Worried that your small-breed dog is packing on the pounds? Run your hands along his backbone. You should be able to feel (but not see) his ribs. You also should see a clearly defined waist behind the ribs. If you can’t, follow these seven tips from Debra Eldredge, a veterinarian and co-author of “Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook,” published by Howell Book House.
1. See the Vet
Before you put your overweight dog on a diet, schedule an appointment with the vet to make sure an underlying health problem isn’t causing the numbers on the scale to creep up.
2. Think beyond Mealtime
Snacks and table scraps might account for your overweight dog’s bulging belly, Eldredge says. If curtailing in-between meals doesn’t make a difference, consider continuing with the same amount of food but switching to a different formula. Your vet can give you guidance.
3. Give Him Veggies
Thawed frozen green beans, canned pumpkin (which is fiber-rich and filling) and cut-up carrots make satisfying, low-calorie snacks for your pet.
4. Redo the Numbers
A study showed that dogs can count up to six or seven, Eldredge says. If he is accustomed to getting two small biscuits as a treat, break one biscuit into two pieces. By his count, he’s still getting two treats!
5. Rethink Rewards
As much as your overweight dog loves treats, he also loves taking walks, playing and spending time with you. You also can replace biscuits with a couple of pieces of the kibble he would get during mealtime.
6. Do the Hunger Test
Is your bichon staring up at you with those beautiful eyes as you nibble on peanuts? He’s probably not hungry. As you have your snack, offer him a piece of kibble. If he turns it down, he’s not really hungry — he just wants your peanuts!
7. Put Him on the Scale
If your overweight dog has just a couple of pounds to lose, it can be hard to gauge whether he is making progress. Ask your clinic if it’s OK if you stop in once a week so he can step onto the doctor’s scale.
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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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