A staggering 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the USA's Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. That means that over half of dogs are at risk of developing long term health conditions which can shorten their lives and cause them pain! There are many factors that could lead to a dog putting on weight, including old age, a sedentary lifestyle, and having an unplanned diet.
Understanding WHEN, and more importantly WHY, your pet is overweight can help address the issue, and lead them to a happier, healthier life. Keep reading for 6 proven ways to help your pet lose weight, and why it's important...
You may be able to notice that your dog is overweight just by looking at them, but there are signs to help you decide if they really need to be losing weight. Different breeds are safe to carry varying amounts of body fat, so if you are unsure of the ideal weight for your pup, ask your vet for a weigh-in.
The first thing you can do is check to see if you can feel their ribs and spine. When stroking their stomach or back, you should be able to slightly feel their bones. If their bones are buried under the fat, it’s likely that they’re overweight. (If you feel the bones protruding through too prominently, they could be underweight).
Use our handy guide here...
The second method is assessing their movement. Overweight dogs are likely to suffer from some joint pain, from the strain of the excess weight on their bones. If you notice your dog is moving slower or less willing to do exercise, this could be a sign that their weight is impacting their life.
Being overweight for a dog can be a serious problem. They may not know it, but you should! There are numerous health risks associated with being even slightly on the obesity scale, and these become far worse if your dog is extremely overweight.
The main ailments they’re more prone to developing due to excess weight are:
If you have a puppy, now is the time to prevent weight gain. It is actually during their younger years that the number of fat cells in their bodies is determined, which is why it is essential to start from a young age!
You don’t want to see your pooch suffering, so to prevent them from developing a health problem like this is the best gift you can give to them! Helping your dog to lose weight can also bring a lot of joy to their lives. Without the struggle of extra weight, they’ll run more freely, with less joint pain and gain better cardiovascular function. Even old dogs want to be lively and free, so give them the chance to live longer, happier lives by following these steps to weight loss!
Often, guidelines on the back of food packets will be too general for you to know how much to feed your particular dog – the age and size of your dog plays a part in how much you should feed them.
Each dog is different, so the best thing to do is ask your veterinarian for the advised amount of food you should be feeding your dog each day. For some dogs, it may be that they require smaller meals more often throughout the day, to keep them feeling fuller. For others, it could be a cut down in in-between meal snacks. Once you know how much your dog needs, according to their size, activity levels, and age, you can start making changes to their diets.
Petlab Co. Pro Tip: Dog food measuring cups are great! You can easily see how much you’re feeding them, without the hassle of scales! You shouldn’t guess how much to put in their bowl or leave it out for the day because they’ll probably eat more than they need. Reducing the number of calories per meal is essential to helping your dog lose weight.
Dogs don’t need an overload of carbohydrates in their diet. In the wild, a dog's diet is made of primarily protein and fats. Unfortunately, the pet food industry is full of filler-laden products, which your dog's digestive system just isn't evolved to.
There are two types of carbs; simple and complex. Simple carbs, such as fruit and honey, convert into glucose and gives your pup a quick fix of energy. Complex carbs are found in starchy foods like bread and potatoes and can be fattening if over-consumed – for both dogs and humans!
Your dog will actually benefit from consuming a diet that is far lower in carbs, and higher in protein – but NOT a totally protein diet. Aim for around 25-40% protein. Protein provides your dog with nutrients to give them energy and will make it easier to get leaner muscles and feel less hungry. You can find protein in different kinds of meat, especially in areas around bones (such as ribs and thighs).
It’s easy to reward your dog with a favourite treat of theirs – one you know they like and is easy to hand. But those little things contain calories that your pooch really doesn’t need! So, if you haven’t already, maybe now is the time to try something different.
You could try rewarding your dog’s good behaviour with signs of love, such as stroking them, playing with them, or taking them for a walk. Showing that you’re simply happy with their behaviour will let them know they’ve been good, without eating the extra calories.
We all know dogs love a little snack though, so they’ll try to impress you just to get their teeth on something. So, if you do want to feed them something as a reward, try feeding them safe fruit or vegetables! You’d be surprised at how much your four-legged friend will enjoy a raw carrot! However, if they seem hesitant at first, introduce it slowly and try different fruits or veggies. Replacing unhealthy treats for a healthy snack will no doubt stop your dog from putting on weight. Things like a small cut of cucumber, or freshly cooked pumpkin!
There are some foods you should not feed your dog, such as grapes and raisins. Read the list of toxic human foods you should feed to dogs here...
Supplements are an incredible addition to a diet where you’re cutting down on your dog’s calorie intake. They can provide your pup with nutrients that they might be missing out on from an altered diet, helping to keep them in shape and healthy.
One ingredient you should look for in any supplement is fish oil. Omega-3 contains anti-oxidants that work wonders for treating problems such as heart health and diabetes, as well as having anti-inflammatory abilities which are great for arthritis! As arthritis can be a symptom and a cause of weight gain, it’s important to ease the symptoms of joint pain for your pooch.
Holding excess weight is likely to be slowing your dog down because there’s a strain on their joints. If you’ve noticed your pal become less enthusiastic about going for walks or playing in the yard, they could be suffering.
Even though it might be hard for your dog to get up and outside, even daily walks for around 20 to 30 minutes can be a big help! It’s good for their heart and immune system, and will prevent further weight gain which would do more damage to their joints.
It could be worth trying new things. Have you ever considered swimming with your dog? This can be a pain-free alternative for exercising your furry friend because it’s low impact on the joints and will help develop muscle mass. Plus, it could be fun!
Our final tip is for you to get on board too! When you’re swapping your dog's snacks for vegetables, do that for yourself as well – the less temptation there is around the house, the more your dog will get used to the new eating style. It’s also a great opportunity for you to get out more! You’re probably already a known face in the local park if you're good at walking your dog regularly, but you can try other exercises with your dog, bringing new and exciting experiences for both of you!
Being overweight can bring a minefield of health problems to your dog, affecting the function of their bodies, which will inevitably affect their happiness! Take the time to check if your dog is overweight, by feeling their bones, and take them to the veterinarian for a weigh-in and ask advice on how best to measure your dog’s portions. Once you get into the routine of weight loss for your dog, the healthier and happier they’ll be!