Very young puppies almost never need a reducing diet, but adolescent youngsters that get pudgy may benefit from diet tips for fat puppies. Growing puppies shouldn’t have nutrition restricted without guidance by your veterinarian or you could risk other health problems as a result. But there are some simple and safe things you can do.
Helping Fat Puppies Slim Down
Simply eliminating or reducing treats and increasing play sessions can help make moderately overweight pups lose weight.
Avoid the tendency of ad lib feeding. Rather than keeping the bowl full for all day nibbling, switch to meal feeding measured amounts. Package guidelines are just that—guidelines. You need to customize the food for each pet.
Many overweight adult dogs do better on reduced-calorie foods. Reducing diets typically replace the fat in the food with indigestible fiber, dilute calories with water, or puff up the product with air. These diets aren’t always appropriate for young pups, though, so be sure to clear any diet change with your vet.
Beware of “lite” formula foods—they aren’t magical. In fact, pets often gain weight on lite diets if they’re overfed, or if the brand of food is different from the pet’s former diet. That’s because a “lite” designation only means the food is lower in calories than the same brand “regular” food. It’s a comparison within the same family of foods. In other words, “Lite Brand X” may actually have MORE calories than “Regular Brand Z.” Also, some pets simply eat more of the diet food to make up for lost calories, so even if you feed a lite formula, measured amount is still necessary.
Adjust your puppy's feeding schedule. Divide the daily food allotment into four or even five small meals a day to help keep your pet from feeling deprived. Multiple small meals also tend to increase the body's metabolic rate, so she burns more calories faster. Once she’s reached the target weight, serving meals twice daily will maintain her health.
When young dogs are truly obese, medical supervision by the veterinarian, and often a special therapeutic weight-loss diet, is necessary. A variety of reducing diets, which must be prescribed and supervised by your veterinarian, are made by most of the major pet food manufacturers. Each offers innovative formulations that help pets safely lose weight.
Some therapeutic foods increase dietary protein to help the pet’s body burn fat. Others are designed to better regulate the body’s natural insulin levels so that the calories are more readily burned instead of being stored as fat. Research shows that certain vitamins can affect the way food is processed and stored in the pet’s body, and affect weight loss. For instance, adding a vitamin-like substance called L-carnitine to the diet will increase the rate at which muscles burn fat for energy.
Other research has examined the effect of vitamin A on the production of a natural body hormone called leptin. Researchers say that leptin encourages fat cell production while an increase in vitamin A intake results in decreased leptin production and easier weight loss.
Exercise for Health
Controlling the diet is only the first step. Your overweight puppy needs to take LOTS of steps in the form of exercise to take off pounds. Both puppies and adult dogs should get about 20 minutes of aerobic exercise twice a day to stay healthy.
If your fur-kid already packs too much poundage, don’t expect the pup to maintain activity for extended periods. Take it in small stages—five minutes here and ten minutes there. Any exercise program should begin slowly and be adjusted to your pet’s ability level.
Controlled leash walking at the pup’s pace is ideal to build up her stamina. As the weight comes off, her energy level will increase. Start with a 10-minute walk in the morning and afternoon, and add another five minutes each week. Once she can walk for 20 minutes at a stretch, try picking up the pace and increasing the distance. The interaction you share with your dog during the walk is much healthier for you both than giving her attention with a treat.
You can also make pups work a little bit for their food. Put the food at the top or bottom of the staircase so she always has to go up and down to get her food. If she can’t navigate stairs, put food on a chair, and provide a ramp up to a chair she’s burning a few calories. Setting the bowl across the house from Fluffy’s bed also forces her to move.
Dieting pets often pester owners endlessly for more food. Reserve part of the regular diet—a handful of kibble, for instance—and keep it handy to dispense as “treats” when your pet comes begging.
Commercial treat balls and puzzle toys like the Kong Wobbler or the Orbee Tuff Mazee are other options. Place a portion of your pet’s regular daily ration inside the treat ball, so that she’ll have to work at it to get to the food. This can solve portion control, exercise, and the pester factor all in one.