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.
The first step in helping your dog lose weight is by simply reducing its calorie intake. Dogs tend to need less food than we think, so use a measuring scoop for precise portions. Consider serving a high-quality kibble that has less fillers (which increase calories) that is grain-free and high-protein.
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.
Instead of rewarding your pets with treats that are loaded with fat and sugar, choose single-ingredient treats like sweet potato or salmon, or try offering up vegetables such baby carrots, green beans, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, or sliced apples and bananas. You can end up undoing all your good work with kibble control with copious amounts of extra calories. And remember, use treats as rewards for good behavior not as a sign of love or guilt!
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.
Another easy step is to move the food bowl up or downstairs so that your pet 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 don’t have to move as far!
You can also encourage activity through 10-15-minute games of fetch or chase with toys, balls or laser pointers to encourage movement. Aim for twice a day, change up your game so your dog doesn’t lose interest.
It generally takes six to eight months for the majority of dogs to hit their ideal weight. If it’s taking longer, talk to your vet about other options. Ultimately, it’s up to us to be stewards of good health, so we can give our pets the healthiest, longest lives possible.