Dogs can be influenced by their human’s behavior, particularly when it comes to diet and exercise. Despite having the best intentions, our own unhealthy habits may put their well-being at risk. There are several ways to improve your pup’s health, which can allow both of you to live happy and healthy lives.
Always consult with your veterinarian before attempting to put your dog on a diet. You and your veterinarian can discuss and determine an ideal weight-loss program for your pup that will fit his or her specific needs.
Overweight and Obese Dogs
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) reported that 59.5% of cats and 55.8% of dogs were considered overweight or obese in 2018.
The APOP’s 11th annual survey discovered that veterinary professionals and pet parents struggle to reach a pet’s optimal weight due to conflicting nutritional advice. This in part contributes to pets having difficulty reaching their ideal weight. The Pet Health Network mentions that “Starving a pet is just as bad as overfeeding,” and so it is extremely important to discuss diet options with your veterinarian. There is a vast range of pet food options available, including dry food, wet food, and raw food, and this can leave pet parents feeling overwhelmed.
A dog who is overweight can experience numerous health issues including:
- Torn ACL
- Heart and breathing conditions
- Anesthesia risk
- Skin diseases
- Quantity and quality of life
Is My Dog Overweight?
Before beginning a weight-loss program, you should first assess whether your pup is overweight. You can do this by making an appointment with your veterinarian or physically examining your dog.
If your dog is at a healthy weight, you should be able to count and easily feel his or her ribs without noticing an excessive layer of fat. While examining your dog from above, your dog’s body should be almost triangularly shaped–his or her chest should be wider than the portion between the ribs and the pelvis. Your pup’s chest should make a gradual incline towards their abdomen when viewing him or her from the side. Keep an eye on how your dog is breathing when he or she walks, as heavy breathing may be a sign of becoming overweight.
Tips for Weight-loss
Several tips that could aid in weight-loss include:
- Reevaluate food intake: if you don’t already, begin measuring your dog’s food for each meal. If you are unsure how much your dog should consume per meal, consult with your veterinarian.
- Treats add up: be mindful of how many treats you give your pup per day, whether they come from the dinner table or they are good-bye treats.
- Exercise: exercise your dog as frequently as you can and gradually increase their exercise if possible. Aim to walk at least 30 minutes a day at a pace that gets both your heart rates up.
- Kisses, hugs, and love: if you always give your expectant dog treats as a reward, consider giving them your undivided attention in exchange of their typical treat.
- Read labels: some dog foods are made for specific purposes or phases in a dog’s life. Certain foods may specifically include puppy nutrients, ingredients made for highly active dogs, or omit ingredients for dogs with food allergies, which might not fit your own dog’s lifestyle.
- Pleasure is pleasure: humans may find sitting down to a nice meal more fun than repeatedly running after a ball, but your pup likely finds both activities equally enjoyable. He or she may even prefer the latter. Engage with your pup in physical activities which will help both you physically and mentally.
- Discuss specific nutritional products with your veterinarian that have a lower calorie density but still provide your dog with essential nutrients.
It is only natural that pawrents want to make their furbabies happy. However, dogs who are even moderately overweight have a significantly shorter lifespan. The Veterinarian Centers of America (VCA) mentions that obesity is the most common preventable disease for dogs in North America. Therefore, spending quality time, being more active, and responsibly moderating and being more mindful may help both of you live longer and happier lives.