A healthy, energetic, happy dog is a joy to behold. She’s least at risk of developing a heart condition, arthritis, or diabetes, and will likely have a long life with her family. It’s what all pet parents want for their dogs. However, sometimes genetics and our indulgences begin to quietly hurt the health of our canine friends. Most people with overweight pets don’t realize that their best friend is carrying around excess weight that harms her quality of life. The effects are slow to manifest, and by the time the pet parent realizes how easily their dog is getting tired or how often she’s falling sick, the line to obesity has been crossed.
To determine whether your dog is overweight, answer these questions:
Does your dog have a potbelly? A healthy dog’s tummy dips in after she finishes digesting her meals.
Does your dog’s waist stick out on the sides? If you view your dog’s back from the top, there should be a tapering of the waist after the roundness of the rib cage and the widening of the hip.
Can you feel her ribs? You should be able to feel the shape of the bones under a layer of skin and fat. If you can’t, then she’s overweight. If you can, and the skin visibly dips between the ribs, then your dog may be underweight.
The next step is a visit to the vet to rule out medical reasons for the weight gain. In rare cases where pets gain weight despite a good diet and regular walks, there is a good chance that the culprit is a disease. Your veterinarian will help you figure out the necessary medication for your pet. If the cause is determined to be food-related, then discuss the best diet for your dog with the vet, and start her immediately on the path to a healthier life.
The leading cause of obesity among pets is overfeeding by loving humans and a lack of sufficient exercise. Therefore, overcoming obesity requires a two pronged approach — increased exercise and diet control. Regularizing walks and incorporating small games into your dog’s life will increase his activity level, while making a few crucial changes to his diet will help him lose weight in a healthy manner.
The first change is likely to be in meal portions. The vet will tell you how much food is healthy for a dog of her breed and size. You can also choose to switch to a brand of dog food which helps lose weight. Consult with your vet regarding the portions, since the chart that comes with these packages tends to overestimate a dog’s energy needs. Most pet parents find that they have to reduce 30% to 40% of their dog’s portions. This can be a difficult step to take, since there’s no way to explain to your dog why she has to suddenly eat lesser, but remember that you were overfeeding her, and that she doesn’t require that much food to be a strong and healthy dog.
For an efficient weight loss program, you should aim to reduce your dog’s weight by 2% every week. The best way to monitor this progress and keep yourself accountable is to visit the vet on a fixed schedule. Use the weighing scale at the clinic to mark the loss. This will allow the vet to keep an eye on your dog and intervene if the weight loss seems too drastic or not effective at all.
The best way to control your dog’s diet and allow her gastrointestinal system to function smoothly is to spread her daily food intake over three to four small meals instead of one or two large servings. This will help her feel full all day, while allowing her metabolism to do its work instead of overloading it. Smaller meals throughout the day is also said to be good for maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.
When working to reduce your dog’s weight, your family and friends need to be on the same page as you! Treats and table scraps are the biggest factors contributing to your dog’s weight gain. Many pet parents invest in the best weight loss program for their dog and end up having little to no results. This is mainly because pet owners tend feed their dogs human food every time they eat something. Family members, especially children and elderlies, are often the biggest culprits! Explain to them why the restrictions on excess food is necessary and involve them in games involving her food.
To ease diet transition, use her meals to make her more active. You can put aside a portion of her daily rations to use as treats or rewards. You can also feed a quarter or half of her meals by stuffing them inside a Kong and make her work to get it out. This diverts the dog’s sole attention on food away and make meal times more fun!
As responsible pet parents you are already aware of the benefits of a healthy diet for your dog. But every canine kid is different, and two dogs of the same breed and age may have vastly differing dietary needs. To be sure that your dog is on the right diet, keep an eye on her appetite, energy, and her weight. If she begins to look too thin, then increase her portions to maintain a healthy weight. If she becomes uninterested in the food, consider changing the brand or adding home-made, low calorie, high fiber alternatives. As her trusted family member, you are the best people to decide what is good for her!