Everyone has heard owners’ excuses given for their dog’s obesity: “He’s just big-boned”, or “She is just a little chubby”. Unfortunately, canine obesity is becoming an epidemic in the United States today. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, “Pet obesity in the U.S. continued to steadily increase in 2016, affecting nearly 59% of cats and 54% of dogs.” This startling statistic is hard to wrap your mind around. When it comes to the overall health of your dog, canine obesity is a factor that cannot be ignored. When is comes down to it, can you think of any other condition that affects over half of the dog population? This article is designed to guide dog owners in the right direction, towards a healthier, happier dog.
#1. Assess the Situation
In order to help your dog, you must be educated and knowledgeable about the situation. As always, consult your veterinarian in any type of emergency situation. A great resource for pet owners is the website of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. This site is free and is extremely user friendly. It has several pages on pets’ caloric needs and ideal weight ranges, and it even has a pet weight translator. This site is a great tool to help gauge the situation and make a plan. By exploring this site, you can find out if your dog is truly obese, or if he or she is overweight, and proceed from there.
# 2. Underlying Conditions
The second step on this journey is to honestly assess not only your dog’s physical health, but also your dog’s emotional well-being. Are there any factors you should consider? Is your dog an amputee? Do they have any type of heart issues, or arthritis? These should not stop you from helping your dog lose weight, but actually should be reasons in favor of your dog dropping a couple of pounds.
Although some might scoff at this, your dog’s weight issues may be directly tied to emotional issues. Is your dog depressed? Have you lost another pet that your dog was close with? Dogs can often times exhibit the same symptoms of grief that humans feel. Your dog might just be outright bored. All of these factors should be considered in order to make a strong, successful plan of action with your veterinarian.
Many of the rules that apply to human weight loss also apply to dog weight loss. Did you know that your dog food container shows nutritional information on it just like on your box of cereal? Know the main ingredients of your dog’s food, and consult your veterinarian about the best nutrition for your specific dog. There is a plethora of contrasting information about proteins, carbohydrates and grains, therefore, it is best in this situation to get an expert’s opinion. Each dog is different and digests food differently, so some food that works for other dogs might not work for yours. Factors to consider are age, breed, and your dog’s current weight versus the goal weight.
#4. Calorie Intake
Another aspect to consider when it comes to your dog’s nutrition is their daily calorie intake. Rationing meals can be a productive way to help your dog lose that extra weight. Be careful to not deprive your dog, or reduce from a large amount of food to a very small amount in a quick amount of time. This can sometimes have more negative effects than your dog’s obesity itself. However, there are numerous healthy ways to use portion control. Many companies have come out with wet dog food pouches that provide much smaller portions, meant to be fed more times a day. Most all of these brands have feeding instructions on the back of the box.
Of course, sometimes healthy eating and portion control is not enough. Again, the website Association for Pet Obesity Prevention has many tools to help you manage their your pet’s weight with exercise. If there are barriers to exercising with your dog, refer to the “Underlying Conditions” section above.
Taking the First Step
Coming to terms with your dog’s obesity is often harder for you than it is for your dog. One of the amazing attributes that dogs possess (and one of the many reasons we love them so much) is because they are often oblivious to “does this collar make me look fat?” jokes. So next time you become offended by someone’s comment on your dog’s weight, take a step back and think about how you can help your dog become healthier and happier.