Does your pup have a few pounds to shed? Help them stay fit, happy and healthy by learning about the effects obesity can have on their lifestyle and what you can do to help them lose weight.
How Dogs Become Overweight
As with people, obesity and other conditions caused by being overweight are typically caused my excessive caloric intake, too little exercise or an underlying medical condition, said Susan Bell, DVM at the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center. Part of this stems from pet owners not knowing how many calories to feed their dogs each day and what an ideal body condition looks like.
“Some of my clients are really quite shocked when we start reviewing calorie guidelines and see how, what seems like just a few table scraps here or there, can stack up over a day.”
What is “normal” for your dog will vary depending on your pet’s breed, age, current diet and lifestyle, but if you’ve noticed a few extra pounds on their frame you’ll want to begin working to help get back into fighting shape.
Tips to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
Bell offers the following tips for keeping your dog healthy and trim and how to keep up with good behaviors:
- Talk to your vet. Talk to your primary veterinarian before starting your pup on any kind of diet and weight loss program. Ask them to screen your dog for any underlying medical conditions or medications that can be contributing to the problem and work with them to establish a goal weight and healthy rate of weight loss. Veterinarians who specialize in nutrition will help ensure your pet’s diet is complete and balanced, Bell says.
- Get outside with your pet. By taking your pup on frequent walks, hikes and swims. Set an alarm for you to get moving together and track your distance or time spent exercising with your phone. If your dog has been sedentary for quite some time, start slow and set small, realistic fitness goals for you both. “Many overweight dogs suffer from orthopedic problems as a result of their condition so short, slow walks scattered throughout the day may be the best way to start,” Bell said.
- Teach leash manners. Do you dread walks because your pup pulls too much? Invest in a harness or head restraint to make walks more enjoyable for you both and, if your dog is food motivated, take them out before breakfast and feed them pieces of kibble as a reward for good leash behavior.
- Set a routine. Make these short, frequent walks a regular occurrence so that your dog knows when they’re getting exercised. Follow the same schedule with mealtime and check in with your vet regularly to track your dog’s weight and exercise progress. The more you check in, the easier it will be to catch problems and make diet changes before weight problems get out of hand, Bell says.
- Be Motivating. Use the positive results you see from these walks and a trimmer, happier pup to keep going with your routine. Reward them for their hard work with lower-calorie dog treats, pieces of kibble or even plain vegetables like green beans or carrots, Bell says. Treats don’t have to stop entirely just because your dog’s on a diet, as long as you can find healthy alternatives to table scraps and keep tabs on how much you’re feeding your dog each day.
Learn more about dog weight management and obesity here.
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