Ask the Pet Expert | Dog weight loss

November 04, 2013

My chocolate Lab is about 15 pounds overweight. We've tried low-calorie foods and cutting back, but he's hungry and not losing weight. I've heard I can try supplementing with pumpkin or green beans, but what are the best ways to help my boy lose weight?

Weight loss in our pets is just as difficult as weight loss in humans! This will require an awareness on your part of some aspects of his metabolism and nature.

Dogs are omnivores and scavengers, so they will eat almost anything. It is in his evolutionary makeup to stay hungry; satiety is not something that dogs readily achieve. Therefore, having a dog who is "not hungry" may not be possible. We have decided that we must constantly help them not be hungry; we cannot bear to reduce portions, and we feel compelled to add fillers such as green beans and pumpkin. Resist the urge.  

Map out a very consistent feeding schedule and keep a measuring cup in your dog's food supply. Even treats contain vast numbers of calories. I recommend switching to apples and carrots and banana for treats. Your dog will love them, if not initially, then certainly he will when he realizes that they are all that is offered. (It will be your willpower that is tested here.)

I encourage you to love your dog by taking him for a walk — short ones at first and then longer. Our pets thrive in a setting of consistency and relative food monotony. I strongly believe, and owners and patients constantly prove this, that any good-quality dog food will work. The key is portion control and balanced exercise for stimulation and energy release. 

Before embarking on this worthwhile adventure, please be sure you have taken your pet to your veterinarian for a thorough examination, which should include comprehensive lab tests that will screen for a wide variety of metabolic diseases that may scuttle your efforts. Good luck!

This week's expert is Dr. Estelle Ward of Eastern Animal Hospital, Baltimore. Send your questions to

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