Cook's Corner: Weight Control

Provide healthy foods and exercise to slim down your pudgy dog.

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One of the simplest ways to help dogs live long and healthy lives is to keep them lean from puppyhood through old age. However, more than half of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, conditions that are linked to arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, ruptured cruciate ligaments, pancreatitis and other health problems.

A 14-year study showed that Labrador Retrievers that ate 25 percent less than their free-fed littermates lived an average of two years longer and experienced less trouble with hip dysplasia (Kealy, et al. “Effects of Diet Restriction on Life Span and Age-Related Changes in Dogs,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. May 1, 2002).

Is your dog fat?
Many owners don’t know their dogs are overweight, or argue that their breed is supposed to be that way, but the same rules apply to all dogs. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs quite easily, and see the last rib or two on a smooth-coated dog. A distinct tuck up at the waist should be seen when viewed from the side or the top.

As long as your dog’s hips and spine don’t protrude, your dog is not too thin. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian’s opinion.

The best way to lose weight
Traditional commercial weight-loss diets are high in carbohydrates and low in fat, with indigestible ingredients added to “fill up” the dog.

This approach has several problems, however. Protein and carbohydrates contain the same number of calories per gram. Protein helps build lean muscle, but carbohydrates are more likely to be stored as fat. Low-fat diets leave dogs feeling hungry all the time, and adding high amounts of fiber doesn’t usually satisfy their appetites. This can lead to food stealing and garbage raiding.

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