Weight-loss tips

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How can I help my dog lose weight?

Q: My small cross-breed has definitely put on weight since the start of the first lockdown and the ongoing restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.

I will need to cut back on the amount of food and treats he gets to help him lose a few pounds, but do you have any general advice for tackling and managing this? He is exceptionally greedy so any tips on how to make him feel fuller on less food? Also, are there are any healthy, calorie-free treats available that won’t pile on the pounds? Any advice would be much appreciated — I know it’s not going to be easy!

Linda Costello, Hampshire.  

A: Vicky says: My first piece of advice is always to write down EVERYTHING your dog eats in a day. It is easy to forget some treats and titbits. You should also weigh out the food that you give him and compare this to the feeding guidelines on the packet. In many cases owners are simply overfeeding, so reducing the treats and feeding the correct amount of food will lead to weight loss. If you are not feeding many treats, and you are feeding the correct amount of food, you may need to look at a weight-loss food. There is some evidence that low-fat food may not be the best option for weight loss in dogs as it can lead to a dull coat and leave dogs hungry. Hungry dogs beg and scavenge, which ruins their diets! Choosing a weight-loss food with reduced calories but moderate fat levels and healthy protein levels can lead to more successful fat loss, less begging, and retention of lean muscle. 

There are healthier treats to choose, such as freeze-dried chicken and liver, or small pieces of dried fish skin, but remember that treats should make up no more than 10 per cent of your dog’s daily calorie intake. Unless you need a high-value treat for training, I advise keeping a small portion of your dog’s meal allowance to use as ‘treats’. This is obviously easiest if you use a dried food, but some wet foods can be gently cooked to a firmer more pocket-friendly texture. If your dog still struggles to lose weight, speak to your vet as some health problems can cause weight gain.