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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Head Off Pet Obesity

Dealing with Overweight Pets


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Pets often consume more calories than their bodies need. Obesity can aggravate respiratory problems, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease. Just a pound or two may make a difference in a pet's health, so while exercising is vital to a pet's health, watching your pet's diet and weight are just as important.

Dogs' weights vary more than humans because of the great variation in breed sizes. A small dog, such as a Jack Russell Terrier, may weigh the same as a cat; a larger breed, such as a golden or Labrador Retriever, may weigh 60 - 90 pounds. Newfoundlands weigh even more. Check our dog and cat breed guides for general information, or ask your veterinarian or breeder what your pet's optimum weight is.

Here are some guidelines to determine if your dog may have a weight problem and some steps to lighten up.

Try This Rib Joint
The easiest way to tell whether your pet is overweight is by feeling for his ribs. Place the palm of your hand on the side of his rib cage and press gently. If you feel his ribs with this gentle pressure, he probably weighs the right amount. If you have to push harder to feel the ribs, he may be overweight.

Lighten Up Meal Time
If you're concerned about your pet's weight, consult your veterinarian about switching to an advanced nutrition specialty pet food or prescription weight-reduction diet. See PetSmart's Food Center on PetSmart.com for more information on specialty pet foods.

Anytime you introduce your pet to a new diet, do so gradually. At first, mix one part new food with three parts old food at each meal. Keep this up for a few days, and then start mixing equal amounts of new and old food at each meal. Next, move to three parts new food and one part old. Finally, after a few days or a week, start serving just the new food

Save the people food for the people
Table scraps and those juicy morsels of meat, butter and bacon grease are notorious pound packers for dogs. Seal food scraps tightly in the trash or stash them where your dog can't reach them.

Nix the snacks
If you're in the habit of giving your dog snacks during the day, cut back. Either give him a smaller portion each time or cut down on the number of times you offer a snack each day. Your dog's regular meals should be designed to give him all the calories he needs, making snacks superfluous, except for training purposes.

Pick up the pace
Both you and your dog need exercise to maintain your optimum weights and health. Take a brisk walk together twice a day, keeping up the pace for 15 to 30 minutes each time. If you and your pet haven't been walking regularly, or if your dog has arthritis or other health problems, start with, say, 10 minutes of slow walking at a time. When your pet seems more fit and energetic, increase the workout.

Consult your veterinarian about your pet's specific exercise program.

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