According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. This means that more than half of dogs are at risk of developing long-term health problems that can shorten their lives and cause them pain! There are many factors that can cause a dog to gain weight, such as age, not enough exercise or an inappropriate diet.
By understanding WHEN and more importantly WHY your pet is overweight, you can address the problem and help them live a happier and healthier life. Read on to learn about 6 proven ways to help your pet lose weight and why it's so important.
IS MY DOG OVERWEIGHT?
You may be able to tell your dog is overweight just by looking at him, but there are signs that can help you decide if your dog really should lose weight. Different breeds of dogs have different amounts of body fat. So if you're not sure what weight is ideal for your dog, you should ask your vet to weigh him.
The first thing you can do is check for yourself if you can feel your dog's ribs and spine. If you stroke the belly or back, you should be able to feel the bones easily. If you cannot feel the bones under the fat, it is likely that the animal is overweight. (If you feel that the bones are too prominent, he could be underweight). The second method is to assess the dog's movement. Overweight dogs are likely to suffer from joint pain caused by the excess weight on their bones. If you notice that your dog is moving slower or is less willing to move, this could be a sign that his weight is affecting his life.
WHY IS BEING OVERWEIGHT BAD FOR YOUR DOG?
Being overweight can be a serious problem for a dog. He may not know it, but you should! Even mild obesity poses numerous health risks, which are exacerbated when your dog is severely overweight. The main diseases that are promoted by obesity are similar to those in humans:
High blood pressure
Skin infections (in areas where the skin wrinkles)
Arthritis or orthopaedic diseases
Some forms of cancer
If you have a puppy, now is the time to prevent weight gain. This is because the number of fat cells in a puppy's body is set at a young age, so it is important to start controlled feeding at a young age!
You don't want your dog to suffer, so preventing him from developing such a health problem is the best gift you can give him! Without the burden of excess weight, animals can run more freely, have less joint pain and better cardiovascular function. Even old dogs want to be alive and free. So give them a chance at a longer, happier life by following these weight loss steps!
Often the information on the back of food packets is too general for you to know how much to actually feed your dog - your dog's age and size play a role in how much you should feed, among other things, but so does daily activity.
As every dog is different, it is best to ask your vet for the recommended amount of food you should feed your dog each day. Some dogs may need smaller meals more frequently throughout the day to make them feel fuller. Others may need fewer snacks in between meals. Once you know how much your dog needs according to size, activity and age, you can start to change their diet. Using a measuring cup or scale is helpful! This way you can easily see how much you are feeding. You should not guess how much to put in the bowl, because then they will probably eat more than they need. Reducing the number of calories per meal is essential for your dog to lose weight.
MORE PROTEIN, LESS CARBOHYDRATES
Dogs do not need an excessive amount of carbohydrates in their diet. In the wild, a dog's diet consists mainly of proteins and fats. Unfortunately, the pet food industry is full of fillers that your dog's digestive system is not adapted to. It is important to know that there are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates, such as fruit and honey, are converted into glucose and provide a quick energy boost. Complex carbohydrates are found in starchy foods such as bread and potatoes and can make you fat if eaten in excess - both dogs and humans!
A dog will benefit from a diet that is lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein - but NOT from a protein-only diet. Aim for about 25-40% protein. Protein provides your dog with nutrients that give him energy and make it easier for him to get leaner muscles and feel less hungry. Protein is found in a variety of meats, especially in the areas around the bones (e.g. ribs and thighs).
REWARD WITH HEALTHY TREATS
It's easy to reward dogs with their favourite treats. But these little treats contain calories that the dog doesn't really need! So if you haven't already, now might be the time to try something different and healthier.
You could try rewarding your dog's good behaviour with signs of love, such as petting him, playing with him or taking him for a walk. Showing him that you are simply pleased with his behaviour lets him know he has been good without you having to give extra calories.
However, we all know that dogs love a snack and will try to impress you just to get their hands on something tasty. So if you want to reward your four-legged friends with something, feed them fruit or vegetables! You'll be surprised how much your four-legged friend will enjoy a raw carrot! However, if he is hesitant at first, introduce him slowly and try different fruits or vegetables. Don't give up right away.
SUPPLEMENTS CAN HELP
Supplements are an excellent addition to a diet and can reduce your dog's calorie intake. You can provide your dog with nutrients he may be lacking on a modified diet, helping to keep him in shape and healthy.
One ingredient you should look for in any supplement is fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids contain antioxidants that work wonders in treating problems such as heart health and diabetes, and have anti-inflammatory properties that are especially helpful with arthritis! As arthritis can be both a symptom and a cause of weight gain, it is important to relieve the symptoms of joint pain in your dog.
EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE
Excess weight is likely to slow your dog down because it puts stress on his joints. If you find that your dog no longer enjoys going for walks or playing in the garden, he could be suffering. Even if your dog finds it hard to get up and go outside, even daily walks of 20 to 30 minutes can be a big help! This is good for the heart and immune system and prevents further weight gain, which would be even more damaging to the joints.
It might also be worth trying new things. Have you ever thought of swimming with your dog? This can be a painless alternative to exercise as it is easy on the joints and helps build muscle mass. Plus, it can be fun!
JOIN IN YOURSELF!
Our final tip is that you should join in too! If you're swapping snacks for veggies for your dog, do it for yourself too - the fewer temptations there are in the house, the sooner your dog will get used to the new diet. It's also a good opportunity for you to get more exercise! If you walk your dog regularly, you are probably already a familiar face at the local park, but you can also try other exercises with your dog that will provide new and exciting experiences for both of you!
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS ON HELPING AN OVERWEIGHT DOG LOSE WEIGHT....
Being overweight can be a minefield of health problems for your dog as it affects the way his body functions, which inevitably affects his wellbeing! Take the time to check if your dog is overweight by palpating his bones, and take him to the vet for a weigh-in and advice on how best to measure your dog's portions. The more you get your dog into the routine of losing weight, the healthier and happier he will be!