals' rather than having a food bowl filled with food available at all times
(free choice, ad. lib.). This way it is easier to monitor intake and food will not become stale.
In a multiple pet household, providing food as meals also helps to ensure the pet is eating
the food appropriate for him.

Regularly monitor the dog's weight

It is easy for us to put on a couple of pounds
and not notice it until we try wearing something
we have not worn for a while. It is even harder
to notice small weight gains in dogs. By routinely
weighing your dog (at the same time of day, on
the same scale), you will be able to notice a slight
weight increase (or decrease) before it becomes a serious problem.

Regulate the weight of young dogs

Dogs who are overweight while growing have a
greaterrisk of becoming overweight as adults.
We need to make sure growing animals have
adequate nutrition, but we do not want to feed
too much. In addition to contributing to weight
problems as the animal ages, excess weight when young can contribute to other problems
such as joint disease.

Limit or eliminate treats and table scraps

The extra calories and decreased nutritional value of treats and table scraps are often the
biggest offenders when it comes to weight control. Treats are generally better than table
scraps, and have their use, as when training dogs to 'come.' But giving too many treats can
have serious consequences. Most dogs, when it comes right down to it, would rather have
your attention than a treat. Spending extra time playing or grooming your dog will probably
give you both much more satisfaction than the treat, which is gobbled up in three seconds
and then forgotten.

Treat any contributing factors or diseases

Although most weight gain in dogs is simply due to feeding too much or exercising too
little, there are medical conditions which can contribute to obesity. Many of these
conditions can be treated. If your dog has an unexplained increase in appetite or weight,
have your dog examined by your veterinarian to be sure there is not a disease process
causing the problem.

Copyright © 1997-2004, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted from
Dogs who are overweight
when young have a greater
risk of becoming obese as they
grow older
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