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Dog with tongue out

For the love of your pet: Diet and exercise are important

By John Beck

It seems like no matter what I do, my dog continues to gain weight. I have tried cutting down on the amount of food I feed her, and she still looks heavy. She acts like we are starving her to death. I want us both to lose some weight as a New Year's resolution. Do you have any suggestions on how to get some pounds off my dog without me feeling like I'm mistreating her?

The majority of dogs that enter my practice have at least a little bit of extra weight on them. According to a very popular food company's study, 80 percent of American pets are overweight.

There is no magic potion or pill that will fix your pet. Just like in humans, diet and exercise are going to be your best bet.

The first step is to really evaluate what your dog is eating every day. A good way to get honest with yourself is to write down everything you feed your pet. Also, have all the other people living around or interacting with your pet write down what they are feeding her, too. You might think she is only getting two treats a day, but that is just from you. What about your spouse or children? Are they all giving treats, too?

Picking a diet or low calorie food is your next step. Look at the back of your dog food bag. Feed for the weight you want your dog to be, not the weight your dog currently is. If you feed treats throughout the day, take away some of the regular food you feed to make up for the calories she is getting in her treats.

Eliminating fatty human foods is a must. A cube of cheese might not seem like a lot of extra calories to you, but for your pet it will really add up quickly. A couple of potato chips or the last bite of your hamburger makes a big difference in your pet's diet. You have to remember that 100 extra calories for your 2,000 calorie diet isn't much, but 100 extra calories in a dog that has a 600 calorie diet is a lot. If you must feed human foods, unsalted green beans make great treats. Canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) makes a great additive to the food that increases fiber and makes your pet feel fuller.

Finally, remember that your pet needs to burn off the calories it is consuming. Regular exercise is very important.

If you are just starting an exercise program, start slowly. A couple of trips around the block or up and down the stairs might be all your pet can handle when you start out. You can increase the amount or time spent exercising as you go along. The same food company has found that regular exercise can extend your pet's life span by a couple of years, not to mention the benefits they get for bone and joint health.

If you are still having problems, please feel free to contact me or your local veterinarian for more tips.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at

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