Did you know that a 2016 survey revealed that more than half of the dog population in the United States is projected to be overweight or obese? That means that an estimated close to 50 million dogs in the country are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, crippling arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and different forms of cancer.
Of course, as a loving pet owner, you feel responsible for how you have been feeding your dog. It is not too late to help your chubby dog slim down and maintain a healthier lifestyle. All it takes is a little discipline.
Here are some ways to help your dog lose weight:
1. Control calorie intake
Overweight could be due to genes, a carbohydrate-rich diet, or consuming more calories than you burn. The body needs sufficient calories to function, and having more than enough results in weight gain.
The first step is to know roughly how many calories your dog needs. This depends on your dog’s age, gender, breed, health status, and activity. Your vet should be able to give you a rough guide on how much to feed your dog.
Another way is to compute it yourself using this formula. For raw feeders, feed an amount of food that’s equivalent to 2 to 3% of your dog’s weight. You can also engage a pet nutritionist’s help to create your dog’s ideal diet plan.
It’s impossible to calculate the exact number of calories your dog needs a day as different dogs have different metabolic rates, activity levels, and etc.. So, the only thing you can do is to monitor your dog’s weight and adjust her food intake accordingly and consult a professional.
2. Use a measuring cup
One tool that most pet parents fail to use is a measuring cup. Very often we see pet parents filling their dog’s bowl haphazardly without any kind of measurement.
What you need to understand is that a tiny kibble is packed with calories that, if in excess, will result in weight gain. Make sure you measure the amount of food you are giving your dog according to how much she needs a day.
3. Be choosy with food and treats
First of all, there is nothing wrong with giving treats. However, it should be taken as what it is – a treat. You do not feed them to your dog all the time without counting them as part of her calorie intake for the day. There are plenty of food and treats in the market today that are loaded with fats and carbohydrates (E.g. sugar, honey, molasses, and flour).
Avoid dog food that contains more carbohydrates and fats than actual proteins. If you are giving treats anyway, make sure to give your dog those that have actual health benefits. There are products that contain healthy single ingredients. Again, remember that they still count as calories and feed in moderation.
3. Exercise, exercise, exercise
Some dogs make really good running and hiking buddies. You can also benefit from park walks in the mornings or in the afternoons with them. Or how about a game of Frisbee every week?
Remember that although dogs are domesticated, they are meant to be moving and running around. It is when we keep them at home with a sedentary lifestyle that they start getting overweight. So, if you want to keep your dog from developing serious health diseases, make sure you change your lifestyle as well and get moving with your pooch.
4. Veggie up
One way of avoiding processed treats is to train your dog to eat vegetables and fruits as treats instead. Baby carrots, sliced apples, blueberries, and bananas are among the healthiest alternatives for treats. However, do make sure to feed fruits and vegetables in moderation as they may be high in sugar.
Aside from having healthy treats for your dog, it is also a good lifestyle change for you. Having more vegetables and fruits stored in the fridge is so much better than having a cupboard full of chips and highly processed snacks.
To lose weight, in theory, is simple. Your dog should eat healthier and exercise more. Many would say this is easier said than done. However, the truth is it is easy to do this. If you can set aside some time to walk with your dog or put some energy into choosing the right type of food to feed them, you are doing your beloved friend a huge favour.
Also, when looking for dog food, choose those quality ones that have above-average protein and below-average carbohydrates. Your dog will feel fuller with a high protein diet. This also helps combat muscle loss, which is a known side-effect of weight loss or dieting.
Remember that the journey to weight loss does not end the moment your dog has lost the extra weight. Although slightly increasing the amount of food your dog eats is part of the process, monitoring and weighing food intake are still essential. Think of a healthy diet as a lifestyle instead of a fad.