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Healthy weight will help dogs live longer

By HELEN PALMER

K-9 Corner

Everywhere you look — medical journals, popular magazines, TV programs, as well as canine articles on the internet, people are concerned about the increasing weights of American people and their pets.

Owners are questioning breeders on what is normal and what is overweight.

Dogs are mirroring their owners’ lifestyles in many cases. People get up, get in their vehicles and go to work where they do a great deal of sitting. Then these same people return home and often sit some more watching television or checking email on the internet.

Dogs rise in the morning and spend their days resting or slowly meandering around waiting for their family to return. In the evening they lie contentedly at their owners’ feet until supper and bed. Rarely do pets accompany their handlers on a jog, although some are fortunate to join them for a walk.

How do you estimate your dog’s correct weight? Breeders’ standard rule of thumb is whether the animal’s ribs can be readily felt. If they can, the dog is not fat. In most breeds, if you can feel the backbone is another indication of correct weight. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian. You are going to need some help if your dog has to lose weight so let your doctor make suggestions right from the beginning: get a complete physical and factor in the age and possible disabilities before starting. Then weigh your dog each week at the same time and keep a written record of progress.

Like humans, dogs should not lose too fast. It is also helpful if structured exercise such as walking is increased slightly at first, and then slowly followed by greater distances. If it is necessary to change your dog’s food, wean the animal off its present diet by substituting one-fourth of the new food for the old for three days, then half and half for three more days, followed by three-fourths of the new food to one-fourth of the old diet and finally completing the change.

Some recommendations from veterinarians include limiting or eliminating table scraps or “people food,” and decreasing food amounts instead of changing food. (Weigh the amount of food your dog normally eats and decrease by no more than 10 percent).

Feed regular meals twice a day and remove any uneaten food after half an hour. Watch treats. If you are training and rewarding with food, take the food from the regular meal instead of adding additional food.

Remember that a stressed dog will need more food to stay healthy. Spending time at the groom shop, participating at a show or a class requires more calories because of the stress. The dog should be allowed to rest after such events and given a small special treat with its regular meal.

Helping your dog lose weight will help him live a longer life. You are in control of what he eats, so help him achieve the quality of life he deserves. In return he will give you years of pleasure and fun.