Helping Dogs Lose Weight

Changing guardian behavior can help
By Karen B. London PhD, October 2018, Updated June 2021

Despite the actions of the dog in this video, not a lot of dogs are stressing out over their weight loss woes. It’s wonderful that they are not suffering the esteem issues and other misery so many people face due to our society’s obsession with being thin. However, dogs who are extremely overweight can suffer in the same ways that some extremely heavy people do with health issues, shortened lifespans and decreased quality of life. From Ilana Strubel DVM's post titled Help Your Pup Lose Weight:

Clinical research has shown that losing just 10 percent of body weight will slow or prevent many life-threatening disease processes, including debilitating osteoarthritis and diabetes, and perhaps even some types of cancers. By taking a few simple measures, you may be able to add more quality time to your dog’s life, time the two of you can enjoy together.

Estimates of the number of dogs who are obese or overweight range from 40% to 60%, and nobody doubts that the problem is getting worse. So many dogs are heavier than they are supposed to be that a lot of people are more accustomed to seeing dogs with a weight issue than dogs who are a healthy size. That may explain why it’s common for people to be unaware that their dogs are overweight. Another factor could be reluctance by some veterinarians to push the issue because they don’t want to risk damaging the relationship they have with their patients’ guardians.

Working on a dog’s weight loss is a big challenge. Frequently the approach to dropping some pounds is changing to a food that is designed to help dogs shed excess pounds. Success is also possible if changing guardians’ behavior is a focus of helping obese dogs. Adding in more walks and playtime, consciously limiting treats lifestyle changes, providing education about nutrition and proper portions, regular visits to the vet to monitor success and setting goals can all help dogs lose weight.

If you’ve worked to take excess weight off of a dog, what has worked for you?

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life

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