Ask the Vet

Cushy Lives and Fat Dogs

Sometimes weight management for pets is as simple as making sure they get a little less couch-time. (Getty Images)

Question:

Our children were home visiting recently, and they said our house dog is way too fat. We do leave food out for her, but she doesn't seem to eat that much. Could she have something wrong with her?

Answer:

Overweight pets are an increasing problem in this country. This was a rarity with hunting and working dogs in the days past, but, our inside dogs and cats live a pretty cushy life.

Before I start looking for diseases that can lead to weight gain, I discuss with my clients four areas that need to be addressed if their pets are overweight. These work for humans, too, if I would only follow my own advice.

> 1. Feed the right thing. There are many good dog foods out there, and the most expensive and heaviest advertised may not be the best. We recommend a high-quality, commercial dry dog food tested in an AAFCO-approved (Association of American Feed Control Officials) feeding trial. Light food or diet foods like Hills Metabolic can help some pets.

> 2. Feed the right amount of the right thing. Each bag or can should have the recommended amount to feed based on what your animal should weigh. While this is only a guide, it is a good starting point.

> 3. Don't feed the wrong things. Snacks, treats and people food are often high in caloric content and short on nutrition. This doesn't mean you can't occasionally spoil your pet, but, all calories must be counted. So, think about the snacks and treats you choose.

> 4. Get plenty of exercise. There is an old saying that fits: "If your dog is too fat, you're not getting enough exercise."

Now, if you do all these things, and your pet does not lose weight, your veterinarian needs to see him or her, and may need to do some lab work. Hypothyroidism and Cushing's diseases are two common illnesses in dogs that can lead to weight gain. But, before you go down that road, try the free stuff first.

(SK)