Watching the scale creep up is unnerving in humans but, as it turns out, carrying around a little extra pudge may be even worse for your dog. According to the latest veterinary surveys, over half our nation’s dogs are overweight (!!!) and at risk for developing arthritis, diabetes, kidney and heart disease, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer. It’s up to us to monitor and take responsibility for the physical health of our dogs but how can you slim down your super-sized pet while keeping them happy? The answer might be easier than you think. Give these tips a try and you’ll be on your way to your pet’s healthiest year yet!
1. Watch Those Calories. It’s true for humans and just as true for your dog, “Calories in equal calories out”. A pet parent’s single greatest tool in the fight against excess weight is a measuring cup. Too many pet owners simply fill the bowl or “guesstimate” how much they’re feeding. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention has shown that as few as 10 extra kibbles of food per day can add up to a pound of weight gain per year in small dogs. A good starting point to determining what your dog needs is to use this formula: Divide your pet’s weight by 2.2. Multiply this figure times 30. Add 70 and you’ve got a general idea of how many calories you should be feeding a typical inactive, indoor spayed or neutered dog weighing between 6 and 60 pounds. [(pet’s weight in lbs/2.2) x 30] +70. Of course, each pet’s metabolism is different so be sure to consult your veterinarian before starting a diet. After you calculate how many calories your pet needs, determine how much food you should feed each meal and measure it so you know exactly what they’re getting.
2. Walk! Walk! Walk! Did I mention you should walk? When it comes to extending the happy, disease and pain-free life of your pup, daily exercise is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. It takes just 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking per day to boost immune function, reduce behavioral problems and greatly improve heart health. Do yourself and your dog a favor and commit to daily walks, rain or shine. The health benefits of walking pay off for both your dog and you! If you’re in a position where you are unable to personally take your pooch out, make the effort to find a dog walker nearby. You’ll be sure to come home to a happy and more relaxed pet.
3. Go Green. Too many pet treats laden with sugar and fat blowing up our pet’s waistlines and destroying their health. Choose low-calorie, no-sugar goodies that provide a health benefit. Green beans, carrots, broccoli, celery, apples chunks or bananas are a healthy alternative to highly-processed, store-bought treats.
4. Look at Supplements. Most dogs see the benefits from taking a daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement. These powerful fish oils pack a potent anti-oxidant punch that has been proven to help prevent and treat numerous diseases. In addition, they may help ease achy joints and perhaps encourage weight loss. L-carnitine has been shown to aid weight loss and promote lean muscle mass in some studies. Ask your vet what supplements are right for your pet.
5. Read Food Labels. Dogs are carnivorous and have no need for a carb-laden diet. Yet that’s exactly what makes up the bulk of most pet foods. Most popular store brands contain 60% or more carbohydrates when you analyze the food label. Look for low or no grain options with a protein source listed as the first ingredient. Be sure to check with your veterinarian before making any diet changes. Pets with certain conditions, such as kidney failure, may need to look at different options.