A friend of mine recently adopted a seriously overweight senior dog. He’s a good-natured animal very much deserving of a forever home, but his new owner, who is accustomed to focusing on preventing her dogs from becoming overweight in the first place, is overwhelmed. Can an obese adult dog lose weight while adjusting to a new home? Certainly. However, it’s important to focus on gradual, safe weight loss and involve a veterinarian in planning diet and exercise routines.
Weight Loss Diets for Older Adult Dogs
Your veterinarian may recommend a reduced calorie or weight loss dog food for your newly adopted obese dog. While a veterinarian’s assistance is absolutely essential in planning a safe weight loss program for your pet, I do not recommend using diet dog foods in most cases. Instead, ask your veterinarian to write down how many calories your dog should eat in a day for safe weight loss. If the vet feels that you’ll need to gradually reduce your new dog’s calorie intake to avoid health problems, have the vet write out an eight-week weight loss plan with calories per day for each week.
Then, find the highest quality dog food that is available and affordable to you, and find out how many calories are in each cup of food. Most high-end dog foods list this information or at least some information on calorie content on each bag. If your chosen brand does not do so, call their customer service hotline to find out. Use this information to decide how much to feed your dog in order to hit your calorie target.
If the dog seems hungry after finishing his daily allotment of food, offer cooked green beans, broccoli, or raw carrots. These foods will provide fiber to help your dog feel full without short-circuiting his weight loss.
Exercise for Obese Older Adult Dogs
Plan an exercise program carefully, with the cooperation of a veterinarian. Obese dogs, particularly senior dogs, are at risk for joint pain and injuries when exercising. Try to incorporate swimming into your dog’s exercise routine if at all possible. Swimming burns calories and builds muscle without straining the dog’s joints.
Progressively longer, slow walks are also a good idea. Walking will help you stay fit, too! As your dog loses weight and gains muscle and aerobic fitness, you can begin to consider jogging and/or a canine sport like Agility. Old dogs can indeed learn new tricks. Many agility competitors with older dogs didn’t start agility until their pets were middle-aged or older!