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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

You Control The Weight

Yesterday I was talking to a client about their overweight pet and mentioned to her that she has complete control over how much her dog weighs.  She seemed surprised by this revelation, so I thought I'd share it with everyone.

Yes, YOU are the one who determines how much your pet will weigh.  Think about that for a moment.  Who places the food in the bowl?  Who decides to take the dog for a walk or at least let them out in the yard?  Who gives the treats?  Who feeds from the table?  In each of these circumstances the answer is "the pet owner".  And that means you.  So if your dog gets too many treats, gets to large of a portion each day, or doesn't get enough exercise, who is to blame?  Do you see where I'm going with this?

Yes, there are a few circumstances where there is a metabolic problem causing the weight gain.  Most of the time this is related to low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), which is a diagnosable and treatable disorder.  But medical conditions are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to overweight pets.  So if you take away problems with a dog's metabolism, that leaves feeding and exercise, both of which are under a client's control.

Many people don't realize just how little a pet needs to eat.  In fact, once a pet is spayed or neutered their metabolic requirements lower dramatically. You know the feeding guides on the package of dog or cat food?  Most of those are based on an "intact" pet.  If your pet has been "fixed" (spayed or neutered), he or she actually needs at least 30% LESS than that recommended amount!  If your pet is particularly inactive, that requirement may go down even more. And that doesn't include treats, which can add up much faster than people realize.

So let me be very blunt for a moment.  If your pet is overweight it's almost always because YOU have over-fed or under-exercised your pet (or have allowed it to happen in your family).  This can be a serious health concern and lead to shorter life spans and more health problems.  The fix?  Talk to your vet about a good weight loss program and food.  It's all up to you.


  1. People with an overweight pet usually think that they are making their pet happy by feeding it whatever it wants - table scraps (I know someone that actually cooks their dog breakfast to include eggs, toast and even coffee) and treats every time the pet "asks" for it. I have let them know how bad that is for any pet - but some people associate food with comfort for themselves, so how can we expect them to be any different with their pets? Instead of giving those things - why not a carrot stick or better yet, play with your pet or introduce a new toy?

  2. I have almost become numb to the plague of overweight pets from working in a shelter. We tend to see scary thin or morbidly obese -- It's sad that the dogs of "healthy weight" are actually a remarkable occasion.

    What I struggle with even more, however, are the number of overweight dogs I see running agility each weekend! Come on, that's just a major risk of injury right there. Put a little more thought & effort into the maintenance of your canine athlete.

    It's NOT THAT HARD. I might have pretty cruddy self control when it comes to my own diet & exercise, but I'm fairly anal about maintaining my dogs at their ideal performance weights.

  3. MOST of my dogs are at ideal weight, I honestly don't know where my smallest is getting her 'extra nutrition' from because it's not from treats or the food bowl. That's another story...

    We foster dogs, and one we had placed was recently returned. He was HUGE!!! So, after increased activity and a loss of over 5 lbs at my house, we are now on cage rest nursing what we hope is just a hip injury. I can't help but think that his lack of exercise and extreme weight gain in 7 months had to have contributed to his lameness.

  4. It never ceases to amaze me when people ask how they can get their pet to lose weight. This is not rocket science. Feed them less. Don't leave the food out all day long. That shouldn't be shocking information.

    And Karissa, agreed on the fat agility dogs.

  5. Yes, very true.

    I think that besides missing this point big part of the problem is that people don't realize their pet is overweight and remain in denial when told. I think every client should get a body condition score chart the first time they come in (or better yet every time, along with their bill).


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