Just like humans, pets can have weight issues. Up to 50% of American pets are overweight! And just like in people, obesity mostly comes down to exercise and food intake. Even when calories are restricted, a pet may have issues losing weight, as mobility becomes more difficult.
An overweight dog, much like humans, is more likely to suffer from arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, cancers and high blood pressure. Dogs at the correct weight for their body type live an average of two years longer than obese dogs. Having a pet is like having a child: you are the one responsible for making sure they live a long, healthy and happy life.
So how can we tell if your dog is overweight? Check the space around their ribs and spine. If there’s a thin layer of fat between the skin and bones, your pooch is likely doing just fine. If you have serious issues finding your dog’s ribcage, a diet is probably in order. Also, you can stand over your dog. Optimally, you’ll see a ‘waist’ between the ribs and hips.
Do you give too many treats? Does someone in your household feed your dog ‘human food’ from the table? Start the weight loss process by keeping your pet out of the dining room during meal times. Limit snacks by monitoring family and friends’ behavior. Give lots and lots of attention so your dog feels that you aren’t starving them!
It’s possible that your dog is suffering from heart, thyroid or metabolic disorders, so ask your vet before putting any pet on a diet. Some breeds (like pugs and Labradors) are notorious weight gainers, so take genetics into consideration, too.
As always, a professional veterinarian will be able to tell you what’s what. And here’s what’s what:
You need to find a correct diet, and your dog’s doc will let you know what works best. Get involved and start reading the side of your dog’s food, making sure the caloric and fat index is correct. Be sure that you have enough fiber and healthy fat that helps maintain healthy skin and fur. If you give your dog fewer calories and higher fiber, nutrients are harder to store and you risk increasing your dog’s stool production.
Remember, however: dog food labels are there to maintain weight, not lose it. If you follow the advised diets, you probably won’t see any progress. Don’t disregard the recommended food allotment by leaving a bowl of food out for ‘free feeding’, and make sure that you use the exact measurements recommended.
Choosing your dog’s weight loss diet can be incredibly complicated. This website breaks it down with simple explanations.
Next, exercise is tremendously important. You don’t want to overheat and overstress your dog, but regular activities are going to burn calories, reduce appetite and increase your dog’s happiness. Dogs love exercise if you yourself look excited. Not only is it beneficial for your canine, but it’s also a fantastic way to bond with them. Make sure that you watch for signs of distress like overheating and exhaustion.
Keeping your dog healthy is a big responsibility, but sticking to a routine will keep your special buddy around longer, and in great health.
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