First off, if your dog is severely overweight, you need to check with your vet and see if there are any complications that will alter how we approach losing weight. These guidelines are for an otherwise healthy animal, and will help your dog lose some weight and prevent the ideal dog from gaining.
Feed an appropriate amount of food
This seems obvious, but the feeding guide on your bag of dog food is designed for an average dog with an average metabolism. In other words, it’s just a starting point. Feed according to the weight your dog SHOULD BE, and cut back a little to accommodate for any treats you give throughout the day. Check periodically your dog’s weight and tweak the amount fed based on your dog’s needs.
Let your dog fast if it wants to
A healthy dog should only want to eat as it’s energy reserves dictate. It fits nicely into our routine to feed our dogs twice a day, but they don’t need the same amount all the time. My suggestion is to put out a serving, and if it’s not eaten in 10 minutes, put it away for the next meal. Likewise, if your dog is at a good weight and wants more, that’s ok too. Some dogs shift their eating cycle to once a day, and that works for them. As long as their weight is maintained at a good level, there is no need to stress out about the timing or exact amount of food given.
Many owners make the mistake of thinking that if their dog isn’t interested in eating it’s food, that it doesn’t like it. So they dress it up with different toppings, trying to make it more appealing. In order to explain how silly this is if the dog just isn’t hungry, I offer this analogy:
Imagine that twice a day you were given a bowl of spaghetti, your favourite, but on this one occasion you just didn’t feel like eating it. Maybe you had a lazy day and just don’t feel like eating right now. So I add some freshly ground parmesan cheese to the spaghetti. Will you eat it now? You’re still not hungry, although the gesture is appreciated. Maybe you take a second look and a sniff, but still, you’re just not hungry. Now I’m upset, and think you MUST eat your dinner! What if I add some meatballs on top? Will you eat it now?
No matter what is loaded onto that plate, it doesn’t change whether you are hungry. Same goes for your dog. It’s healthy to fast for a day, and don’t forget that dogs are clever. You dress up the food once, and you will get those puppy eyes every time you offer the food with no toppings. Stay firm. You’re in charge.
Feed a food that has a proper balance of fats, carbs and protein
Be wary of foods that emphasize only one of these aspects. If all they talk about is how high the protein level is, then they may not be looking at the whole picture in terms of a nutritional balance. If there are all sorts of pictures of fruits and veggies on the bag, but they are actually listed at the bottom of the ingredient panel in amongst the vitamins and minerals, then that’s just a marketing ploy. Likewise, don’t feed just raw chicken breast and think that’s a complete and balanced diet.
Just like us, it’s difficult for a dog to lose or avoid gaining weight if the food is heavy on the carbs. Diets for us have shifted from the “low fat is healthy” mantra, to emphasizing healthy proteins, healthy fats, and lower glycemic carbs. Unfortunately the pet industry hasn’t caught up completely. There are still “lite” or “weight management” formulas out there that are low in protein and carb-heavy.
Come by the store, and we’ll help you sort through the differences in formulas and find a perfect diet for your dog!