To Feed or Not To Feed?

If your dog is overweight, chances are you’re overfeeding him.

It could be because he keeps asking for food and you can’t tell if he’s really hungry or not. There are many factors that affect appetite, and even more situations where a seemingly hungry dog is actually just looking for attention or some play time. So how do you tell the difference? Here are some clues to help you figure what’s really going on.

Make Sure You’re Feeding the Right Amount

The average pet owner does not have a good understanding of what to feed their pets, how often, and how much, according to Dr. Jill Lopez, DVM, a veterinarian and the Director of Marketing at the Essentials PetCare clinic. “And, it is no wonder why: there are so many dog foods available commercially, and it is very confusing,” Dr. Lopez says. “Even the feeding guides on the packages are confusing.”

If you’re unsure how much your dog should be eating, speak with your vet about your pet’s specific needs and for brand recommendations.

Don’t Feed Freely

One of the biggest factors associated with weight gain in dogs is feeding patterns and the types of food, according to Dr. Lopez. “Feeding pets food that is high in fat, low in fiber, and freely (filling up a bowl of food and refilling as needed) can contribute to weight gain, as would feeding pets table scraps,” Dr. Lopez says.

Free feeding gets your dog used to the idea of having food available at all times, so if you suddenly remove the bowl, he’ll come asking for more out of habit–even if he’s not truly hungry.

Your Pooch is Working Hard

Being active is a great way for us and our pets to stay in shape, but of course, the more active we are, the hungrier we get—and the same goes for our dogs. In addition to checking with your veterinarian before starting a more strenuous workout, Dr. Lopez also recommends getting advice for healthy power snacks will help keep your dog’s up their energy without promoting weight gain.

He Needs Some Attention

Is your dog asking for food soon after eating? What you interpret as food begging might actually be your dog asking for attention. According to Dr. Lopez, dogs should be kept on a meal schedule and should not get used to asking for treats at any time, just because they feel like it. If your pooch begins begging for food at a time when they shouldn’t eat, distract him with a game or a quick walk. “Keeping them busy with exercise, play, or just cuddling are good ways to keep their mind off eating,” Dr. Lopez says. “The key is to start this type of lifestyle where food is not their sole focus in life when they are young.”

There Might Be an Underlying Medical Condition

Endocrine disorders, like hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism, or diabetes mellitus, can affect your dog’s appetite and weight. They are also linked to the development of obesity. If your dog is suddenly hungrier than usual, it might be time to talk to a vet to make sure everything’s OK. Dr. Lopez notes, “If your pet is overweight, it is also a good idea to have a thorough check-up, including bloodwork that could rule out diseases that can cause weight gain.”

If All Else Fails

If you’ve tried everything and your dog is still asking for food, reach out for some low-calorie snacks. Whether that means commercial treats or raw carrot slices, the important part is to keep it low in calories, so you don’t end up overfeeding. As always, “make sure to avoid potentially dangerous snacks for dogs like raisins, grapes, or xylitol sweetened products that are safe for humans, but dangerous for dogs,” Dr. Lopez adds.

She also recommends getting a check-up with bloodwork to rule out other problems.

Meet the Author: Diana Bocco

Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia, snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at www.dianabocco.com

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