Do you or one of your family members have an overweight dog?
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) published a 2016 clinical study noting that there were 14.9 million overweight dogs in the United States. Sadly, that number keeps climbing, and it’s becoming a bit of an epidemic. Dogs who suffer from excess weight gain and obesity are at higher risk for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and osteoarthritis. An overweight dog can also suffer from shortness of breath, heart problems, lameness, and lowered immune system function.
Thankfully, there are some things you can do right at home to make sure your beloved dog gets out of the danger zone, and into a healthier lifestyle. Dogs that get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight will live almost two years longer than overweight dogs according to the Purina Lifespan Study.
First things first: Talk to your veterinarian.
It’s never a good idea to start your overweight dog on a new diet regimen without the advice of your trusted vet. They will assess how much weight your dog should lose, and also maybe even do blood work to look for other issues. You can also ask any questions about portion control and which exercise plan will be best. Remember, all dogs are different. Breed, age, and size can all have an impact on their dietary needs.
Now, it’s time to adjust their eating habits.
After you speak with your vet, you may decide to change your dog’s food. Rather than jump in cold turkey, adjust their diet gradually. It takes about seven days to change your dog’s food safely.
Sometimes the food you feed is acceptable, and it’s the portions that are not. Dogs don’t always stop when they’re full, so if you don’t measure their intake, they can quickly gain extra pounds. Talk to your vet about portion size and dietary needs to make sure your dog is getting the proper nutrition.
Treats are another no-no when trying to get your dog’s weight under control.
While we think we are doing everything we can to make our dog happy, there are so many other things we can do besides giving them treats or table scraps. They add unnecessary calories, and did you know that dogs actually prefer praise to food? According to a study done by Emory University, dogs see you as more than just a survival tool. Dogs by nature, are pack animals and love to bond with their family members. You may not have fur, but that doesn’t matter in the eyes of a dog. Next time you head for the cookie jar, opt for some quality time and kind words instead.
After the new diet, it’s time to incorporate exercise into your dog’s routine.
Your overweight dog needs more than a proper diet to get their health under control; they need physical activity too. The type of exercise and amount of it will vary by size, age, and breed, but every dog should have the chance to be active for at least 30 minutes a day. If you have a fenced in area for them to run around off leash that’s great, but if not, a nice walk around the neighborhood will do. If it’s not easy to make it out for a stroll, you can still get exercise indoors. Stock up on some fun toys, and get down on their level and play. As long as your dog is getting their heart rate up, they will burn calories, and that’s all that matters.
Monitoring your dog’s progress is essential.
Anytime you start a new routine; you’ll want to monitor your dog’s progress. If you notice any of the following, call your vet right away:
- Changes in water intake or possible dehydration
- Changes in urination or bowel movements
- Pale gums
- Lethargic behavior
You want your dog to lose weight to get healthy, but if they look like they are losing weight too quickly, then that is a concern. Dog’s are a lot smaller than humans, and any loss higher than 10% of their body weight is too much. It may take some trial and error to figure out the right routine for your dog, but it’s so worth it. With the proper diet and exercise regimen, you are sure to improve their health, and even better, give them a chance at living a longer life.
Have you had to put your overweight dog on a diet? Share your story with our readers in the comments.
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