Obesity, even in an otherwise healthy dog is often responsible for congestive heart failure, stroke, heart attacks, cancer, lung disease, diabetes, constipation, intestinal gas, anal gland problems and an impaired immune system. Obese dogs are much more likely to die during surgery, have hypertension, develop skin problems (like eczema), arthritis and spinal disk problems. Because of the risk of developing disease, obese dogs have a much shorter life span in general. Thus if you think your dog is fat then immediately take steps to cut down on his food in take, make him go on a diet and bring him back in shape. Always take your dog to the vet for a checkup before beginning any radical diet changes. If your veterinarian has agreed with you on the necessity of a new diet and exercise plan, the first creature that will need to be re-trained is YOU! You will need to become hard-hearted and cruel. Well, not really, but it may seem that way when your poor "starving" dog is begging you for mercy, accusing you with pleading eyes! You must become firm, committed, a rock that will not budge. Just remember that if your dog's weight is more normal, his health and his overall quality of life will be much improved. And you'll enjoy his companionship for a much longer time.

To begin, here are a few basic steps:

  • Never free feed a Fat Dog, i.e. don't leave down food for him to nibble on all day. Instead, divide the daily rations into two or more feedings. Do not leave food down for more than fifteen minutes at each meal.

  • Keep him out of the room while you are eating or preparing food.

  • Eliminate table treats and scraps.

  • Make sure everyone in the family understands the need for your dog's new diet. All your efforts will be of no avail if someone keeps slipping him snacks. Watch that he doesn't steal food from a child's hand.

  • Put childproof latches on cupboards with food, or move the food to inaccessible locations.

  • Feed your Fat Dog away from your other pets, preferably in a room by himself. Do not let him out until the other pets have finished and you have taken up their bowls and rinsed them (your dog can make a second meal from the crumbs left over by other pets).

  • Add raw vegetables to increase bulk and variety to food with few calories. Vegetables: carrots, pumpkin, peas, green beans, asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower are some suggestions. Avoid onions.

  • Reduced calorie food will help a slightly overweight dog to cut down, but if your dog is really overweight, going this route alone will not help. Special diet foods are available through your vet.

  • If you are changing food and he is resisting it, mix 40% of the new food with the old for a few days and gradually increase the amount of the new food.

  • If he refuses to eat, it still does not hurt a healthy dog to fast for one or more days. So if he stages a hunger strike against the new food (especially if it is already mixed with the old), put down a tablespoon or two of the new mixture. Leave it down for fifteen to twenty minutes twice a day and then take it up. Generally after a day or two of this (close your ears against the howls of protest and the looks of "you're killing me", he will give in and dive into the new food.

  • Be sure to always have plenty of fresh water available.

  • Diet must be combined with an exercise program to be truly effective.

  • Stick to the diet faithfully and you will see as a result a sleeker, shiny, playful, happy companion.

A good diet coupled with exercise will help your dog stay slim, trim and healthy. Just like people, dogs need to warm up at the beginning of an exercise period and cool down at the end. Walking is one of the best exercises. Start slowly and then increase the pace. You must sustain a good tempo for at least fifteen minutes, a minimum of three times per week. Keep a sharp eye on him to see if he is breathing hard, panting heavily, limping or having difficulty keeping up. Stop immediately if you notice any of these signs of distress.

Once he seems comfortable with the routine, you can increase the pace or the duration. You'll end up in better physical shape too! Combine obedience training with fun and games. Vary the routine. Toss toys to retrieve. While you bicycle, have your dog run alongside on a long leash. If you have stairs, have him retrieve his favorite toy by tossing it downstairs. The thought and time you put into a fun exercise routine will show your dog you love him and you will get his full co-operation.

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