Dogs make our lives fun and full of love and companionship. We want to make them happy in return and show them how much we care.
Oftentimes, that appreciation comes in the form of food — we give them treats, table scraps, and big bowls of food.
As many as one in three pets are overweight, and that weight gain can lead to a number of health issues, like arthritis, diabetes and kidney disease, as well as more money spent on vet visits throughout the course of the dog’s life.
So what should you do when Fido has gotten heavier than is healthy?
A solution for any health concern should start with the vet. A veterinarian can perform an examination of your dog to conclude whether your dog is overweight. Typically, the examination consists of a visual and physical examination, in which the vet feels for the dog’s ribs and looks for the waistline.
They’ll also look for potential medical factors when determining the source (especially if the weight gain is sudden) and solution for an overweight pet. If none are present, you can consult with your vet on the best strategy for helping your dog shed pounds, including an exercise regimen and diet plan.
Overfeeding, whether it be snacks or meals, is a big contributor to overweight pets. Start by looking at what your dog eats in a day.
Do you feed your dog more than the recommended portion size for their weight and age? Do you give out snacks all day long? Do you feed your dog from your plate?
Determine a specific meal plan with recommended amounts of food. Set a limit on how many snacks you give your dog in a day. If your vet has given you recommendations, make sure to work those into your plans. Feeding your dog less not only helps them stay healthier, it helps save you money on food (which you can apply towards other costs, like a checkup with the vet).
It’s possible your dog isn’t getting proper nutrition from their food. Read labels, and see if the food you routinely feed your pup is made of quality ingredients and without bad fillers like grains. If you want, you can make your own dog food or treats to ensure that the only ingredients going into your dog’s diet are foods you approve.
Exercise is an important part of any dog’s life. Depending on breed, they may require a lot of exercise time, or very little. If your dog is overweight, introducing a better exercise regimen in his day is important.
Exercise comes in many forms. Low energy dogs (and owners) can start with a 30 minute walk a day (or break it into two 15 minute walks). Swimming expends a lot of energy in a short time, and is good for dogs with joint pain. If you enjoy being outdoors, take your dog on your adventures (like hiking or biking).
Owners with mobility issues can use a handful of methods to get exercise for their dog without expending too much energy themselves. Fetch is a high-energy game for a dog that allows owners to stay stationary. Dog treadmills allow your dog to exercise in the comfort of your own home. A professional dog walker can take your dog out for a stroll when you can’t.
Any change, no matter how small, is a good start. After all, the goal is to keep your fuzziest family member healthy and happy for as long as possible.
A pudgy pet may be cute, but one unburdened by health problems is infinitely better.
— A. Lynne Rush