Study: Overweight Dogs May Live Shorter Lives

We all love our dogs and want to share as much of our lives with them as possible. But according to a recent study, how we show our dogs love could be cutting their lifespan short.

The study conducted by the University of Liverpool and Mars Petcare’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition found that overweight dogs tend to have lifespans two and a half years shorter than dogs with a healthy body weight. 

While the cause of the weight gain wasn’t covered in the study, it doesn’t take a veterinarian to figure it out: overfeeding. Many pet parents express love for their dogs with food, and all that love contributes to obesity, which can lead to a number of health problems. 

But we’re not here to judge.

We know how hard it can be to resist those adorable, big brown eyes looking at us while we eat, begging us to share just one little bite. Or how good it feels to give our dogs a treat or two or five for being so good while we were away.

But we also know how much you cherish you and your dog’s time together. So if treats, large portions and high-calorie human foods are making your dog overweight, maybe it’s time to make some changes. Here are some ideas to help keep your dog at healthy weight so you can enjoy many more years to come.

Instead of tossing a treat, toss a toy

Play is a great way to reward your dog. Not only is it healthy exercise for them, it’s a fantastic way for the two of you to bond and share some great experiences. Try a game of fetch, tug, or chase to reward good behavior. 

If your dog hasn’t played in a while or has trouble moving around, start slow and play for just a short time at first. As your dog’s stamina returns, extend your play time for longer intervals. Encourage positive association with play by showering your dog with praise. 

Maintain your dog’s interest in their toys by rotating them in and out of the mix. Try squeaky or other noise-making toys for added stimulation. If that doesn’t work, take one of their treats and rub it on a toy to make it extra irresistible.

Offer them a long-lasting chew

Treats are easy to overfeed because one bite and they're gone. It’s hard to know if your dog even tasted it, so just to be sure, you feed them another. Before you know it, you’ve fed your pooch half a pouch. To avoid over treating, offer your dog a long-lasting chew. 

Bones, deer antlers, and other non-edible chew toys can be an ideal way to satisfy your dog’s need to gnaw without adding extra calories. It also exercises their jaws and keeps them occupied. Rawhide and bully sticks are great choices too because they’re low-fat and flavorful. You may want to restrict the number of edible chews to just once a week. Try a variety of chews to discover which ones your dog likes best and rotate them to keep your dog interested.

Walk your dog regularly

Walks are great for dogs, especially those who need to lose a little extra weight. It’s a low-impact form of exercise that lets them stretch, sniff and explore while they burn off calories. If your dog is older or overweight, try taking them on short walks throughout the day. Start slow, just a little way at first, and build your way to longer intervals.

When walking, remember to bring fresh water and allow your dog as many breaks as necessary. Walking can also be a way to reward good behavior, especially if you make it fun and exciting for them. Ask a Wag! walker for advice on how you can keep your dog's walks engaging.

Treat with care

Unless your veterinarian advises otherwise, treats don’t necessarily have to be off the menu. You can still indulge your dog now and again with a tasty, low-calorie treat. Look for treats with “light” or “lean” on the label or treats that are high in premium protein and low in fat. Other low calorie treats can come from your own fridge like carrot sticks or apple slices. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

Our dogs bring so much joy to our lives, we want to spend as much time with them as possible. While treating is a fun way to show our love, it can also be unhealthy for them if we overdo it. 

By exercising a little temperance and incorporating new, healthy ways to bond with our dogs, we can look forward to sharing many more years with them. Long live our doggos!