According to a recent study, over 50% of America’s dogs were found to be overweight or obese. For dogs, the health consequences of carrying even a few extra pounds are severe, including increased risk of diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, kidney and liver failure, thyroid problems, and a decreased lifespan. Fortunately, as a pet owner it is easy to control the factors that contribute to obesity, such as food and exercise. Listed below are tips for reducing your dog’s weight.
Control Portion Sizes Are you feeding your dog the proper amount of food for its age, breed, and size? First, double check the label on the package of your dog’s food. Next, consider how much exercise your pet receives. If your dog goes for one or two short walks per day, your pet likely requires less than what is recommended. Additionally, if your dog is a senior (9 years or older) he or she has fewer caloric needs, as metabolism slows down with age. If your dog “free feeds” and has unlimited access to food, eliminate this habit by providing two or three smaller meals throughout the day.
Make Healthy Substitutions If your dog’s portion sizes are not the problem, consider whether your dog is receiving too many additional sources of food during the day. Does your pet receive multiple high-fat treats, such as liver or cheese? Do you frequently fill your dog’s KONG with cheese or peanut butter? Swap out these high calorie/high fat treats with healthier options, such as cooked carrots or green beans in place of commercial treats and canned pumpkin or cooked rice in place of cheese or peanut butter.
Exercise More The only true formula for losing weight (whether dog or human) is to expend more energy than you consume. Fortunately for dogs, going for a walk or run is considered one of the best rewards – not a punishment! Even an extra 5 – 10 minutes per day of exercise can pay off for your pet. If your dog is severely overweight, consider low-impact exercises such as swimming.
Reduce Table Scraps As pet owners, it can be difficult to resist sharing our favorite meals with our pets, but ultimately it is better for our dogs to be happy and healthy, than happy and overweight. If necessary, put your dog in a crate during meal time or in another room in order to avoid the urge to share your meal with your best friend.
Enforce House Rules When putting your dog on a diet it is important than everyone in the family complies with the new rules. Nothing can sabotage your efforts more than a family member who sneaks your dog extra portions or feels sorry for your dieting dog and offers additional treats when no one is looking.
See a Veterinarian If after a few weeks of lifestyle changes for your pet you do not see any improvements in its weight, see a veterinarian to rule out underlying health problems, such as a thyroid condition.