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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Expert Advice August 2019 Issue

Dear Doctor: My dog’s not losing weight fast enough

Q. My dog was limping something awful, to the point that I thought he had torn a ligament and was going to need an operation. But when I took him to the vet, it turned out the problem was that he was very overweight and needed to lose some excess pounds. At almost 11 years old, his arthritis was getting the better of him, and the doctor said that losing some poundage would help take pressure off the joints in his limbs. He tipped the scale at 66.8 pounds, and the doctor said that ideally, he should weigh about 52 pounds. My wife and I have been very careful to follow the vet’s instructions about what food to feed him and how much of it and also how to incorporate treats into his daily meal plan. But it has been two months now, and he has lost only 4 pounds. Granted, his limp is gone, but this seems like an awfully slow rate of weight loss. What are we doing wrong?

Harry Lane

Redondo Beach, California

Dear Mr. Lane,

A. First, congratulations on sticking to the plan and getting your dog to the point that he is no longer limping.

Second, he is not really losing weight too slowly. The head of the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals, Deborah Linder, DVM, says that an appropriate rate of weight loss for a dog is 1 to 2 percent of total body weight per week. For your 66.8-pound dog, that means a reduction of roughly 2⁄3 of a pound to 11⁄3 pounds each week. Over a 2-month (8-week) period, that comes to somewhere in the range of 5 1⁄3 pounds to 102⁄3 pounds.

Granted, 4 pounds over that time period doesn’t quite reach the goal, but it’s close enough, and you’re certainly going in the right direction. And better to err on the side of a little too slowly than too fast. If you diet your dog too strenuously, he will be uncomfortably hungry all the time, which is an awful feeling, and also risk nutrient deficiencies.

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