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Is Your Dog Overweight?

dog overweight

Is your dog overweight?  Mine was – but we finally got it under control.  It only took 3 simple things to lose the weight.

The first time the vet said Nala needed to lose weight, she was just a year old.  Given that I was particular about her diet and she got plenty of exercise, I had a hard time believing it.  I said that she just had a lot of skin, which makes her look heavier.  (She does have a lot of skin, but that’s no excuse.)  
I started cutting back how much food she got.  I’d somehow end up creeping up the feeding amounts, little by little, until her bowl was as full as it was before.  She’d gone through basic training and had it down pat, so we cut back on treats.  We switched to praise to reinforce training instead, thinking that reducing the treats would help reduce her weight.
A year later and my girl was still a little chunky.  3 things happened that made it impossible for me to ignore my dog overweight problem anymore.
  1)  In her second annual exam, the vet said she needed to lose 10 pounds.  I couldn’t imagine that much coming off.  Then I asked about why she might be stiff in her back legs some mornings but not others – could it be the cold?  
      No, he said, it was probably the beginnings of arthritis.  In a 2-year-old dog.  Anyone who’s had an aging big dog knows how scary arthritis can be, and how painful it is to watch its progression.  I couldn’t imagine how bad that would be in her senior years if it was already starting.
  2)  I saw Nala from behind as she was in a sit.  To quote Sir Mix-A-Lot, baby got back!  
  3)  For the first time, Nala failed what I call the Thumb Test.  In the Thumb Test, you stand next to your dog, place your thumbs on his spine and your fingers on his sides.  If you can’t feel ribs, your dog is overweight.  I couldn’t feel Nala’s ribs anymore.
That’s when I got really serious about her losing weight.  I cut back her food, for real this time.  We made exercise a bigger priority, but she no longer had her puppy energy for long walks so it didn’t do much.  After 2 months, she still wasn’t losing any weight.  
The next step was switching to a weight loss dog food.  Nala started eating Nutro Natural Lite right before I left the country for a couple weeks.  When I came home, Nala was visibly thinner.  The first few days back home, I was amazed at how energetic she was.  At first I chalked it up to her being excited that Mom and Dad were home, but that wasn’t it.  A week later we ended up at the vet, where we got good news.  She had lost 3 pounds in the 4 weeks since we switched foods!  She kept losing weight and getting more of her puppy-like energy back, even after we’d been home for a few weeks.
It’s now been 3 months since we switched to diet food.  Nala has lost 7 pounds, has tons of energy and is no longer stiff when she stands up.  She passes the Thumb Test beautifully and demands to play and run several times a day.  It’s a wonderful thing to see her so energetic again.
Weight is a major problem for dogs.  More than half of all dogs in the U.S. – a full 55% - are overweight or obese.  It’s especially dangerous for larger dogs – weight is a major contributor to dog arthritis because it creates so much extra work for the joints.  Large dogs are already prone to arthritis and joint issues, and being overweight or obese just makes it that much worse.
I’m so proud my dog is no longer one of the millions of overweight dogs and her joints will be healthier because of it.  I can’t allow myself to be the reason why my big dog gets arthritis.  It was much easier than I thought it would be to shed the weight and would have done it much earlier had I realized it.  Portion control, exercise, and the right food – 3 simple ingredients that changed my dog’s health outlook entirely.  
If your dog is overweight, don’t delay taking action, like I did.  I can't reverse the time she spent overweight, but I can make sure it never happens again.  The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight will last a lifetime.
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Photo credit:  estoril

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