Dog Care – Handling Overweight Dogs

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 20,176
    Dr. Candy Olson demonstrates how to handle overweight dogs.

    Candy Olson

    Dr. Candy Olson graduated from veterinary school in 1978, and has been working as a small animal veterinarian ever since. She started her own practice, Greenbriar Animal Hospital, in Fairfax, Virginia in 1993 with a goal to providing a very personal level of service, like an old fashioned family doctor’s office. The hospital has grown into a busy 2 doctor practice with a full time dog and cat groomer. The practice and Dr. Olson have received several awards for top quality service to her patients and their owners, but what she enjoys the most is fine tuning the day to day care of her patients, and helping their owners cope with medical and behavioral issues that pop up in today’s lifestyles. Dr. Olson is particularly interested in the care of geriatric pets and in pets with multiple medical and/or behavioral problems. She keeps her veterinary knowledge current by reading more than 8 veterinary journals every month, and by attending more than 80 hours of continuing education meetings each year (Virginia requires 15 hours per year). She also serves as a mentor for student veterinary technicians and high school students interested in veterinary medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, travel, and photography (photography is an extended family hobby). Some of her photos and some of her family’s photos are framed and on display at the animal hospital.

    Hi, this is Dr. Candy Olson from Greenbriar Animal hospital. We're shooting a video with tips on how to take care of your dog at home. This particular section is tips on things that you can do if your dog is overweight. A little bit of background here, if your dog is overweight, it can cause tremendous problems for the hips, for other joints, for the heart, for the kidneys, for all kinds of things going on. Dogs also will get very insulated by their extra fat, and so they have difficulty controlling their body temperatures, especially when the temperature rises, dogs don't sweat. The only way they can cool themselves off is to pant. Just imagine if you were out in a 80 day and instead of wearing regular clothing, you had on a heavy down coat, that's what it feels like for a dog with that extra fat coating. So, they're very much more prone to getting overheated. So, the extra weight can take a tremendous burden on a dog. Very important to try and get their weight down. There are also instances where dogs can injure a knee, for example, dogs are prone to knee injuries like an ACL, Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury, just like people are. Sometimes they need surgery. If a dog is overweight, and does that kind of injury, they are much more likely to need surgery, and the surgery will not be successful if the dog is overweight. So, what's going to happen is the surgeon is going to say, we can't do the surgery until this dog loses ten pounds. They're going to put him on a crash diet, a green beans only, for a few weeks. They can lose that weight really fast, and you're not going to have a very happy dog. So, try and be proactive about this stuff. Your dog is gaining weight each year, talk to your veterinarian, put him on a diet. There are a bunch of things that you can do to help, couple of the simple things are to switch foods. If you're looking at dry foods versus canned foods, for example, huge difference in the amount of calories. By the way, it's really important to check calories. Not available in any of the pet food labels, but there is usually a website or an 800 number that you can call to check. One of the easy things to do is talk to your veterinarian, there is a lot of prescription foods, specialty foods, that are meant for this, and we have all the calorie information on them. For example, this is a prescription food that's made for dogs that are overweight, it helps them lose weight, it's very yummy, good stuff, they really like it. This can is equivalent to -- this is a dry food that's also made for dogs that are overweight, low calorie, it's good for their teeth and gums too.

    This can has the same amount of calories as this amount of dry dog food. Well, that's not very much compared to the whole can, but exactly the same amount of calories. The worst thing is this is a regular non-diet dry food, and these two cans together have the same amount of calories as that little bit of dry. Now, if I was a dog and that was all I was getting for the day, I would want the two cans. It's not going to hurt your dog to go on canned food only or mostly with a few crunchy treats for a short period of time, even for a few weeks or a few months. It's a good idea not to keep them on the wet food only, because eventually it's not as good for their teeth. But, wet food can make a huge difference in keeping your dog happy while it's on a diet, because it's not going to get cut down to a quarter or a third the amount of food, it's still going to get some yummy stuff. Now, some of the other things that you can do with food and cutting down the calories are you can take a lot of the dry away and replace it with vegetables or puffed wheat cereal, or rice cakes, or something like that, but it's hard to keep those on hand, and it's tough to substitute so much and still be healthy, so that works really well for a very short time, couple of days, couple of weeks, but for ongoing it's better to change the food itself, much healthier for your dog. A couple of important things there are, dog is overweight, exercise has to be really gradual. If your dog is overweight, it's very important to check with your veterinarian before starting any exercise project at all. The other thing is, for a dog that's overweight, even walking can be a helpful exercise to start with. A lot of dogs can be taught how to walk on a human treadmill. Talk to your veterinarian, there is a lot of good tips for that, particularly if you're not that active, or you have got a really long winter time, big dog, little person, there is a lot of things that you can do with that. There are also places where you can take your dog and arrange for them to have swimming exercise. Particularly if your dog is overweight and has arthritis, there are lot of places available where you can schedule sessions where they do an underwater treadmill. They have the therapy of the treadmill, and the resistance of the water to help support him. There is a little bit of inexpensive home physical therapy that you can do with the dog, where you take them on walks, starting out very slowly and gradually increasing the length and the speed of the walks, but the important thing of the walks is it needs to be on soft ground, on grass and mulch, dirt, that kind of thing, not on cement pavement. You want to start out level. The other thing is you want to see if you can work in some hills, even some gradual hills, going up, going down, that can make a big difference. If your dog is overweight, exercise program has to be very carefully tailored. You have to be especially careful if it's hot, because they overheat so easily. It's very helpful if your dog is overweight and you're doing any exercise at all, to wet him down, take him out, spray him down with the hose, with just some cool water, get him soaking wet first, and then go and do your little bit of exercise. All that water evaporating will help keep him cool. Doing it afterwards, not nearly so successful.

    If you have any questions about your pet's weight and things that you can do to help how much should he weigh, how much should he lose, how can you do that successfully without it being a huge deal, contact your veterinarian. The last thing about pets being overweight, dogs in particular, people scales are not real accurate for weighing dogs. In fact, they're not very accurate at all. Even if you have a smaller dog and you pick it up and weigh yourself, and then set him down and weigh yourself with the dog and do a subtraction, it's just not very accurate. The only kind of home scale where you can really accurately weigh a dog, if it's a small dog, is the kind of scale that's made for babies and infants, those can be pretty accurate. Very best thing is to bring your dog to your veterinarian every month or two, pop him up on the scale and see how his weights doing, get a little bit of feedback, a good job can make a huge difference. So, these are some information and tips that we have covered on how to handle your overweight dog. There is a lot that you can do with some of the information that we have given you. We have covered a whole bunch of different subjects on caring for dogs, from how to do an at home exam, to how to give different kinds of medication, some grooming tips on behavior, exercise, feeding, I hope this helps.