Let’s face it, food is love, and with our fur babies, maybe even more so. There’s an extra treat here and there. A few scraps under the table and a plea to clean the floor around the kids. Combined with missed walks when the weather doesn’t comply, reduced time at the park, a hike that doesn’t happen, and it’s no wonder that one in every three dogs in the U.S. are overweight.
But obesity in dogs can result in a number of serious issues including arthritis, ACL tears, heart and breathing conditions, tumors, skin diseases, and the reduction of quantity and quality of life. Here are some easy ways to keep your pet’s paunch in check.
Measure the amount of kibble
The first step in helping your dog lose weight is to measure your dog’s food intake. Dogs tend to need less food than we think, so use the same measuring scoop for a full day’s portion and do that every day.
To determine how many calories your dog needs, ask your veterinarian. You can also use this formula: take your pet’s weight, and divide it by 2.2, multiply that figure by 30, and add 70 for the number of daily calories for a typical indoor pet that weighs between six and 60 pounds.
Trim your treats
Instead of rewarding your pets with treats try offering up crunchy vegetables such as baby carrots, green beans, celery, and broccoli stalks.
Cut The Scrap
Check out who is the softie in the house or maybe there is more than one. Make a rule that no one at the table feeds the dog anything from the table. If someone new comes to the house, tell them also that no scraps go to the dog. At holiday parties, consider a sign for the dog that says “My eyes say please, but please DON’T give me scraps.”
Up the exercise
The first and easiest way to increase your dog’s activity is to increase the length and intensity of your walks. Most likely, you are walking at a comfortable pace with plenty of stops to check out various smells and distractions – which won’t do much for weight loss, so aim for a daily brisk 30-minute walk. Walk first, smell later. Time your walks as many people overestimate their walking time. To be an active dog, the dog needs to be on the move for 2 hours a day, not for two slow meanders a day.
Another easy step is to move the food bowl up or downstairs so that your dog has to walk around to find its food. Make sure you keep relocating it throughout the week, as our lazy hounds are smart and will reposition themselves near the food so they won’t have to move as far!
You can also encourage activity through 10-15-minute games of fetch or chase with toys and balls to encourage movement. Aim for twice a day and change up your game so your dog doesn’t lose interest.
Dropping weight takes both fewer calories in AND more calories out. Don’t rely solely on decreasing your dog’s food intake. Talk to your vet about making a plan for you and your dog. Ultimately, it’s up to us to be stewards of good health so we can give our pets the healthiest, longest lives possible.