Many of us love our dogs just as much (or maybe secretly more than) we love other humans. And it is easy to see how that is possible; after all, they are man’s best friend!
Given the depth of our love for our dogs, it would seem logical that we would all want to have them by our side for as long as possible. Yet, over the past decade, dogs around the world have been getting fatter and fatter.
Just like with the human obesity epidemic, dog obesity has serious health consequences for your furry friend. An overweight dog is more prone to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, lung problems, high blood pressure, immune dysfunction, cancerous tumors, and respiratory diseases. Not to mention that it will also cost you, the owner, a lot of money and emotional turmoil.
Recent reports have shown that owners of overweight dogs tend to spend 17% more on healthcare costs and 25% more on medications than owners with a healthy weight dog. Over a four-year period, the dollar amount of this difference is around $2,026.
So, for the sake of the lifespan of your best friend and the thickness of your wallet, here are five ways to help your obese dog lose weight.
Set Realistic Goals
In a lot of ways, helping your obese dog to lose weight works the same as assisting your overweight friend. The principle for both is the same — to lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn. The slight difference is that you can’t have one-on-one conversations with your dog, so you are unable to know what is going on with them.
Make an appointment with your local veterinarian to discuss your dog’s health. The veterinarian can help you figure out your dog’s ideal weight, as well as screen him or her for diabetes, Cushing’s Disease, and hypothyroidism — all of which can contribute to obesity.
From here, you can create a timeline of realistic goals. You don’t want to overwork your dog or overdo his or her changed diet; be patient with him or her, follow the plan, and the results will come.
Calculate Calories & Measure Meals
The first step is to cut back on the amount of calories your dog is consuming each day. This shouldn’t be as difficult as it sounds because chances are he or she needs a lot less food than you think.
Use a measuring cup for precise portioning and consider changing to a grain-free, high-protein food as it will increase the nutritional value but not necessarily the caloric amount.
However, if you are giving your dog the right amount of high-quality dog food and they are still having weight issues, then you may be guilty of giving them one too many treats.
Don’t give your dog a treat unless they really deserve it, and even then, try to reward with fun, not food. Next time they are well-behaved, give them a round of fetch, a 5-minute belly-rub, or a fun toy.
Get Those Legs Walking…Daily
Once you have the caloric part of the equation sorted out, it is time to work on the burning part, otherwise known as exercise.
Ensure that your dog has at least one daily walk, though one in the morning and another one in the evening would be more beneficial. In fact, 15 minutes of strenuous activity two times per day is a great place to start.
As your pet gets more used to these walks, start to provide extra exercise opportunities. That might mean upping the intensity and going for a jog or playing a game of fetch in the park for 20-30 minutes.
If your dog has joint problems due to obesity or aging, swim therapy is an excellent option as it encourages movement but takes the pressure off of suffering joints.
On average, dogs that maintain an ideal body weight are likely to live almost two years longer than those who don’t. But there are no quick fixes for obesity. Instead, addressing it takes consistency and time.
Obviously, the more extreme the obesity, the more time and attention it will take to get your dog down to the ideal weight. Just like with humans, moderate, habitual changes have the most effect. So, concentrate on making lifestyle changes that harmonize exercise and a healthy diet in your dog’s daily routine.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Origen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.
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