How to help an old dog lose weight5 May 2023
Written and reviewed by Dr Jill McMaster BVM&S MBA MRCVS, Veterinary Surgeon and in-house expert at BorrowMyDoggy
Being overweight can lead to a range of different problems in our pooches, so it’s important to keep them nice and trim. But firstly, if your dog is looking a bit heavy, always be sure to check in with your vet that there aren't any medical reasons for their extra weight, as there are some conditions seen in older dogs that also cause a bit of weight gain or at least for them to look a bit heavier. If everything is fine medically, you can work on weight loss, but it can be a bit tougher to lose those pounds as your pooch reaches their golden years.
Why does my dog need to lose weight?
If your older dog is overweight, it’s really important to get their weight down.
Extra weight on your pup can cause a number of different health issues including problems with their breathing, their heart, joints, skin and conditions like diabetes.
It’s not being kind to give your older pooch an extra treat because it makes them seemingly happy for a second, as it can lead to them being unwell and uncomfortable.
Why is it harder to get an older dog to lose weight?
There are several reasons why it can be harder to get an older dog to lose weight.
As long as everything seems fine medically, then the reasons can include:
Some pooches have poor dental health, which can mean dry foods are off the menu. Particularly if your older pup is also a bit of a fusspot, soft pâté-like foods can be a firm favourite, but unfortunately these can sometimes be quite rich and a little high in calories.
Having a bit of joint discomfort can reduce the amount of exercise your dog can manage, and sometimes this change can be really subtle.
Is your pooch not jumping in and out of the car anymore? Are they staying a bit more at your side on the walk then off on their usual wild zig-zags? It could be that they are finding exercise a little bit harder.
Not seeing or hearing as well
Another reason for not exercising as much can be not hearing or seeing as well.
Your pup might not be keen to explore as much as before. Some pooches can also be less interested in interactive games and toys if they are not seeing it in front of them or not hearing it squeak.
How to help an older dog lose weight?
Just because it can be a little more challenging doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to slim down your pensioner pooch.
When it comes to food, be really sure they are getting the correct amount of daily calories. Senior and/or low fat foods can help. So be sure to weigh out or measure what they get every day, and that includes the treats!
Even the best weight loss plans can be thwarted by the extra calories in chews, treats and table scraps. And make sure the whole family is on board, because if one person is still giving the treats, you won’t get anywhere. If you want your dog to lose weight these need to be cut out, and if your dog needs a little treat for behaving, a little piece of carrot or some of their weighed out daily ration of food is all they need (even if those puppy dog eyes suggest otherwise!).
Remember that our pooches evolved from scavengers, so will be keen on treats even if they’re not hungry.
When exercising older dogs with joint issues, try and keep exercise levels as consistent as possible, so that means trying to avoid a big huge walk at the weekend, and much shorter ones during the week.
In the cooler weather, also make sure they are cosy and warm for their walks, and be cautious to avoid slips on the ice. And when it’s nice out make sure they don’t overheat.
If your dog is uncomfortable on long walks, you can also consider alternative exercise, like hydrotherapy sessions. This treatment is where pooches swim in a warm pool, in a controlled environment and can help increase the range of movement in their joints, get them fitter and drop those extra kilos.
Games and toys can be a really fun way to keep your dog fit and lose weight, but it can be tougher for older pooches that can’t hear or see as well.
Most dogs tend to keep their sense of smell though, so hide and seek games can be really fun, as long as your pooch is safe to not run into anything. If your pooch can’t see, then noisy toys can be great, and if they can’t hear, why not go for a flashing ball, which is really easy for them to see and chase.
Helping an older pooch to lose weight can be challenging, but trust us when we say that it can really help improve their lives and make them happier pooches.
Even unfit dogs can get fitter, healthier and happier with a bit of weight off them, so you’ve really got nothing to lose, except your doggo’s extra kilos.
This article is for information only, and should never replace any advice, diagnosis or treatment from your veterinary surgeon. Always contact your local vet or out of hours vet without delay if you have any concerns about your dog.
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