Obesity is a common problem in dogs, but you can help your pet lose weight. Identifying the causes and following a total weight-management program can result in controlled weight loss and maintenance. A total weight-management program includes evaluating the animal, educating the pet owner, modifying behaviors, and tailoring the program to individual situations.
Definition and Causes of, and Contributing Factors to, Obesity in Dogs
Obesity is defined as an increase in body weight, beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirements, resulting from an accumulation of excess body fat.
Obesity is caused when caloric intake exceeds caloric expenditure. This simply means that a dog eats more energy (calories) than it uses and stores the excess energy as fat.
There are many factors that can contribute to obesity:
- Age and gender
- Spay/neuter status
- Diabetes mellitus
- Owner's weight
Fat, Fiber, and Fatty Acids in Your Dog’s Weight-Loss Program
- Dogs use fat as their primary energy source.
- A diet that replaces some fat with highly digestible carbohydrates offers a good low-calorie alternative. Digestible carbohydrates contain fewer than one half of the calories of equal quantities of fat and do not have the disadvantages of indigestible fiber.
Fiber and Fatty Acids
- A normal fiber level, provided in a moderately fermentable fiber source, helps create and maintain a healthy gut. This is especially important to the dog on a weight-reduction regimen.
- Some weight-loss products for dogs dilute calories with high levels of fiber. High-fiber foods might reduce the digestibility and absorption of many nutrients, including fat. These foods reduce weight by providing what could be considered poor-quality nutrition. These high-fiber diets also might result in large, frequent stools, and decreased skin and coat condition.
- Diets that provide an adjusted fatty-acid profile maintain the pet's healthy skin and coat, despite lowered fat levels.
Carbohydrates and Special Ingredients in Your Dog’s Weight-Loss Program
Carbohydrates and Special Ingredients
- Feeding a diet that contains the carbohydrates corn, sorghum, and/or barley can result in lower blood sugar and insulin levels as compared to feeding a diet that contains rice as the primary carbohydrate source. Lower blood sugar and insulin levels also can help with maintaining a proper weight.
In addition, a diet that contains L-carnitine can help dogs metabolize fat. L-carnitine is a vitamin-like compound that helps burn fat.
Weight Loss for Your Dog Should Be Gradual
- The goal of a good weight-loss-management program should be gradual weight loss. This is especially important in cats, because severe nutrient restriction can result in hepatic lipidosis (abnormal fat accumulation in the liver).
- Dogs should lose 1 to 2% of their initial weight per week.
- A good way to begin a weight-loss program is to reduce caloric intake by transitioning to a weight-control or reduced-fat formula. Dogs and cats that do not respond quickly should see their veterinarian for a special weight-loss program.
A total weight-management program can lead to successful weight reduction in the obese dog. Complete evaluation by the veterinarian is always recommended, and owner compliance is essential to success.
IAMS™ and professional veterinary products provide optimum nutrition for animals that can benefit from a weight-management program.
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Switching your dog to a new food takes some planning. Because dogs are creatures of habit, they tend to prefer their current food to a new food. Like us, they become accustomed to a food and might not be thrilled about a new routine. These useful dog-feeding tips will help you keep your dog satisfied.
4 Tips to Successfully Transition Your Dog to a New Food
1. Introduce the new food gradually.
When easing your dog into a change in diet, think “slow and steady.” Start by mixing 25% new food with 75% current food. Slowly change the proportions over the next three days or so by gradually increasing the new food and lessening the amount of the current food. Here’s a sample feeding schedule:
- Day 1: 25% new food, 75% current food
- Day 2: 50% new food, 50% current food
- Day 3: 75% new food, 25% current food
At the end of this weaning process, you should be feeding 100% of the new food. Your dog may want to eat only the old food, or not eat at all. Don’t worry — a healthy dog can miss meals for a day or two with no ill effects.
2. Watch your body language.
Bringing a new food into your home, pouring it into your dog’s bowl and declaring that he should eat it might cause your dog to go on a hunger strike. This is not the time to show who’s boss. It’s better to introduce the new food by using a pleasant tone of voice and gently encouraging him to try the new food.
3. Don't give in to demands.
Persistence is key! For the first two days of the food transition, don’t give your dog treats or table scraps. Dogs train us as much as we train them. Giving in to their demands only reinforces refusal behavior and makes it more difficult to make a nutritious dietary change.
4. Be patient when switching from wet food to dry food.
Switching diets may be more challenging when changing from a moist food to a dry food. If your dog continues to resist eating dry food, mix in a little warm water. You might even want to put the moistened food in the microwave for a few seconds. If you mix the food with water, be sure to throw away the uneaten portion after 20 minutes to prevent spoilage. The same rule applies for canned and pouch food. After the dog has become accustomed to the moistened food, you can wean him onto completely dry food. To do this, follow the same mixing instructions outlined above.
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