Your dog being overweight is more serious than you think. It may be cute that your dog is chubby and loves nothing more than to eat. And I know from my own experience that making your dog happy by giving treats is a wonderful feeling. But being overweight or obese is just as dangerous for dogs as it is for humans. It can cause numerous health problems and shorten the dog’s life.
If your dog is overweight, it’s up to you to learn how to help your dog lose weight so he can stay slim and healthy! You owe it to your dog to make smart decisions for him.
Dog obesity is one of the fastest growing health issues for dogs today. In this article I’ll discuss how to determine the ideal weight for your dog, how to maintain an ideal weight, and how to help your dog lose weight if he’s too chubby.
Approximately one third of adults in the USA are obese and this trend seems to be worsening. Veterinarians are noticing a similar increase in dog obesity. Just like with people, dog obesity can cause various health problems such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis, cardiopulmonary disease, hypertension and various types of neoplasia such as mammary cancer and transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder. These health conditions negatively impact the quality of life for our dogs and can lessen the span of the dog’s life. Not to mention it greatly increases their need for veterinary care!
How to Determine Your Dog’s Ideal Weight
You can get an idea about whether your dog is overweight by feeling his ribs and looking down to visually assess his waist (or lack of!) When a dog is at their ideal weight, you can feel the ribs along the side of the chest easily since there is no excessive fat covering them. And when you stand over your dog and look down at him, you should be able to see a slight hourglass shaped waist after the ribs. When dogs are obese, the waist disappears, and the dog’s sides are either flat or rounded out. Dog owners tend to underestimate how overweight their dog is. It’s a good idea to weigh your dog regularly.
If you have a dog who is too large to pick up, you can either purchase a dog scale, or you can have the vet do regular weight checks. Most vet’s offices will happily weigh your dog for you if you just come in and ask. But if your dog is small enough to hold, the easy way to weigh him is to pick him up and get on the scale. Write down what the two of you weigh together. Then put the dog down and weigh just yourself. Subtract the two numbers and you have your dog’s exact weight. My vet said he’d like my mini doxy at 15 pounds as her ideal weight. I weigh her every two weeks or so to make sure she stays within that range.
The first step towards helping your dog reach his ideal weight is to determine what amount of food he needs daily to provide enough, but not too much, fuel for his usual daily activity level. Determining the right amount of food based on your dog’s activity level is crucial. If your dog sleeps all day or is elderly and doesn’t do much, he just doesn’t need a ton of food. But if your dog is healthy and active, then he can eat more and still burn it off.
Following the portion instructions on the dog food bag or can is a good way to get a reasonable starting point. Feed your dog the same amount every day and weigh him regularly – pay close attention to what his body looks like, whether you can see his ribs – and adjust the food amount accordingly.
How to Prevent Dog Obesity Through Exercise
Increasing your dog’s activity level is easy, and it’s fun too! Simply incorporating some regular exercise into your dog’s normal daily routine will make the weight loss efforts much more effective. Take your dog for a walk around the block or take him to visit a local dog park. You can toss around a ball or a Frisbee – even just 10 minutes will make a huge difference. You can play a little game of tug-of-war with one of their toys in the living room for a few minutes each night.
Swimming is a great way for dogs to get exercise, if they like water. Getting your dog moving is the best way to help him manage his weight, and it also reinforces your bond with your dog and – here’s the kicker – it can even help YOU achieve your own weight loss goals! Always remember to take your dog’s health, age, and physical abilities into consideration when exercising him. Panting is ok, but you don’t want him exhausted.
Keep his activity within his comfort level. If you have an elderly dog, read my article, Exercising Senior Dogs, for tips on how to safely exercise elderly dogs.
Tips to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
Substitute low calorie treats. Instead of things like milk bones, pupperooni’s, or other dog snacks, give your dog carrots, green beans, pieces of an apple, broccoli florets. They are just as happy with a mini carrot (also good for cleaning the teeth, by the way) or a green bean than any other treat. You could also put some of the dry dog food in a small container and give him a few pieces of that as his treat.
Cardio! One of the things I did to help Taz lose weight was nightly cardio. My husband and I would get on either side of the living room and roll a tennis ball back and forth between us with her chasing it. We’d let her get a little winded but stopped once she seemed too tired. Just getting her heart rate up and her little body moving for a few minutes each night helped a lot.
Don’t Give Table Scraps. I love, love, love sharing my food with Taz. And how can I not? She’s sitting there staring at me! It’s ok to give your dog small bites of your dinner, but don’t make a meal of it for them. Just a bite. That’s it. And also make sure you’re aware of people foods that are not good for dogs by reading this article, Foods That Are Poisonous for Dogs and Cats.
Dog Obesity is Treatable
Obesity is very treatable and the benefits of keeping your dog at a healthy weight are incredible in terms of increasing quality of life and longevity (and reducing vet bills!) So, take an honest look at your dog and how much he is eating and how much exercise he gets. Make adjustments as needed so your dog can live his life to the fullest!
If you have any more helpful hints on helping your dog lose weight, please comment below. And please, email me at Debra@PeopleLovingAnimals.com with your dog’s weight loss success stories! Debra
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