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How to Get a Fat Dog to Lose Weight

October 9, 2011

Black Lab Flab: Part II

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Last week, we discussed how to tell if your dog is fat.  75% of dogs in America are fat, and those numbers are growing around the world.  Obesity in dogs shortens their lifespan by 2-4 years!  So, now that you know you have a fat dog and you want your dog to be healthy and live as long as possible, how do you get started?

7 Steps to Healthy Dog Weight Loss

1. Veterinarian Advice About Dog Weight Loss

Great smile, big happy tongue, bulging shoulders and belly on a fat labrador retriever

Happy, but too fat for health!

Your veterinarian can give you advice about target weight, calories per day your dog should be eating, and weekly expected weight loss.  For example, an 80 pound (40 k) lab, who should be 65 pounds (30 k) might eat 850 kcalories per day for weight loss, can expect to lose 1.5-2 pounds per week (1 k).  So the process might take 2 months.  (Every dog if different: go t the vet’s for healthy targets for your dog.)

Require from your Veterinarian:

  • expected weight loss target
  • kilocalories per day to make target
  • weeks to make goal

2. Food Strategy for Weight Loss

Your dog probably needs to eat less.  Based upon experience, Doc Truli has found that when a dog is fat enough to see a dimple by the tail base and a straight or bulging waist line (instead of tucked in), that means you are feeding at least double the daily caloric need.

You can easily cut back 25% as a starting guideline.

Prescription weight loss diets containing L-carnitine, lower calories per measuring cup, with a nice satisfied feeling after the meal.

“In general, many regular dog foods have about 300-425 kcal per 8 ounce measuring cup. Diet foods tend to have 222-275.  Premium holistic foods tend to have 400-550 kcal per cup.  If you are unsure of the calories, and the company website is too complicated, just call the 1-800 info number on the packaging.  They will tell you the calories,” says Doc Truli.

Learn more about pet food labeling tricks that could mislead you into a higher-calorie food than you might think.

3. Establish a Healthy Routine for Healthy Weight

Of vital importance to your health and your dog’s health is a schedule.  Dogs know when it is time for breakfast and dinner.  They will tell you if you are not getting up fast enough!

“My dachshund grabs his ducky toy and races in circles around the living room, squeaking the toy the whole time, until we get up and feed him dinner.  He does this at exactly 4:30 pm every day,” says Kurt the red long-haired mini dachshund’s mom.

Your dog will be calmer, more trusting about meals, and less likely to pressure you if meals come on time.

4. Replace Food With Regular Attention to Get Your Dog to Lose the Pounds

If your Lab looks at you with those big beautiful brown eyes and starts to slobber a little and maybe prance from one front paw to the other, maybe even whine a little, do you give him or her a treat?  Why?

“Why do we shovel terrible quality, ephemeral-tasting ‘treats’ down our dogs’ gullets?” asks Doc Truli.  The taste lasts a split second, the treat is swallowed usually before it can be chewed.  It’s all empty calories and toxic chemicals mostly.  Why do we do this?  Because our dogs have trained us!”

Your dog wants your love and attention.  You interpreted that solicitation of affection as a request for treats and food and then you put words to it and got your dog worked up into a frenzy in order to get the food.  Then you signaled that the training was over when the food was consumed (at least for the time being). You completed the cycle of initiate, communicate, and extirpate* a want or a need with food as the signal.

You need to persistently and patiently retrain yourself ands your dog.  Get a clicker.  Read about dog training.  Rub your dog’s chest.  Replace your food ritual with tricks, routines, games, attention…not lousy treats.

*Extirpate (pronounced ex-terr- pate) means to get rid of something: it sounded cool in the sentence.

5.Use Psychological Tricks to Get Your Dog to Lose Weight

If your dog eats at the table with you, and you are unable or unwilling to drastically change your lifestyle together, weight loss is still a valid option for you.  Here is an extreme example of successful dietary management:

“Shelby was a 5-year-old Sheltie-Lab mix who was so obese, her right shoulder joint space collapsed and she walked with a painful limp.  The orthopedist and the neurologist both said her obesity was the problem,’ Says Doc Truli.  “Shelby sat on her chair at the dinner table and ate what the family ate.”

In Shelby’s situation, we took canned R/D Reducing Diet from Hill’s Prescription Science Diet.  We slid the loaf of canned food out of its can and sliced the pile into rounds, which were then cut into triangles.  We saved the extra in the fridge, covered to preserve freshness.

At mealtimes, the family placed Shelby’s triangles of R/D on the table on a serving dish.  They used a separate fork from their own and pretended to eat the food, then they pretended it was special and it wasn’t for the dog.  Then they pretended to give in and let her have some on her plate. It worked!  Shelby lost 50% of her body weight in 5 months.  She went from 80 pounds to 40 pounds, stopped limping and started running.  Dad had to go on a diet to keep up with her and he got into the best shape of his life!

6.  Get Out and Walk a Little to Lose Weight

Green sea grass and a lone pine tree bent against the Gulf winds frame a sunny section of dog beach on Florida's Gulf Coast

Get out and take a walk!

We already said dogs are sensitive to a schedule and they know what time it is.  Establish a walk at a certain time each day.  It can be just a block if you want (at first).  Just do it every day.  You will be amazed how the two of you feel after only a few weeks.

Tru Tip

If you do not have a scale to weigh your dog at home, you can use a string or tape measure and record the circumference around your dog’s belly right in front of the hips where it should be the narrowest part of the belly.  Measure weekly to gauge your progress.

If you are walking and you need guidance for how much to “push it,” a good general guideline is the extend the walk 1 block further from the starting point every two weeks. (So that’s two blocks total).  For those of you in the extreme country, or in the extreme city where the blocks are long – like NYC – a block holds maybe 15 American-sized cars.

7. Do Not Give Up on Your Dog’s Weight Loss!

If you are not recording any progress after 1-2 months, then something is wrong!  Either you are lying to yourself about your schedule and consistency, or a relative or friend is filling your dog with treats, or your dog has hypothyroidism, or some other condition that prevents healthy weight loss.

Go back to the veterinary hospital and re-evaluate if you have not had progress within 2 months.  If you wait too long, years will go by and the damage will be done!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2012 1:51 pm

    Great article – here’s some more fat dog help!

  2. Marie Hernandes permalink
    November 17, 2011 11:16 am

    I’m going to try and place my dogs on a diet. All are fat because I want to keep them happy when I’m at work, so I leave them a plate full of a variety of dog treats. I love my dogs too much to see them get sick and from now on I will give them 1 treat each before I leave instead of 30.


  1. To read more, check out the following:-How to Lose Weight at Home | How to Lose Weight at Home
  2. Relief for Dog Hip Dysplasia « VirtuaVet

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