Did you know that 45% of all dogs in America are overweight or obese? That’s 35 million! So how do you combat dog obesity and why is it important that you make your furry friend lost weight?
Why Should You Care About Dog Obesity?
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that dogs who are a healthy weight live, on average, two years longer than those who are obese. In addition to a shorter life, obesity can cause high blood pressure, lower stamina, exercise intolerance, diabetes, osteoarthritis, liver disease, increased risk of tumors and a weakened immune system.
Do those risks sound familiar? How extra weight affects dogs is very similar to how it affects the human body. It’s not easy for you to lose those extra pounds, so imagine how much harder it is for your dog. After all, your four-legged friend doesn’t have the ability to choose their diet, nor do they have the option to run around all day or go to a gym.
If you want your dog to lose weight, it has to start with your actions as an owner. You are their personal trainer. So, what can you do?
Exercising Your Dog
Exercising your dog can be the hardest step to accomplish, especially at first, because obesity often leads to lower stamina and an aversion to exercise.
You will need to coax your pet and ease them into a routine. Your dog may resist longer walks, so take them around the block to start with and offer plenty of praise while doing it. Or, as an incentive, take them out to their favorite dog park, pond or trail and let them walk until they tell you they are done.
While it’s up to you to make sure your dog is moving more, always be aware of their physical capabilities. Remember, 3 extra pounds can be a lot of weight to your dog to move around, so they may get tired faster or need to rest more often. That’s okay! Go at their pace and gradually work them into a longer and faster walking routine.
A schedule is key too. You need to tell your dog that there is a set time for you both to be active every day. Because dogs love routines, they should settle into it quickly so it won’t be a struggle to get them out the door for long.
Do not over exercise your dog. Weekend warriors are more prone to injury and the sudden strain on their muscles and joints is not conducive for weight loss. Stretch the exercise out during the week, don’t try to clump it all into the weekend.
The last thing to remember is that every dog is different. A German Shepherd is naturally going to need more physical activity than a Yorkie just due to the size and breed grouping of the dogs. DoggyBrace’s previous blog on how much your dog should exercise each day offers advice on breeds, age and how to keep the activity interesting for you and your dog.
Putting Your Dog on a Diet
Yes, dogs can be put on diets. It may seem like an easy fix, swapping out their food for one of the highly rated weight loss food brands, but it’s much more complicated than that. You need to make a weight loss plan that ensures your dog is feeling full while taking in less calories than the amount they are burning. Before you do this, talk with your vet or do research to ensure that your dog is overweight.
Before you start your dog’s diet, talk with your vet and figure out what their ideal weight should be. Once you know that number, ask them about food portions or use Advisor’s dog food calculator. Do not use the portion recommendations on the dog food bag! Those are made to maintain your dog’s weight, not to reduce it.
For a diet to work, you have to stop free feeding and put them on a strict eating schedule. Free feeding is not ideal for dogs, as they tend to eat when they are bored or stressed, just like humans. You can feed them 2-4 times a day, as long as the total amount of food you give them throughout the day equals the recommended amount.
Putting your dog on a diet does not mean you are starving them. A high protein diet can help keep a dog’s stomach full for longer periods. For successful weight loss, choose a dog food with above average protein contents and below average fat and calories.
Also, just like with your diet, avoid snacking between meals. Dogs often associate food with love and owners like to give their dogs treats from time to time. Treats in moderation will not harm your dog, but don’t make it a habit to give them a treat just because you can. Limit them to rewards for good behavior or incentives to get up and exercise.
An overweight or obese dog is not a healthy one. They are at more risk for severe illnesses and joint issues, such as torn cranial cruciate ligaments (CCLs). A dog’s weight loss routine is very similar to a human’s and is just as hard, if not harder. Support your dog through this process by leading them through it and getting them into a healthier routine.
A dog that is a healthy weight can live longer than one that is not. Make sure they are living their best life by putting them on the best diet and putting them on a routine for eating and playing.
DoggyBrace can help. They offer hind leg braces for all sizes and breeds to help support your dog’s legs and heal injuries, such as torn CCLs. If you think your dog needs extra help to lose weight, get them a brace to reduce their risk of injury.