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by Jennifer J. Goetz, DVM owner, Animal Hospital at Brier Creek

Is Fido Overweight?

We all know that the incidence of obesity in people in the United States is on the rise. However, most of us do not realize that the occurrence of obesity in our pets is also increasing.

Why? There are many reasons. Many of us feel that feeding our dogs treats shows them how much we care, just like giving that child a lollipop or a cookie. In addition, just like children, our pets spend more time on the sofa than they used to.

Well, so what if my pet is overweight, he is such a cute little butterball. While pleasantly plump pooches may be beautiful -- diabetes, arthritis, back problems, skin problems and cardiovascular disease are not so pretty. There have been excellent, controlled, life-long studies in dogs to prove that those few extra pounds literally take years off your dog’s life.

If you have decided that your New Year’s Resolution is for both you and your pooch to go on a diet you may ask how do you get a dog to diet? It comes down to simple arithmetic, fewer calories in and more calories burned. As long as your pet does not have any health limitations, exercise is excellent for you and your dog. Take a long after-dinner walk or go to the park on weekends. Some dogs can even learn to use a treadmill for when the weather is less than ideal to be outside.

Most of us also tend to overlook the very simple idea of pouring less food into the bowl. If the thought of feeding

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your hungry, ever-begging canine less food puts you in a tail-spin, contact your veterinarian for their lowest fat, lowest calorie diet recommendations. Weight loss diets generally have fewer calories and fat per cup of food. In addition, they may have more fiber to help your dog feel full. Finally, these foods may even have added supplements to increase their metabolism, such as L-Carnitine.

Another area most pet parents often overlook are treats, chews and rawhides. You may not realize that some dental bones you purchase at the pet store or supermarket may have more calories in them than your dog needs for the entire day! Often you can look at the manufacturer’s website for a calorie count.

As long as your pet does not have any health concerns or food allergies, baby carrots and little rice cakes (especially

the peanut butter ones) are great low

calorie treats. Your veterinarian may also have some recommendations of low calorie treats and chews.

Also, remember that your dog does not need a whole treat. Your canine only knows he is getting something and a piece of a biscuit is just as good as the entire thing.

Finally, sometimes attention, petting, hugging and scratching behind the ears is a better reward than food. Best of all, you may even find your life-stress thermometer going down when you give your dog extra attention!!

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