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WEIGHT GAIN CAUSES AND SOLUTIONS

Here are tips and suggestions on how to slim down your full-bodied pet, and what you should do in case your pal suddenly develops a potbelly.

Most pets gain weight slowly - little by little - until one day you notice that your pet looks a little broad in the beam.

Pets who take certain medications, such as prednisone and phenobarbital, often develop voracious appetites and will plump up accordingly. But unexplained rapid weight gain or a sudden potbellied appearance signals a problem.

Causes

The most common cause of weight gain is too much chow and not enough exercise - a lifestyle many pets share. Be aware that older pets become less active as the years roll by, so they need fewer calories than a younger pet. Talk about your aging pet's nutritional needs with your veterinarian at your dog's next checkup.

You can tell if your dog is packing on the pounds by running your hands over her ribcage. Can you feel individual ribs under a slight covering of fat without pushing too hard? You should be able to see your dog's waistline, but not necessarily her ribs.

A malfunctioning thyroid gland can lead to weight gain, especially in dogs. Why? Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism. However, don't be too quick to blame your pet's expanding waistline on the thyroid. Your pet needs more thorough diagnostics to determine what exactly is causing her to gain weight.

If your pet suddenly develops a potbelly, you're probably not dealing with weight gain but with a serious medical problem. Many conditions, including bloat, heart or liver disease, or cancer. A ruptured bladder can also cause abdominal enlargement: This is an extremely dangerous condition for your pet and requires immediate veterinary care.

What You Can Do at Home

It's easy to unintentionally overfeed your pet, so read the feeding recommendations on your pet's food or ask your veterinarian for guidelines. And don't forget to reduce or eliminate between-meal snacks and table scraps. Try feeding your pet two meals a day rather than giving her continual access to kibble.

Reduced-calorie, high-fiber diets can also help. Introduce your pet to any new food slowly, and make sure she doesn't drop those excess pounds too quickly.

Another important step: Pump up the playtime by taking walks, tossing a ball or playing around the house. Your pooch will burn calories and improve her cardiovascular health at the same time.

When to Call the Veterinarian

Call your vet immediately if your pet suddenly develops a potbelly. Many conditions associated with rapid abdominal enlargement are life-threatening. Your pet will also need to visit her doctor if she can't seem to shed those pounds even with diet changes and exercise.

What Your Veterinarian Will Do

If your doctor rules out medical problems, he or she might recommend a weight-reducing diet and offer other weight-loss tips. Your pet may also need monthly weigh-ins to track her progress.

Weight loss can be tough for pets but the health benefits far outweigh the challenge of losing those extra pounds.

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