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Keeping Dogs a Healthy Weight

by Anne-Marie Mayes


I would like to share my experience with keeping my dogs a healthy weight to help other navigate similar issues. 


Tulip is my 8 year old chihuahua,  she recently had her yearly check up and vaccines.  I was holding my breath when I put her on the scale; her weight had increased a pound (which is a lot for a small dog) since last year.  She walks and exercises with my other dogs daily, but we all know that Grandmas like to feed leftovers from supper and when you are a small dog it can be a little too much.  I can’t only blame the grandmas; a few other factors that could contribute to her weight gain could be her age and size.


I do have to be careful with the type of exercise she gets as she has luxating patellas (her kneecaps are not securely held by the ligaments).  Dogs who are overweight or older can also experience pain in their joints or have decreased endurance, so I try to have her only do low impact exercise or only a few repetitions of an exercise.


Without tons of exercise, how do you get a small, middle-aged dog to lose weight? Not feeding leftovers helps but it is not as simple as cutting back their food as small dogs do not eat a lot to begin with. Tulip can be picky, so I need to make sure that she is still eating as if she is missing meals, it can affect her glucose levels.  I have recently begun to change Tulip's food to a geriatric formula as it has fewer calories and less fat. This way I can still feed her the same amount.  Since I enjoy treating my dogs for their efforts with training and tricks, I have found some treats that are lower in calories and I break them up even smaller. It is a little tricky at this time of year to add exercise due to the weather as her temperature cut off is about -15C.  I am fortunate that I have my training facility to bring her to, and I always try to have her in a winter agility or tricks session to get her out and social.  She enjoys classes and we ensure we only do exercises she can handle without causing issues for her knees.


Along with the change in food as well as attending winter classes, I have started to add a few extra training sessions throughout the day (3 to 5 minutes).  Training sessions with Tulip include sits, downs, spins, bows or sit pretty. I ask for these in a flow (one after the other).  I am also going to have her do these exercises on an unstable surface such as a pillow or on a BOSU.  Tulip also enjoys interacting with the medicine ball that I have for my own workouts. I am going to take exercises (tricks) that she enjoys doing and add one or two more repetitions or ask her to hold them longer.


I also keep track with regular weigh ins so Tulip does not lose weight too fast since she is so small.


Many pets can gain weight if they are less active over the colder months so I encourage you to continue exercising your dogs, even the small breeds.



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