In the United States alone over 80 million pets are overweight – even if it is not more than an extra two pounds, it can make a significant difference in your pets overall health. Like humans, our animal companions are more likely to get arthritis, diabetes and other unhealthy conditions due to being overweight. The worst part is that this is something that can easily be avoided with the right nutrition and exercise for your individual pet.With more dogs than ever in need of losing weight, there have been many studies done that have provided us the knowledge needed to keep our pets trim and healthy. There are special dog foods formulated to help them gain or lose weight as well as many tips to help get your pet in the best shape. This article will cover many of these but before you get started you should talk to your vet about your dog’s needs to be sure they are fed the proper amount to lose weight in a healthy manner.Getting your dog’s weight under controlSometimes it is tough to admit we have let our furry friend gain a little too much weight. It may make you feel guilty – you spoiled your dog and now you have to do something about it. Really, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. With the research and data that is available on the internet, coming up with a plan to help your dog lose weight is simpler than ever. Always make sure you check with your veterinarian if your dog is already suffering from a condition such as diabetes as they may have specific diet requirements.There are many different things you can do to help get your dog back to a healthy weight. Just don’t forget that it will take time and commitment on your part – your dog cannot do this alone! While your dog may seem grumpy with you at first, it is only because he does not understand the need to lose weight. Your dog is not likely to understand that the extra weight is damaging to them, which is why it is up to you to watch what your dog gets to eat! After all, you can easily add two extra years to your dog’s life simply by keeping them at a healthy weight!The most important thing is that once you come up with a diet and exercise plan for your dog you need to stick to it. This can be the most difficult thing for anyone whether they are dieting themselves or helping their family member or pet through it. Creating a new routine can be difficult and it can leave you and your dog in a poor mood – but quickly this will turn around and it will become second nature. It will be challenging at first, but in the long run both you and your dog will probably be healthier with a few lifestyle changes!Try a diet food formulaFoods like Purina Pro Plan – Weight Management Formula are specifically designed to help your pet lose weight. It is lower in calories and has more of the nutrients that your dog needs. There are many variations of this type of food by all the major dog food brands. Talk to your vet before you choose a formula to make sure that it has everything your dog needs. Also, they may have an excellent recommendation and even sample packs to get you started!When picking out a diet dog food you should be sure to look at the full list of ingredients. Some will have more proteins from meats and egg rather than grains and those are advised above those with a lot of grains. While some grains are not bad for your dog’s diet it is much better for them to get their protein from higher quality sources. Your vet will likely advise a higher quality dog food but it is always important to do your research and be sure you know exactly what it is your dog is eating.If you cannot find a diet food that your dog will eat (as some picky eaters get accustomed to a specific type of food and will not accept anything else) then you can either feed them a lesser amount of food or switch to a homemade diet. While a homemade dog food might take more time and care on your part, your dog is sure to love it and there is no better way to know what is going into your dog’s body than to make it yourself!When you choose to make a homemade dog food to help your dog lose weight, make sure you talk to your vet about different recipes you are considering. They will be able to advise you in making sure that your dog gets all the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals and in the right quantity. They will also be able to advise you on how much to feed your dog each meal in order to help him lose weight in a healthy manner.Exercise is keyThis is not only true for humans when it comes to weight loss, but dogs as well. If your dog is extremely lazy, then this could be seriously impacting how much your dog weighs. A couch potato dog who eats as much as an active dog of the same breed will weigh more. It’s that simple. It’s all a numbers game – calories in and calories out. Your dog needs to burn more calories than he eats to lose weight.Try making a daily walk routine, rain or shine. It is healthy for both of you and after a while, it will be something you both look forward to rather than something you feel you have to do. Your dog may be reluctant if they are not generally an active dog, but you can entice them by providing a healthy treat or taking them for a walk right before a meal.This will ensure that your dog has something to look forward to after the walk. It may take a few days of this for your dog to get the idea, but eventually he will see the leash and think, “Oh, after we go out I get fed. Okay, let’s do this!”Another thing to remember is that depending on the size and breed of your dog they will have a different activity level. While a small dog like a Chihuahua will only need a short walk once or twice a day, a larger breed such as a Great Dane needs more exercise in order to burn the right amount of calories. Check with your vet to see how long of a walk and what other sort of activities you should be doing in order to help your dog get the right amount of exercise each day.Basically, making sure that your dog gets enough exercise is a crucial part of helping them lose weight. If they have debilitating condition such as hip dysplasia then talk to your vet about the best way to get your dog the exercise he needs!Feed the right amount for your dogEvery dog will need a slightly different calorie intake, regardless of size and breed. There are many factors that play into how much your dog needs to eat on a daily basis. Things such as whether or not your dog is spayed or neutered, your pets activity level, age and whether or not they have any medical conditions will all change the amount of food your dog should be eating daily.Basically, a young Labrador retriever who actively participates in hunt trials will requires more food than a senior Labrador retriever who enjoys laying at your feet while you work on the computer. As your dog gets older you will need to adjust their diet according to their activity level to help them maintain a healthy weight.Also – do not follow the feeding instructions on the bag! Talk to your vet to find out exactly how much your dog should be eating every day. The guidelines on the bag are a generalization based on the average dog of a certain weight who is not spayed or neutered. Unfortunately, following the feeding guidelines has actually caused obesity in pets simply because the owners did not know any better. It’s not your fault, it was incomplete information that lead this to occur.Don’t over treat your dogIt’s easy for us to want to spoil our furry friends with treats, however just as it is unhealthy for us to snack too much, it is equally unhealthy for our dogs to do so. Use treats wisely – as a training tool or as a reward for good behaviors. This restriction on how often your dog gets fed treats will help them to stay at a healthy weight.Making sure you get the right kind of treats is just as important as restricting how many you feed. Some treats are made of some rather unfavorable carbs and fats. Be sure to read the ingredients on any treats you buy. Also, try to buy treats that are helpful in keeping their teeth and gums clean and healthy. Since your dog’s oral health is just as important as the rest of his health, this is useful and can help you avoid paying for expensive cleanings too often.Another great treat option for your dog is raw veggies such as baby carrots, green beans and broccoli. These are a much healthier alternative to treats that may be filled with tons of carbs and you can feed them as often as you would feed your dog normal dogs treats (in moderation, right?).If you are using the treats for training purposes and you usually feed more than 2 treats during a session then consider using your dog’s kibbles as a reward. Your dog is likely to be just as happy getting a couple kibbles at a time in place of a treat and it is healthier for your dog too! You can even combine exercise and meal time by using a food dispensing toy.Not only will this method get your dog up and moving around, it will also give him something to keep busy with for a while as he tries to get to his meal!Feed more meals in smaller portionsThere are many tricks you can employ to help speed up your dog’s metabolism little by little. Every small change in their diet and increase in exercise will help your dog on the path to a healthy life. One trick you can use – and this works just as well for humans as it does dogs – is to eat more often in smaller amounts. For example instead of feeding your dog two cups of food, twice a day, feed them one cup of food, four times a day.Breaking up meals like this helps because then calories are burned between meals, whether that is with exercise or simply going about the day. It may be a little less convenient to stick an extra meal or two into your regular schedule but the benefits greatly outweigh any reason not to. Remember, it’s to help bring your pet back to optimum health and extend their lifespan.Once your dog reaches their weight, do not go back to feeding them in larger doses as you did before. Add a small amount of food to help maintain weight or add an extra treat or two each day. As long as it doesn’t get out of hand again your dog will be fine – but continuing on this feeding schedule will help your dog to stay at a healthy weight as well as getting them there in the first place!Slow and steady wins the raceWhile you may be in a hurry to see your dog back to a healthy weight you cannot rush the weight loss process. Just like it can hurt us to lose too much weight to fast, it can be detrimental to your dog’s health to lose too much weight too quickly. You want to monitor how much your dog weighs each week and tweak and adjust diet and exercise based on how much weight your dog loses week to week.It is not going to be an overnight change, it may take several months up to a year to get your dog back to the optimum weight depending on how obese he may be. It can also depend on how active your dog is able to be. Many senior dogs gain weight after developing hip dysplasia and are unable to run and play like they used to. This can be a situation where a lot of exercise is not possible so with diet alone and short, easy walks being the exercise you can expect it to take a little longer to reach the right weight.The thing to remember is your dog did not gain all this weight in a month and he will not lose it all in a month either. Healthy weight loss for a dog is between 1 and 5 pounds lost per month. Losing any more weight than that too rapidly can cause other health problems for your dog and it is better to use a slow and steady approach and keep your friend as healthy as possible.Homes with multiple dogs should feed separatelyIf your household has more than one dog and only one of these dogs is overweight you should highly consider the option of feeding them in separate rooms. This is the only way that you can be 100% sure that your overweight dog does not eat any of the other dog’s food and vice versa. The thing is, it might not be good for your healthy dog to eat a diet food like your other dog needs and it could lead to dangerous weight loss – being underweight is just as dangerous as being overweight!Never leave either of your dog’s food sitting around for them to graze on – this will ensure that you do not see the results you are hoping for. If they do not finish the food you provide in a single sitting before walking away, pick it back up and give it back to them a little later. You are in control here and your dog will learn to understand this. You wouldn’t let yourself or your child simply eat a few bites of dinner, come back in thirty minutes for another couple bites and do that constantly throughout the day – so why should you let your dog do so?Another common issue for owners of overweight dog is if you have another pet, say a cat for example, who grazes on their food throughout the day, you may find your dog eating out of their dish.You have two options in a situation like this, you can either get your cat used to eating only certain times of day (though this is not always effective as many cats only eat small amounts between napes and play sessions)- or you can put your cats food in a place where your dog cannot get to it. Tuck it away in a small corner your dog will not be able to get into and show your cat where the food is. Not only will they be quick to adjust to the change but they will probably love that the dog can no longer get to it.Controlling your dog’s optimum weightGetting your dog back to a healthy weight, whether this required gaining or losing, is only half of the battle. Once you have figured out how to get your dog to the healthiest weight (which your veterinarian can help you determine) you will want to keep them there. After all, the dog managed to lose or gain a large amount before, what is to say it will not happen? Or what if your dog loses or gains too much weight?It is just as important to learn how to help your dog maintain weight as it is to help them reach a healthy weight. After all, if they gain or lose too much you have now given yourself another battle to face. Once you know your dog has reached a healthy weight here are a couple of ways to help maintain that weight. For example you can start adding just a little to each of their meals. Not enough that they will become overweight again, but enough to balance their calories in and out.After all, if your dog loses weight by burning more calories than he eats, he will maintain weight by burning the same amount of calories he is eating. Your vet will be able to tell you how much you should feed your dog to maintain weight and it may end up being a little bit of trial and error.Maybe your dog puts on the pounds easily with only a small food increase – you just have to find that happy middle ground where your dog neither gains nor loses weight. It is normal for your dog’s weight to fluctuate between 1 and 3 pounds on a regular basis, but more than this may be cause for concern.You may have a long journey ahead of you on the road to getting your dog back to a healthy weight, but it will be worth it. It can be difficult at times and you and your dog are both likely to get frustrated. Just remember that this is for the well-being of your furry best friend and you are doing this so you can have more time together!Too many relationships are cut short due to poor health and many conditions can be controlled or avoided simply by keeping your dog at a healthy weight. If you suspect your dog may be overweight then set up an appointment with your vet right away. They will be able to help you to make the best, safest decision on how to help your dog stay in your life for as long as possible!