Man’s best friend can, unfortunately, often share in one of man’s most difficult challenges—staying healthy and fit. While some dog owners may think that only certain breeds are more susceptible to unwanted weight gain, the fact is, due to low activity levels and improper nutrition, there are more things than just genetics to look out for. While we may see some doggos sport their extra rolls with extra cuteness, the reality is that those pounds can be putting them in danger of increased blood pressure, diabetes, breathing difficulty, joint and ligament pain, and a decreased lifespan.
How to Know if Your Dog is Overweight
Dogs are cherished family members, and keeping them healthy and out of harm’s way is important to you and your family. So, how do you know if your furry friend is in need of a new diet plan? The easiest way is to keep up with vet visits throughout the year. Your veterinarian will pop your pooch on the scale to check his or her weight during these yearly visits, and be able to tell you if a problem is on the rise. If you pay close attention to your dog’s shape, you can also easily see if they are carrying a little too much weight, especially with respect to their ribs! Take your hand and feel around the ribs to see if you can easily touch them or if there is a little too much cushion. You should be able to feel their rib cage without difficulty, as well as most of their other bones throughout their body.
Creating a Doggie Diet Plan
Similar to the steps humans take when wanting to shed extra pounds, it really is about creating a lifestyle change in order to be most effective. Your dog will need some help changing their nutrition and activity, and you want to do this in the healthiest way. Integrating little changes can really make a big impact and help your dog get fit.
Addressing Your Dog’s Appetite and Inner Foodie
First up is identifying if you’re serving a breed-appropriate dog food. For example, some smaller dogs may be on dog food with too high a protein level for them, causing extra weight to pile on (and producing some unfortunate gas). Check with your vet to make sure the food contains the right type of nutrition and confirm the recommended serving. Be sure to measure each serving and know how often meals need to be served. If you are swapping brands, make a note that dogs tend to have sensitive stomachs, and a slow swap will do better than going cold turkey. Try introducing a little of the new food mixed in with their old brand, while increasing it over the weeks until you are completely switched over, to avoid digestive issues. Don’t forget that removing table scraps, treats, and any sibling pet food that may be within their access will also help.
Up the Activity Level and Get Fido Fit
You may be imagining doggie yoga and puppy aerobics right now, but there are less crazy things to help a non-active dog get fit! Many owners have a routine of taking their dog out for a “w-a-l-k” once or twice per day, which is a great way to help both of you stay active. You can improve activity during these walks by either increasing the frequency, distance, or even the speed of these daily excursions. A trip to the dog park on the weekend can be something you both look forward to, while getting them outside, playing. Encourage ruff playtime with a game of frisbee or tug-of-war to get calories burning, too. If you have a lazy mutt, you can entice them with low-calorie treats; just limit how often you give out those rewards!
Love on Them and Show Them Support
Your doggo may be feeling good on their new plan and things be going smoothly, but you’ll need to question their progress. It’s important to understand that dogs don’t lose weight as quickly as humans, and in order to help them lose it in a healthy way, you don’t want to rush the process. Many dog breeds can take up to eight or even 12 months before reaching their goal weights, even if it’s only a couple of pounds. Be proud of the changes you’ve created, and give your poochy pet a little extra love while they are making progress. You are in this for the long haul, and so are they! Every step towards a healthier lifestyle means more memories together!