Figure 1Deposit Photos ©Dmyrto_Z
Is your dog a little overweight? If so, you’re not alone. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention over 50% of American pets are overweight. But unfortunately, that extra weight can cause a lot of health issues for our pets. If your dog needs to lose a few pounds, here are a few simple steps you can take to help them get back in shape.
Cut down your dogs caloric intake
The feeding recommendations on dog food labels aren’t going to be right for every dog. Food label recommendations are estimates based on a dog’s size, not their activity level. A working Border Collie on a farm is going to need more calories than a Schnauzer whose daily activities include sunbathing and lounging on the couch. Yet they’re roughly the same weight, so if you were to go by what’s recommended on the food label you’d feed them the same amount.
If you’ve been feeding them the same food for a while and your dog is gaining weight, it’s time to consider cutting down their portions. Start by decreasing their portions by small increments and keep track of your dog’s weight. If you’re not sure how much to feed your dog, consult your veterinarian. They’ll be able to come up with a diet plan that’s right for your dog and their unique needs.
Be careful when following the feeding recommendations on dog food labels. They’re rough estimated based on weight, not a dog’s activity level. Deposit Photos © whitestar1955
Measure out your dog’s meals
To help your dog lose weight be sure to measure out their meals with a measuring cup or scale. When it comes to measuring meals, guessing won’t cut it. Keeping track of the exact amount your dog is eating every day will help determine whether your weight loss plan is working or not.
When it comes to feeding your dog, one miscalculation of just a few ounces can have a big effect on your dog’s weight, especially with smaller dogs. If you feed your dog 1 cup (8 ounces) a day and you end up giving them just one extra ounce by miscalculating, that’s a 12% increase. Pre-measuring meals will help you stay consistent and is an efficient way to feed a hungry dog in a hurry.
Be consistent with your feeding schedule by measuring out all your dog’s meals. Deposit Photos © belchonock
Provide your dog with regular exercise
Do you walk your dog every day? If not it’s time to start. Daily walks will help your dog lose weight, and they provide a lot of mental stimulation that your dog can’t get indoors. It’s the one time of the day where they get to go out and explore and find out what’s been going on in the world around them.
Besides your daily walk, one of the easiest ways to get your dog active is to engage them in more play. A few short sessions of play every day not only burns calories, it will enrich your dog’s life by giving them a sense of purpose and routine. A few of the games you can play with your dog to keep them active are:
- Tug of War
- Chasing Bubbles
- Hide & Seek
When starting a new exercise plan for your dog remember to take it slow by gradually increasing their daily activity. Like us, our dogs can injure themselves and get sore if they over extend themselves.
When starting your dog on a new exercise routine remember to take it slow. Dog’s need time to get conditioned to regular exercise, and over exertion can cause injuries. Deposit Photos © Rohappy
Cut down on extra snacks & treats
Our dogs love treats, and it’s really easy to get carried away when we see how happy all those extra snacks make them. But all those extra calories add up, and as we all know, can be really hard to work off.
If you still want to reward your dog with treats, try cutting them in half or quarters. Our dogs don’t care about the size of snacks, they’ll just be happy that they’re getting them. If you don’t have any low-calorie treats, try fruits & veggies that are healthy for dogs such as:
- Apples (remove the seeds)
- Watermelon (remove the seeds)
Many dog treats are high in calories. If your dog needs to lose weight, try breaking their treats into halves, or stick to low calorie options like fruits & veggies. Deposit Photos © fotyma
Keep track of your dogs progress
When starting a weight loss program for your dog it’s important to keep track of their progress. Take note of how much exercise they’re getting, how much food they’re eating and how many extra snacks they get each day.
Weigh them regularly to see how your plan is working. A safe rate of weight loss for dogs per month is about 5% of their total weight. If your dog started at 50 pounds you’d be aiming for them to lose around 2.5 pounds per month.
If you don’t have a scale at home to weigh your dog you can take a trip to the vet’s office and use theirs. Not only is it a convenient way to weigh your dog, it’s a nice way to let your dog know that the vet’s office is more than just a scary place where they get poked and prodded.
Remember, all dogs are different, and some will lose weight quicker than others. If your dog still isn’t losing weight after putting them on a weight loss program, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any medical issues.