How to help your dog lose weight
Obesity is on the rise for canines. The reasons for this influx are similar to those that humans experience, too much food and too little exercise. The results of obesity are similar for your canine friends too. Studies reveal that 25% of overweight dogs experience severe joint problems. This effects their daily activities such as walking, standing and sitting. It also increases pain and makes jumping up or down off the bed difficult. If a dog is overweight its lungs cannot function properly- the extra fat pushes against the lungs and diaphragm and makes breathing more difficult. Carrying extra weight decrease ability to preform daily activities. It takes more work to do everything. Body systems have to do more than they were designed for because extra weight places strain on the heart, muscles and respiratory system. Because being overweight causes daily tasks to be more difficult and causes more pain, dogs can become more irritable. Dogs who are overweight have a shorter life span and a lower quality of life. However, there are several things that a pet owner can do to help their animals shed the pounds and live a longer, happier life.
Assessing Your Dog
One way to get an idea if your dog is overweight is by checking their ribs. The ribs should not be visible as they stand, but still detectable when you touch them or when they move (such as jumping in the air to catch a Frisbee). If you cannot feel your dogs ribs, they are probably overweight. The first and for most important measure though, is to take your dog to their veterinarian. Your dog should be seen on a yearly basis for a routine check up. One reason why visiting your veterinarian is so important is that some dogs do not look overweight. Large dogs can especially hide weight well. Your veterinarian will be able to decide if your dog is overweight and why. To help your veterinarian keep a record of what you are doing with your dog before you go. Record your dogs patterns such as sleeping, eating and exercise. In some cases weight issues might be due to medical conditions, such a thyroid problems, verses overeating and under exercising.
Dog’s have a strong need for affection. One reason dogs overeat is that pet owners use food as an easy way to show their affection. It is not recommended to do this. Using food as a means of reward trains your dog to seek food for affection. This adds to their weight gain and all the other associated problems. Instead, fill their need for attention with games, petting and playing or get a new toy or go for a walk. Habits are hard to break, so here are few tips to help you. Do not leave food out all day. Set a schedule and a location to eat. One meal per day (or two small ones) is all that a dog needs. Also, one day each week with no food will help burn excess fat which they have stored in their bodies. Dogs are trained in behavior. If they beg at the table and someone gives them food, they learn that begging results in getting what they want. To help change this pattern feed your dog before you eat and keep them in another room while you have dinner. After, take them out for a walk or to play a game so they feel loved and get the attention they need. Once new patterns have been decided upon make sure everyone in the family is on board. Otherwise someone might feel “sorry” for the begging dog and give them “just a little something” and this will slow down or prevent your dog’s weight loss, especially if that “little something” is every day. Meet as a family to discuss the need for changes in your dog’s diet and how your animal will be effected if you don’t. This will help everyone understand why and help them keep the new rules.
The enthusiasm for new changes might cause over doing exercise at first, but it is important not to do this. Start slowly, for just a few minutes a couple times a day. This will be sufficient at first and then you can slowly increase their activity. Encourage your dog to move around the house with you. Movement frequently and throughout the day is essential. If you take your dog out for a hard run to get him “in shape” it might do more harm than good. Especially when no exercise has been implemented in his routine before. A nice, leisurely walk is sufficient each day and then a couple of times a day as directed by your veterinarian. Another way to get movement is by playing games with your dog. As your dog increases in strength and endurance playing fetch is fun for the dog and helps them get in more activity. Follow your veterinarian’s plan and keep appointments. This is especially important if the weight loss is significant.
Loving your pet is doing what is best for them. Increasing their activity and reducing their treats and table scraps will help them become their ideal weight. Your dog will move easier and breath lighter and you can sleep better knowing their health is on the right track.