We aren't trying to keep Fido skinny just for looks, it can have a major affect on their health as well!
We aren't trying to keep Fido skinny just for looks, it can have a major affect on their health as well! Overweight dogs can have worsening joint pain, back pain, inflammatory conditions, airway disease, and a number of other conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight in your older dogs will ensure that they are experiencing the best and least painful version of their senior years.
Keeping the weight off in an older dog can seem daunting. They are less likely to be able to exercise at a high level or frequency. They may have underlying conditions such as heart disease or arthritis that is already limiting their activity. Or they may just really enjoy that couch potato lifestyle.
Whatever the case may be there are always options for every older dog to lose a few pounds and have less weight on their backs and joints.
First, speak with your veterinarian about their weight and confirm if they believe they are overweight or not. If they are a healthy weight, congratulations you and your dog have earned yourself a treat (just not too many treats)! If they are not a healthy weight then discuss with your veterinarian if there are any activity restrictions based on their age, health, and mobility. Assuming there are no restrictions, it's time to get to work.
The best way for your dog to lose weight is to have them expend more calories than they take in. Calories in versus calories out. Consider eliminating all treats (just temporarily). This will help eliminate any unaccounted for calories that make weight watching more difficult. Yes it may be hard to say no to that sweet little face, but we will have a low calorie solution soon.
Next identify if you are on a recommended diet for your dog by your veterinarian and if feeding the correct amount. Senior dog diets often have less calories per kibble than diets for adult dogs by design but this is not always the case. Use a measuring cup to measure out the amount of kibble your dog needs based on their “ideal weight”. Ideal weight is usually determined by your veterinarian based on an assessment of their current weight. For instance if you have a 30 pound dog but your veterinarian says he should weigh 25 pounds, feed for the dog you want not the dog you have. Every bag of dog food has a feeding guideline on the back of the bag based on weight. Ask your vet if this seems appropriate to use the guide or if they have a calorie count they recommend for your pet.
Plan around consistent exercise rather than long amounts of exercise. Likely, your older dog does not want to go for the same run or walk or hike they did 5 years ago. Rather than having they go for longer distance try to go for shorter but more frequent walks or episodes of play.
Consistency will be the key factor in their weight loss journey.
Most veterinarians will aim to have a dog lose roughly 1 – 2 % of body weight per week if you are actively engaged in a weight loss plan. If after a few weeks to months this rate does not seem successful, you may need to talk to your veterinarian about other options such as prescription diets and a more detailed diet plan. Record their weight on the calendar to track their monthly progress if possible.
At this point we should have the following – an older dog that has been assessed by a veterinarian and determined to be overweight, assessed to be healthy enough to exercise, a weight goal, a diet that meets adequate nutrient requirements for our pet, and NO excess calories.
In the next post we will talk about what treats we can give to trick them into thinking they are not on a diet.
By Dr. Brent Gordon DVM