My Dog Has Been Gaining Weight

There are plenty of overweight dogs in the world. Many of their owners are either unaware or don't let it bother them in the least. Those of you who do worry about your dog's weight will probably become quite alarmed if you notice your dog experience a sudden, unexplained weight gain. Even if the weight gain is not so sudden, if it's noticeable, it should be investigated.

What to Look For

An examination of your dog, under the premise of establishing a reason for the recent weight gain, should also include self scrutiny. Try to analyze whether your dog's feeding schedule or amount has contributed to the weight gain. Look closely at her behavior for clues. Ask all the members of your household what they have been contributing to your dog's diet. Leave no aspect of caloric intake out. Go as far as actually quantifying the number of calories your dog takes in each day of the week and balance it against the amount of exercise she gets. Don't put this aspect of weight gain to rest until you have firmly established that an imbalance does not exist.

Your next step should be a simple comparison of your dog's actual weight to the recommended breed standard for a dog of her stature. Check the American Kennel Club's The Complete Dog Book. If your dog is free of enormous weighty growths or tumors, and her weight is greater than five pounds above the breed standard, you've got some work ahead. If she is more than fifteen pounds over, there is a major problem, as well as a health risk, to deal with.

What to Do

Next, ask yourself a few questions:

Did your investigation reveal that the reason for the weight gain is simply too much food and too little exercise? If so, take comfort in the fact that this is the case for most overweight dogs. Certainly an increase in exercise combined with a decrease in dietary calories will help, but there are many ways to solve the problem. Here are a few to try:

  • Try feeding your dog a lower calorie dog food.
  • Replace your dog's usual treats with either lower calorie treats or frozen vegetables or carrots.
  • Replace one-third of your dog's meals with canned pumpkin. At first you may need to heat it to make it more appetizing, but eventually most dogs will respond and accept this high fiber, filling food.
  • Does your dog seem lethargic most of the time? Being overweight may often contribute to lethargy, but there remains the possibility that your dog's lethargy is due to an endocrine disorder such as hypothyroidism. Ask your veterinarian about it. If blood tests confirm this diagnosis, daily medication may result in an energy boost as well as substantial weight loss.
  • Does your dog seem to suffer from more than the expected number of infections? Dogs that are both overweight and suffer from more than their fair share of infections, or seem to be drinking excessively, may well be suffering from another endocrine disorder known as hyperadrenocorticism, or Cushing's disease. Your veterinarian can perform the necessary blood tests to confirm this. Appropriate treatment is available to manage this disease.
  • Is your dog diabetic?Diabetes sometimes goes along with weight gain. Increased water intake is usually present as well. Your dog's veterinarian can investigate the possibility of diabetes and Cushing's disease at the same time.