Has your pooch packed on a few pounds? If so, your pup is not alone. Just like with people, a sedentary lifestyle and highly processed diet can lead to weight gain in dogs and cats. More importantly, when left untreated, obesity can lead to serious health problems for your precious pet.
According to the Association For Pet Obesity Prevention, 54% of dogs and cats in the US are overweight or obese. While appropriate weight ranges vary from breed to breed and individual to individual, there are some easy ways to determine if your pet is at risk.
If your dog is maintaining a healthy weight you should see that he or she has a noticeable waist between the end of the rib cage and the start of the hind quarters. When viewed from the side, your dog should have a narrower abdomen than chest. Lastly, when you apply light pressure you should be able to feel your dogs ribs and spine. Your dog is overweight if there is a layer of fat over the ribs making them difficult to feel, your dog has a sagging stomach and no waist.
If you feel that your dog is overweight contact your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will want to perform a physical exam and possibly run tests to determine if your dog is suffering from common diseases associated with excess weight including Type 2 Diabetes, Respiratory and Heart Disease, Osteoarthritis, High Blood Pressure or certain types of Cancer.
Your veterinary health care team can then assist you in setting weight loss goals and creating an appropriate weight loss regimine. For most dogs this will include a reduction in caloric intake coupled with an increase in exercise. But it is very important to have your pet evaluated by a professional in case he or she is suffering from hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease or other conditions that might lead to weight gain.
After you’ve put your dog on a weight loss program, it’s important to determine if it’s working for your dog. Each dog is an individual and may require many changes in diet or routine before finding the correct approach. In general, your dog should be weighed every month until his or her ideal weight is achieved. If there is no significant weight loss in one month, typically about one pound, then a new approach should be pursued. Working closely with your vet will enable you and your pet to reach your goals safely and effectively.
- Do not use a self-feeder. Instead opt for a high quality Dog Bowl that you can monitor and manually control portion size. While this may seem obvious, auto-feeders provide unlimited food to an overweight dog. If you must, use an automated feeder that only dispenses a set amount of food several times per day.
- Pet your dog or play with her when she begs for food. Many dogs substitute food for affection and by flipping the equation you may find that playtime displaces chow time. Grab your pet’s favorite Dog Toy and have some fun!
- Walk your dog or take him outside when he begs for food. The distraction and interaction may be just enough to make him forget his desire for food. PupLife has a great selection of Dog Collars, Leashes and Harnesses for the perfect walk.
- Feed small meals frequently – especially give a last feeding for those dogs that like to wake you up in the wee hours begging for more goodies – divide the total volume or calories into four to six smaller meals – whatever you do, don’t feed extra food.
- Give vegetables such as baby carrots, broccoli, celery and asparagus. Dogs love crunchy treats so make it a healthy – and low-calorie – choice.
- Offer fresh water instead of food. Many dogs love fresh water so when they are eyeing the empty food bowl, fill up the water bowl instead.
Keeping your dog’s weight at a safe level is more important than ever. Make sure that your pet gets lots of exercise and physical activity around the house. Take your pet on walks as often as you can (always with a dependable Dog Collar, Leash and Dog Tag) and keep your pet active.With proper care and attention, you can ensure that your dog lives a long, healthy and happy life!