Managing overweight dogs

The easiest way to tell if your dog is overweight is to run your fingers along his or her ribcage. You should be able to feel the ribs quite easily – a bit like a washboard. Run your fingers along the centre of their back and you should also be able to feel the spine. If you can't easily feel the ribs or spine, then your dog may be overweight.

Occasionally, there are some medical conditions that can cause a dog to be overweight. So before you start any weight-loss program for your dog, have a chat with your vet. Use our Vet Finder if you don't yet have one. Your vet may even be able to talk to you about tailor-made prescription diets and weight loss clubs  

The simple solution is to feed your dog less of everything, cut the treats, titbits and leftovers, and start exercising more. To stop him feeling hungry, you could bulk up his meals with fibre, such as cooked pumpkin, carrots or unprocessed bran. Check food labels for the right amount of food for his target weight - but remember these are usually a guide for when this food is given exclusively.

To avoid the temptation to overdo the titbits, try putting all of your dog's daily food allocation (including treats) in one container. This will deplete gradually throughout the day, and when it's empty - no more feeding Fido again until tomorrow! Sometimes changing to a smaller feed bowl can help too. A smaller serving looks a lot bigger in a little bowl!

Exercise is very important for weight loss. Start to gradually increase the length of your dog’s walks. Add in some playtime or fetch throughout the day to encourage your dog to be more active. Try food release devices (Kongs, Buster Food Cubes, etc.) to encourage your dog to work for the food. Some owners even throw the dry food out into the backyard (like feeding the chooks) to encourage their dog to search for it - great environmental enrichment for any dog, not just overweight ones!

Perseverance and consistency are very important in any successful weight loss program, and everyone in the family needs to be working together towards helping your pooch shed those excess kilos.

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