A dog is a great addition to any family. It doesn’t take long for them to feel like another one of your kids, and sometimes it’s hard to imagine what life was like before them! But, when your dog is an integral part of your family, it’s easy to spoil them. Do you spend your nights on the couch watching Netflix with your pup by your side? Do you give them that extra pizza crust from your plate more often than you should? Unfortunately, more than 100 million pets across the country are considered to be overweight or obese. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure your dog maintains a healthy weight. It’s just as important for dogs to be at an average weight as it is for humans. Dogs who are overweight can have an increased risk of diabetes, as well as decreased liver function, discomfort to the joints and muscles, and increased blood pressure. So, if your dog has packed on the pounds, what can you do to help them lose weight and get healthy? Follow these five tips to help your pooch get back in shape quickly.
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Know How Many Calories They Need
If you were trying to lose weight, one of the first things you’d probably do is cut back on your eating. But, you would still need a certain number of calories each day to function. Dogs are no different. They gain weight because they’re eating an excessive amount of calories and aren’t burning them off with exercise. Your dog’s caloric needs are based on things like their size, breed, and activity level. While bags of dog food often have calculations on them for how much your dog should eat based on their weight, they aren’t always accurate and they’re designed specifically for adults, un-spayed or un-neutered dogs. A good way to find out your dog’s caloric needs is to ask your local veterinarian. You can also talk with your dog’s vet about how to safely cut down on calories to help your dog lose weight without restricting them too much.
Give Them Better Quality Treats
Even if you’re diligent about giving your dog the right amount of food and you aren’t over-feeding them elsewhere, giving them too many “junk” treats can quickly contribute to weight gain. Dog treats are great for rewarding your four-legged friend and for motivational uses. But, so many treats on the market today are filled with fat, calories, preservatives, and ingredients you’ll never be able to pronounce. If you want to keep buying treats from the store, simple is better. Take a look at the nutrition facts on the box, the same way you would for your own snacks. You can also reward your dog with healthy human treats, such as non-salted pretzels, popcorn, small carrot sticks, or canned green beans. Vegetables are great treats because they will fill your dog up quickly and help them to feel satiated, without giving them too many excess calories. These types of low fat dog treats will really make your pooch feel like they’re getting something special, and you can feel good about knowing exactly what you’re giving them.
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Cut Down on Carbs
It’s not just people who can benefit from a low-carb diet. Dogs are carnivores, by nature. Yet, most bagged pet foods are made up of up to 60% carbohydrates. If your dog is very active and does a lot of walking, hiking, or running, carbs can be a good thing. But, if they’re more sedentary, it’s better to focus on a protein-based diet. Not all dog food is created equally either. Again, it’s a matter of checking the labels before you buy something. Try to steer toward foods that contain more protein and fewer carbohydrates, unless your dog has very specific dietary needs. Grain Free Brands are the best.
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Get Them Moving… With You
Aside from making dietary changes, one of the best things you can do for your dog’s weight (and their overall health) is to make sure they get some exercise every single day. Dogs aren’t meant to lay around all day at any age. Even a 20-30 minute walk each day is very beneficial. Not only will it help your dog to maintain a healthy weight, but it can also boost their immune system, fight against heart disease, and can even improve behavioral issues. If you go on a daily walk with your dog, you’ll also notice health improvements of your own! It’s a win-win for both of you, so try to make it a habit to walk each day, rain or shine. Read more about quality leashes on DoggieDesigner.
Measure Their Meals
Portion sizes are just as important for dogs as they are to people. Again, trusting the recommended serving sizes on bags of food doesn’t always work. But, many people don’t even look at those. Instead, it’s far more common to scoop a sizable amount into your dog’s bowl, or fill their bowl to the brim and assume that’s what they need. Whether your dog is a grazer or tends to eat all of their food at once, it doesn’t take much extra to cause them to gain weight. In fact, just a few extra pieces of kibble a day can cause up to a pound of weight gain in a year. That might not seem like a lot for a human, but for a dog it’s significant.
Some of these tips and tricks might seem a bit picky. But, you’d do the same for yourself if you had some weight to lose. The burden of obesity on a dog can take its toll quickly. We tend to get such a short amount of time with these furry family members as it is. So, making sure they have a long, healthy, and happy life is part of the responsibility of pet ownership. Whether your dog has a few pounds to lose, or you’re just trying to maintain their current weight, use these practical solutions to keep them healthy and increase their chances of being with your family for many years to come.