Obesity is the number one health issue that most vets see in their practice. A 2012 survey of veterinarians by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 52.5% of all dogs seen by the veterinarians surveyed were obese. That’s an increase of over 32% from five years earlier. The average pet owner is trying to cope with working full time, caring for their family and their pet. In an effort to ensure that everyone gets enough time and attention, all too often there is an excess of special treats and not enough exercise. Unfortunately, between more treats and less exercise,the consequence is weight gain which in turn can lead to many serious health concerns.
Obesity has been linked to diabetes, cardiac problems, respiratory issues, osteoarthritis, and hypertension. Animals undergoing surgery or anaesthetic may also be at a higher risk of complications when overweight. All of this is most easily translated into less quality of life and a shorter lifespan for your beloved pet. Thankfully, obesity is a problem that can be overcome.
As with people, exercise is a key component. A quick walk around the block is not enough for many breeds. They need the opportunity to run and play on a regular basis.Your local dog park can offer an option that does not require a huge amount of exercise on your part. When choosing a dog park, make sure that it is fenced and provides a safe play environment for your dog. Keep your dog from sniffing other dog’s feces as this is an easy way to pick up parasites.
You can also sign your dog up for a few days a week of doggie daycare where they can get some exercise and social and mental stimulation while you are at work. Canine hiking is another option that can offer your dog some activity during the day while you are at the office. Of course, all of these options require that your dog enjoys the company of other dogs. Less socially adept animals may prefer a private dog walker or hiker.
Make an effort to get outside on the weekend and go for a long walk or hike yourself. Your dog will love to accompany you and it’s great for both of you. Even spending some time playing in the backyard on a regular basis can make a difference. Start small and choose something that you and your pet enjoy doing together.
You can also make dietary changes. Start with the food you feed. You may wish to switch to a lower calorie diet. There are a wide variety of light foods on the market to choose from that are geared towards dogs that need to lose some weight. Portion control is also an important factor. Free feeding should not be practiced when you are trying to reduce girth. Instead, have a set feeding schedule and set amounts of food you offer your dog at each meal. Dividing it up into two meals can help make him feel a little less deprived.
You can also choose snacks and treats more wisely. As with dog kibble, there are many light or diet treats on available on the store shelves. It is important to read the labels. Many commercial treats are high in fats and sugars which make them taste better but also mean they should be given less often. For the average 40 lb. dog, a jumbo pig’s ear is the equivalent in calories of you, an adult person, drinking a six pack of Coca-Cola. The typical dog cookie (25 to 27 kcal), when fed to a 20 lb. dog, is the equivalent of you eating El Keebler Fudge Double-Stuffed Sandwich Cookies (180 kcal). When you start offering multiple cookies each day, the calories can quickly add up.
Instead, try using diet treats and more fruits and vegetables. Many dogs love fruit and vegetables. Offering chunks of melon or apple can be a nice refreshing treat on a hot day. Baby carrots are another healthy snack that can also help relieve the pain and itchy gums associated with teething. For those in warmer climates, freezing pieces of fruit and vegetables can also make a great, cold treat. Vary the rewards you offer your dog as well. A game of tug or fetch or a belly rub are just as appreciated by your dog as a piece of food and better for him in the long run.
There are lots of ways to help your dog lose the extra pounds. Exercise and diet are certainly the easiest for you, as an owner, to control. Talk to your veterinarian about other suggestions for keeping for pet in shape so he can have a long and healthy life.