Unfortunately 45% of all U.S. dogs are either overweight or obese. This equates to 35 million dogs! Just like humans, these extra pounds can make them more prone to certain illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and lung disorders. On the flip side, studies have shown that dogs who are at their ideal weight live at least two years longer than their overweight counterparts.
Many dog owners fail to recognize that their dogs are overweight, preferring to consider them "big boned" or still shedding their "puppy fat." There are basically two ways to lose weight - eat less and exercise more. When your dog goes in for his annual examination, your vet can tell you whether your dog is overweight and the best methods to reset his metabolism. The exact amount of calories he needs to consume will be determined by his age, breed and activity level.
- To reduce your dog's calorie intake without leaving him with hunger pangs, feed your dog smaller portions more frequently throughout the day. A dog should be fed two to four small portions a day.
- Always use a measuring cup to spoon out the portions - don't guesstimate. This way you'll know the portions are accurate.
- Be wary of dog foods labeled "diet", "light" or "reduced calorie". Too many of these foods substitute meat portions with high levels of carbohydrate fillers. Although it may be lower in calorie and help your dog feel fuller initially, this feeling will soon abate, leaving him to beg. Talk to your vet about a food high in protein, low in fat and lower in calories.
- Choose healthier treats and cut back on the amount you give him. You can even try table foods such as carrots, broccoli and lean string beans ... these are good for us too!
- Exercise, exercise, exercise. What a great opportunity for the two of you to walk and workout together. Start by walking shorter distances and then increase the mileage every day. Play fetch, run, swim, climb the stairs or play with toys. If the weather outside is inclement, here's some fun games to play inside.
Your vet will let you know what a safe rate of weight loss is for your dog. If your dog loses weight too quickly, this can endanger his well-being.