The average American dog is overweight. Too many calories and not enough exercise can pack the pounds on our dogs just like it does to us. Large meals, lots of treats, unhealthy human foods and a sedentary lifestyle leads to obesity in our pets. Obesity is a serious health condition and leads to whole host of health problems. Let’s learn how to put your dog on a diet. Luckily, it’s easier than you think.
How to Tell if Your Dog Is Overweight
The first thing you need to do is determine if your dog really is overweight. This is an easy test you can do at home.
- Run your hands along the ribs. They should be easily felt with a slight covering of fat. If they are difficult to feel with a moderate amount of fat covering them, your dog is overweight. If they are difficult to feel with a thick fat cover, your dog is obese.
- Look at him from the side. His stomach should be slightly tucked up. If there is no up tuck, he is overweight. If the abdomen is hanging down, he is obese.
- Look at him from the top. You should be able to see a curve in at the waist. If there is no waist and the back is a little broadened, he is overweight. If the abdomen curves out, he is obese.
Tips for Losing Weight
Losing weight is the same for our pets as it is for us. Less calories, more exercise. Try some of these tips to help your dog lose pounds and get healthier.
Switch to a low-calorie food.
There are many foods on the market for weight loss in our pets. If you would like to switch to a weight loss food, read the labels. Some foods labeled for weight loss may have less calories than the full fat version. However, they are still high in calories. Read lots of labels before choosing the food you feel is most appropriate. Or ask your veterinarian for suggestions. If your pet is on a prescription diet, never switch foods without consulting your veterinarian.
Decrease the amount of food.
If you prefer to stick with the food your dog is currently eating, start by decreasing the amount fed by 10%. It’s very important to measure your dog’s food with a measuring cup. Determine how much food your pet is currently eating. Decrease that amount by 10%.
Change to healthy snacks.
Treats can really add up. Most pet owners aren’t aware of the amount of treats their dog actually gets in the course of a day. Switching to low calorie snacks can have a huge impact. Click here for a list of healthy but yummy snacks for dogs.
Cut the unhealthy people food.
The last bite of pizza crust. Licking the empty ice cream bowl. These seemingly innocent things add a HUGE number of calories. If your dog is used to getting something every time you eat, it can be hard to stop. You certainly don’t want to hurt her feelings. Try putting a bite of something healthy for her on your plate to give her when you’re done eating. She gets a treat without the extra calories.
Feed multiple times a day.
If your dog is only fed once a day, switch to twice daily. Feeding more small meals in a day helps keep your dog’s blood sugar steady throughout the day. Also, her body will be less likely to store extra calories in the form of fat. If your dog is fed twice a day but is starving by noon, try feeding lunch. Simply determine how much food your dog eats in a day and divide that amount into 3 meals.
Go for a walk.
Exercise not only burns calories, but it reduces the appetite too. If you live in a walk-able area, go for walks every day. If your dog isn’t used to walking, start with short walks and let your dog tell you what she’s up for. The last thing you want to do is get too far from home with a dog you can’t carry back. If your dog has arthritis, joint problems, or is extremely obese check out some exercise tips here.
Try a game of fetch, toss a ball, throw a frisbee. Play with tug toys, or any toy your dog will chase. If he likes to play with other dogs, take him to the dog park. When it comes to exercise, start slow. You don’t want any injuries. You want it to be fun. Click here for some fun things for you and your dog to do together.
With weight loss, slow and steady wins the race. Your goal is to not only get the excess weight off, but to keep it off. The only way to keep the weight off is to make a lifestyle change.