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Be sure your veterinarian evaluates the thyroid gland's function if the dog is overweight or obese. Hypothyroidism is a very common instigator of excess weight in pets and this needs to be corrected or your attempts to reduce your pet's weight will probably fail. So even if your veterinarian says thinks your dog doesn't "look like a hypothyroid case," request the blood test for hypothyroidism anyway.
As previously mentioned, research has show that, in general, a healthy dog can abstain from food for five days before any noticeable health effects occur. (Very small breeds are an exception … but unless there's really some medical problem present, missing a day of eating isn't a major catastrophe.) That said, you should always be sure to provide your dog with fresh water and a high quality, complete and balanced diet. Look on the ingredients list. MEAT should be the first item listed, not corn (read what else to look for on the food label here). You may also want to supplement your dog's diet with vitamins, minerals, or fatty acid products. Just be careful about over-supplementing, too!
After recording an accurate pre-diet weight, you should reduce your dog's daily ration by one-third. That total should include all treats, snacks, or leftovers -- that is, if you insist on continuing to provide these. Reweigh the pet in 2 weeks. (Remember if the pet begs for food, that's a good sign! But don’t give in. You may have a Type II Beggar).
If after two weeks you find that your dog has lost even a little weight, you’re on the right track; keep up this schedule! If no weight loss is evident, again reduce his/her food intake by one-third and re-Weigh them in two weeks.
There are some veterinarians that believe "Reduced Calorie" or "Lite Diets" or "Senior Diets" are not beneficial for dogs. These diets have very restricted fat levels to reduce the calories but by necessity have increased the carbohydrate percentages. This increased carbohydrate stimulates additional insulin secretion, which tells the body to store unused calories as fat. As such, there are some dogs that have actually gained weight on "reduced calorie" weight loss diets. Consult with your veterinarian what is best for your pet. Typically, what is recommended is meat-based diet that is high in protein (which isn't stored as fat) and fat and low in carbohydrate. Now … all YOU have to do is adjust the quantity being fed to achieve a state where the dog takes in fewer total calories than it is using for the day's energy requirements. Simple! Just don't forget to consult your vet before starting.
It is also quite important to get everyone’s cooperation in restricting the dog’s food intake. There is usually someone in the household who feels sorry for the dieting pet and surreptitiously provides "just a little" something extra. What would actually be more helpful is if that person took the dog for a walk or a run or other exercise routine every day to burn off a few calories.
Keep in mind most overweight or obese dogs have a slow metabolism. They simply don’t burn off those calories very fast and, in fact, don’t generally have "eager eater" appetites. Because of this slow metabolism, though, they don’t require very much; so "just a little extra" will make a big difference over a period of time.
So, what are you waiting for? Assisting your dog with a diet can help your him/her live a longer, leaner and more enjoyable life.
Image: Russel Bernice / via Flickr