The sad truth is that most pet owners don’t know if there pet is overweight or not. Many household pets are overweight and their families have no idea! Obesity is not just a problem with humans in America. It is estimated by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention that around 45% of all U.S. dogs are either obese or overweight. That is a lot of dogs! Around 35 million dogs in the United States alone! Obesity not only slows down your dog and makes day to day activity a little (or a lot) less fun, but there can be serious, life threatening medical conditions associated with obesity. If your dog is considered obese, they are more likely to suffer from:
- Heart disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Cancerous Tumors
- Immune Dysfunction
The first step in fighting canine obesity and protecting this important member of your family from disease is getting clear on how much your pet should weigh. For example, if you have a 35 lb. Pug, you should know that as cute as he or she may be, your dog is most likely 15 lbs. overweight. You can simply look online to get a good idea of what the average weight of a dog like yours should be. You can also visit your local veterinarian and get your pet evaluated to know what the recommended weight of your pet is. If your dog is overweight, your vet may also be able to rule out other conditions such as Cushing’s Disease and Hypothyroidism.
First, is eat less! Some pet owners leave food accessible to their pets all day long. This is highly discouraged. Most dogs will eat more than they need resulting in a weight problem. Most mature dogs do very well with 2 controlled feedings per day.
You may be asking yourself how much to feed your dog at each feeding. Pet food bags or cans will have a chart on them that will estimate the amount of food needed for your dog’s body weight. The amount listed on the bags or cans is amount needed to maintain your pet’s current bodyweight, not to lose weight. To help your pet lose weight, you will want to reference the amount of food to feed your dog for the weight you are trying to achieve. Once you have determined that amount, you will then need to calculate the number of calories in that quantity of food. The food labels should tell you how many calories there are per cup or per serving. The key is to find out how many calories to feed your dog daily. To do that, you can use a dog food calculator. There are dog food calculators online that you can use for free. I found a good one at dogfoodadvisor.com. This calculator takes into account your dog’s ideal weight, the activity level of your dog, and the calories per serving of food you are feeding your furry friend.
Now that you know the total calories per day for your pet’s desired weight, split that amount into 2 meals, and then feed your dog twice a day at consistent times. If you give your dog treats, make sure and calculate those calories in as well. The total calories of food, plus treats, should not exceed the total amount of calories for your dog per day.
Hint: If your dog is on a weight loss program, he or she will generally be a little more hungry than usual. In that case, you can use your normal dog food as the treat. Your dog will usually be very happy to be getting any food as a treat.
Again, now that you’ve reduced the amount of food you are feeding your dog, you may notice he or she seem to act hungry all the time. You can assist them through this transition by feeding your dog a dog food that is high in protein. The more protein in the food, the fuller your dog will feel. Most inexpensive dog foods have a lot of grain fillers that are high in calories, but low in protein, and end up leaving your dog feeling hungry more often. High protein food will also help prevent muscle loss during this transition, which is especially important for senior dogs. Canned dog food is a good option at this time because it is usually higher in protein. You may even want to mix canned food with dry kibble. Just make sure that you calculate the calories from both foods and don’t exceed the daily calorie limit you have set. Also, make sure you measure every meal with actual measuring cups and don’t just guess. Don’t make the mistake of using a large scoop or a cup that do not have measurement markings.
Note: If this seems like too much to calculate on your own, consult your veterinarian to help you create a custom feeding plan to help your pet reach their optimal weight.
Next on the list to get your pet to their healthiest weight is to exercise! This is the most FUN part! This should be the reason you have a dog; to play with! Implementing fun, playtime with your dog will not only build a relationship that lasts a lifetime, but it can increase the amount of lifetime you both have to spend together! Exercise should not be a chore. Taking a 30 minute walk with your dog should be both stimulating and relaxing for both of you. For your dog to lose weight, 30 minutes of exercise a day should be a targeted minimum. Whether it be taking a walk, playing fetch, or playing with another dog make sure you just get your dog moving. All exercise will stimulate your dog physically and mentally. Both will help improve the overall health of your dog and help with the goal of weight loss.
There are several ways to be creative about exercising your dog. Take turns with family members to get in extra exercise. Schedule doggy play dates. Learn how to get your dog on a treadmill so you can be doing another project while keeping an eye on your pet. (Getting professional help with this is encouraged.) You can also sign your dog up for sporting events or activities which will really help encourage daily exercise routines. There are many events for dogs such as: agility contests, Frisbee contests, dog walks and more. Sign up and the daily routines almost come naturally. Keeping your dog active in as many ways as possible will be a huge benefit to your canine.
After you have a diet and exercise plan in place, you must then monitor your dog by weighing your dog at least every week or two. A recommended guideline is for your pet to lose about 1%-2% of their body weight per week until the desired weight is lost. If your dog is losing more or less than that, adjust the food and/or exercise accordingly.
Once your dog has reached the targeted weight, the amount of dog food may need to be increased a little to maintain that weight instead of continuing to lose weight.
With your dog at its recommended weight your dog should be healthier and happier with the increased potential to live longer. She or he will thank you and love you for it!
Good job! You just made a better life for the both of you!