Our 7-year-old lab has gotten fat! Since March, he’s gained 14 pounds! We want to help him get the weight off safely. Any tips?
Chunky Lab in Garden Oaks
Dear Chunky Lab,
This COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us feeling a bit more chunky than we’d like, but the good news is that with some careful thought and swift action, you can help turn back the scale and get your chunky lab back on the road to health.
Studies show that 45% of all dogs in the United States are obese. This is a staggering number when you consider the negative impacts of obesity on a dog’s life. Obesity can cause a whole host of medical conditions and also make it painful to move normally.
Just like in humans, it might be tempting to immediately tackle the issue with super restrictive food plans and insane amounts of exercise, but keep in mind that it took almost seven months to put on the weight, so you should plan to spend just as much time safely getting your dog back on track.
Here are a few things to start doing today that will make your pooch feel more like himself:
Slowly reduce portion sizes
If you’re currently free-feeding your dog (keeping a full bowl of food out all day), stop that immediately and begin feeding him two to four times a day, with smaller portions. This will help him to refrain from gorging on his food and also help you to monitor exactly how much food he’s eating in a day. The tendency might be to immediately go from his current portions to drastically reduced portions, but the best thing to do is to slowly decrease his portion sizes over the next few weeks. Metabolism is a tricky thing and if you reduce portion sizes too drastically and too quickly, his body can go into “starvation mode” and hold onto the weight.
Eat less, exercise more
I know, I know. It’s the advice that we all hate to hear the most, but it’s true. In order to lose weight, we must burn more calories than we take in. So, along with slowly reducing your dog’s portion sizes, begin slowly incorporating more exercise into his routine. That could mean one extra, short dog walk a day, or a longer game of fetch in the backyard. Pick an activity your dog enjoys and commit to doing more of it.
Make it a family plan
Make sure that all members of the family are on-board with the weight loss plan. If one of the kids is continuing to give Fido treats all day, every day, weight loss is going to be difficult. Also, get the family involved in your dog’s exercise routine. More exercise can’t hurt anyone–two-legged or four-legged!
As always, consult with your vet on the best foods to feed to aid in weight loss and also to rule out any medical condition that could be causing his weight gain. Once you get the all-clear from the vet, approach the project like the chance to improve the health and happiness of everyone in the home–not just your dog.
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