The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) study reported that 55.8% of dogs as overweight or obese in the U.S. This confirms that more dogs are at increased risk of suffering from severe diabetes, arthritis, degenerative disease, heart disease, and cancer caused by obesity. How to help dog lose weight?
If your dog is at risk of becoming obese, owners must consult a veterinarian to give their recommendation and analysis on achieving the ideal weight. Furthermore, it isn’t required for a dog to be medically termed as ‘morbidly obese’ to experience obesity-related health conditions.
Dr. Carol Osborne, a veterinarian at Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic, stated, “Being just 10% overweight decreases a dog’s lifespan by one-third and predisposes him to heart, kidney, and liver disease as well as diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.” It’s more dangerous for small dog breeds to gain a few pounds, which is equivalent to a weight gain of 40 pounds in humans and can result in a shorter lifespan. Experienced veterinarians believe that weight loss for dogs combines 70% diet and 30% exercise if the weight gain is not due to another underlying health problem. An effective way to design your pet’s weight-loss program is to focus on increasing their exercise regime with moderate intensity, customize their feeding habits, and restrict how many calories they consume daily.
While the obesity epidemic is an ongoing battle amongst dogs, studies suggest that an alarming correlation exists between obesity shared between dogs and their owners. It shows that many dog owners combating weight gain themselves should make it a point to carry out regular physical activities to improve their health and promote a healthy dog-owner relationship with their pets.
Obesity in Dogs
According to the leading veterinarian, Dr. Ernie Ward, obesity is the number one threat pets face. Even the gain of mere pounds over the ideal weight can lead to chronic medical diseases such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, tumors, skin disease, types of cancers, and diabetes. Talking about skin diseases, the most common allergies/infections include flea and termite infestation. Pet owners have the responsibility to select the proper method for flea and tick prevention. A reliable and convenient way is to get a monthly subscription that delivers medicine for fleas in dogs at your doorstep. Some consequences of excess fat in dogs are:
- Reduced life expectancy
- Diminished quality of life
- Skin disorders
- Chronic inflammation
- Kidney disfunction
- Respiratory disorders
- Metabolic & endocrine disorders
- Orthopedic disease
7 Best Tips to Help Your Dog Maintain a Healthy Weight
The goal is to prolong the pet’s life, improve the overall quality of life, restore their health and happiness rather than making them thin, weak, or frail. To do this, the overweight dog needs to shed body fat while maintaining body muscles which can be done through routine exercises, monitoring daily calorie intake, maintaining a record of the dog’s weight, and other sustainable lifestyle adjustments. Here are a few accurate methods to help your dog lose weight:
- Calorie reduction/more minor portions
- Increased exercise
- Low calorie/low-fat pet food
- “Prescription” weight loss diet
1. Routine Weight Assessment
The first step to prevent diabetes or maintain a healthy weight for your dog is to assess its current weight, diet, body condition score (BSC) to determine a dog’s diet plan to help reach the ideal weight. Pet owners can begin by comparing their dog’s current weight to the scale reading of their last vet consultation. A breed weight chart can also help evaluate the ideal weight for your dog’s breed. However, a height difference may alter the target weight. Moreover, pet owners need to be aware of the underlying health hazards caused by just a few pounds in the gap of a year or more. In this case, owners need to team up with their veterinarians and understand the cause behind the pet’s weight gain for a few months or longer.
A dog’s increase from 15 to 17 pounds is the same as a human’s increase from 150 to 170 pounds. Hormonal diseases such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease are two of the most common disorders in dogs that can result in weight gain without increasing appetite. Diagnosis through routine lab tests, including blood tests, urine tests, blood pressure checks, is required to detect the dog’s blood sugar levels, hormonal activity and assess other signs and symptoms that could be a potential reason behind the dog’s obesity. In the absence of the veterinarian, owners can do a physical examination of their dog’s body condition score (BCS) in the following ways:
Owners need to spread their palms across their pet’s body, starting at the back and wrapping them around their abdomen. This is an easy way to assess whether owners can feel their dog’s ribs under the fur coat. If there is excess fat covering the region, it could hint that the dog is overweight.
This examination is done by sight only – owners need to stand and assess their dog from the side. They should check if their dog’s abdomen is tucked and pushed upward, at level with their hind legs, instead of lumping towards the ground. If the belly is heavy and is laying low, it could be a severe sign of obesity.
Owners need to stand and check for an hourglass silhouette that forms at the dog’s waist. It means that the dog’s ribs should be slightly wider than their waist, which is a clear indication that the dog is fit and healthy.
2. Target Daily Calorie Intake
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention research, feeding an extra bit of ten small crumbs/kibbles daily to your dog can make them gain at least one or two pounds of weight within a year. Pet owners should realize the importance of measurement when it comes to feeding their pets. It is their most excellent single defense against their pets’ obesity. Many pet owners serve their pets on an all-day ‘Buffet’ system that encourages them to eat more than necessary and allows a disproportionate distribution of meals.
By following a regular diet plan suggested by your veterinarian, you can easily make sure that your pet has well-balanced, nutritious food and has reduced chances of them gaining some extra pounds. Another essential factor about maintaining a healthy weight or shedding excess pounds is to feed the correct amount of food to your dog. There are two ways you can do that. One, by getting a weighing scale and weighing the pet food before you feed them. Two, you can go with canned food. They are precisely measured, and you don’t have to weigh them every time before feeding, which also reduces casual overfeeding.
Owners can also use a measuring cup to determine the portions of dry food they feed their dog in a day. The amount of food to be served daily considerably depends on the calorie content and energy density of the specific food – which will further alter the routine exercise requirement of your dog. While a low-calorie diet is beneficial for losing weight, it can also tempt the dog to feel constantly hungry. In this case, owners need to switch to smaller meals fed frequently to keep their pets feeling ‘full’ throughout the day. It may seem like a task at first, but it becomes second nature after following it for some days.
3. Develop Routine Exercise & Activity Regime
An appropriate workout regime for your pet is dependent on factors such as breed, size, general health, and life stage. For example, short-height breeds such as pugs and corgis may be out of breath in a short session of playtime; hounds and other deep-chested breeds can sustain longer and do more strenuous exercises. Active large breeds can eat proportionally more, than their smaller cousins. Routine exercise is not only a means to prevent obesity in pets, but improve behavioral problems, learn new commands, better overall mood, and prevent other medical concerns. An average brisk walk of 20 minutes daily is a good way for the dog to shed the extra pounds.
A tall and energetic breed such as a retriever may require a rigorous workout routine. Another factor determining the dog’s activity regime is seasonal changes – dogs may seem more active and spend time outdoors during the warmer seasons. While in the winter seasons, dogs can spend more time indoors, lounging on the couch. In this case, owners can alter their diets accordingly, after consulting their vets, to prevent unnecessary weight gain. Owners must be cautious while choosing the type of exercises such as jogging for an extended period, hikes during warmer seasons, sprinting to prevent ligament injuries, and breathing problems.
Choosing interactive toys, doing puzzles, playing tug of war, alternative and fun feeding techniques can keep the dog physically and mentally active. By creating a stimulating environment indoors and outdoors, dogs can quickly burn those excess calories in a fixed time. The key to maintaining your dog’s healthy weight or shedding the extra weight is to consistently follow the regime, make it an enjoyable experience, plan more activities and take the opportunity to deepen the bond with your pet. It’s also advisable to consult your veterinarian before you plan any routine exercise.
4. Choose Low-Calorie and Low-Fat Treats
The global pet food market has enabled pet owners to overindulge their dogs in a variety of treats. Every pet owner looks for different reasons to treat their dogs, which includes delectable packs of sweet and savory goodies that straightaway increase their daily calorie allowance(<10%). Owners fail to understand that pets are keener to exercise, bond, play, and be loved rather than eat constantly. Preventing an overdose of table scraps, treats, and other snacks with high-fat content is a primary way to decrease the energy density of the diet.
Switching to healthy and nutritious alternatives can allow your dog to enjoy low-calorie, low-fat, digestible snacks such as small amounts of lean meats, raw veggies, crunchy fruits, and peanut butter, which owners should give sparingly. Some high-fat meats such as ham, raw eggs, bacon, cooked or raw, can be hard to digest and cause pancreatitis and hypertension in dogs. Owners should feed poultry meat without bones to prevent ruptures or choking during digestion. Vegetables such as carrots, green beans, broccoli, both uncooked and cooked, make great snacks but should be devoid of any salt, dips, or oil to prevent digestive issues.
Fruits such as grapes, cherries, tomatoes contain toxic substances which can lead to severe health hazards which can be fatal for dogs. Another recommendation is that pet owners get complete approval from their veterinarian before shifting their dogs to a new diet.
5. More Nutritious & Wholesome Foods
We often underestimate the value of a well-balanced diet. A more wholesome diet includes maximum nutrients with minimum calories. By identifying and adding such ‘superfoods’ in a pet’s diet plan, you can help your dog stay healthy with reduced health risks. That is why your veterinarian will always ask you to follow a strict diet plan for your pets. Some of the best ‘Superfoods’ with the best nutrition value are listed below:
Bone Broth for Dogs
Apart from having medicinal qualities, it is also an incredible, valuable addition to your pet’s diet. Bones simmered in apple cider vinegar for a few days help break down all the nutrients, making it easy to digest and improving the gut. It also helps with liver detoxification and reduces the chances of inflammation. Improved skin health and immune system are secondary but essential benefits your dog gets when owners add bone broth to their diet plan.
Eggs are a complete protein meal in itself, as they provide multiple vitamins, Omega-3s, and antioxidants, making them a great addition to your dog’s meal plan. They are easily digestible as well, which allows for their easy integration into diet plans. They are considered crucial for your pet’s cardiovascular health and help regulate cholesterol levels in their body. One raw egg is more than enough for large dogs, and for small dogs, one raw egg every alternate day would be fine.
Seaweeds have 20 times more vitamins and amino acids than plants that grow on land. Kelp seaweed is a rich source of minerals and nutrients. They are full of iodine and magnesium, but they also regulate numerous health indicators like the thyroid, immune, digestive, and nervous systems.
It is the source of some of the most unique and desirable sources of vitamins on the planet. That is why they are used widely in medical sciences. As a pet food, mushrooms offer a range of digestive juices and antioxidants that maintain your dog’s good digestive health. It is also known to boost your pet’s immune system, thanks to the wide variety of fluids it possesses. Maitake, Chaka, and Turkey’s tail are some of the best mushrooms you can add to your dog’s meal plan.
6. Formulate a Step-Weight Loss Plan
The weight loss journey isn’t a single-day affair but needs day-to-day moderation and care for your dog. Formulating a steady and sustainable weight loss plan by collaborating with your veterinarian becomes crucial if you want your dog to be in his best life condition. The whole idea is to maintain a healthy lifestyle by introducing certain activities in day-to-day life. The first thing one should do is start tracking your dog’s weight. Practicing this will help you understand the progress your dog is making. The second thing you can do is increase the time of the daily walk. Doing this could also result in increased intensity, which positively impacts the overall cardiovascular health of your dog.
The aim should be an uninterrupted 30-minute brisk walk, resulting in elevated heart rate within a few minutes. Moving the food bowl upstairs or downstairs is also suggested by many veterinarians as it makes them work for their meals. Puzzle feeding is also a popular way these days, ensuring a slow intake and better chewing time. Playtime exercises such as chasing or fetching games using toys, lasers, or balls, add a variety in the activities to keep things interesting. These minor changes in our lifestyle and a well-formulated plan with our vet can enable our dogs to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
7. Pick the Right Supplements
Supplements for pets are becoming increasingly common these days, given the need for extra nutrition. Many pet owners are unaware of giving additional supplements to their pets, which affects their pet’s health at some point in their lives. Even though the food packs have their ingredients listed on the packaging, some dogs may need extra nutrients according to their age, and it is their owner’s responsibility to look out for the same. The need to use supplements is more if your pet is on a homemade meal plan because the chances of you missing some crucial ingredients are more. Before deciding on the supplements, you must discuss this in detail with your veterinarian.
Pet nutritionists can help you plan a well-balanced supplement plan which will have all the necessary nutrients for your dog in enough quality and quantity. The idea is to have a set of supplements that helps your dog uplift his overall health, not reduce it. Here are some different kinds of supplements that you should have a general understanding of:
Similar to humans, multivitamins are equally important for dogs as well. Your furry friend needs a certain amount of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, B, C, D, E, F, and other nutrients that help them with their vision, digestion system, immune system, skin health, metabolism, and overall health healthcare.
They are crucial for the healthy immune system of your dog’s health. Older dogs provide mental support and keep their health in check. Owners can also reduce many skin issues and allergies by adding antioxidants to their dog’s daily meal plan.
They aid and support the digestive health of your furry friend by promoting good bacteria in the digestive tract. It helps in further breaking down dog food for better nutrient extraction. These good bacteria also become a preventive measure of harmful bacteria and stop them from growing inside the digestive system. Probiotics are also crucial to regulate and reduce inflammation in specific organs.
Omega 3 fatty acids are popularly known as promising molecules for humans’ skin health and immune system. For dogs, apart from supporting their healthy skin and fur, Omega acids also aid their heart health and day-to-day cognitive activities. They help perform kidney function better and help with inflammation as well.
Now you know how to help dog lose weight
In conclusion, pet owners need to understand the threat of obesity and their responsibility to help their dogs maintain a healthy weight. While dogs and owners cannot achieve the target weight overnight, owners need to make consistent efforts at what and how much they feed their dogs along with the tips mentioned above to help their pets live longer, at least by 15%. Owners must consult the veterinarian to discuss accurate weight loss methods, routine exercises, ‘prescribed’ diet, meal plans. Furthermore, they should monitor the progress made in their pet’s weight loss journey every one-three months and follow up with their vets to sustain the ideal weight. The efforts made by pet owners today can severely impact their dog’s life tomorrow, from a longer life expectancy with proper nutrition, a better quality of life, and an increase in health and happiness. It makes it unquestionably worth fighting for your loved one.
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