Does your dog need to shed some weight?
He is not alone. Obesity is the #1 health risk our dogs face, a health problem that is increasing every year. Over half of the nation’s dogs are overweight according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). Worse, there is a disconnect between pet guardians and the reality of pup obesity. It even has a name – the “fat pet gap.”
The fat pet gap happens when we don’t think our pets are overweight, and identify them as normal. It’s surprisingly common – an estimated 95% of pet guardians do this. And even though a pudgy Fido may look cute and happy, that extra weight is a serious problem that hurts his health.
The American Kennel Club cautions that excess weight increases your dog’s chance of developing diseases including diabetes, painful osteoarthritis, thyroid problems, kidney disease, and even seizures, and more. It can also decrease your dog’s life expectancy by up to 2.5 years. But there’s hope – a lot of these diseases can be prevented by developing a balanced diet and helping Fido maintain a healthy weight!
Before you make any changes to your dog’s diet, be sure to talk with your vet. It is important to have your dog examined to see if a health condition is causing your dog to be overweight. Once that is ruled out, then you can start a new diet plan.
To figure out how much to feed your dog, you and your vet will need to take into account breed, age, health, and activity level. Then, find a food that is high in protein to keep your pup feeling full, but not super-high in calories. You can talk to your veterinarian, scan labels in the pet store, or use an online resource that contains nutritional information to learn about ingredients, calories, and protein content. BabelBark’s phone app is a great example of a comprehensive resource, with information on more than 800 brands!
You’re also going to need to cut back on the treats – they’re like candy for your dog, and need to be given sparingly (no matter how much he begs with those big, sad eyes.)
A body condition score chart can help you determine whether your pup is overweight. It will teach you to objectively judge your dog’s physical condition by sight and touch. The American Animal Hospital Association provides a body condition score chart here.
Stay healthy with your dog! It is always easier to stay on track when you have a workout buddy, and just like humans, dogs need exercise. Age, breed, weight, and health also play key roles in how much exercise your dog needs. Senior dogs will require less strenuous activities and shorter play times than young dogs. With any new exercise program, start off slow and gradually work your way up.
Some easy workout activities to start with are swimming, going for walks, and playing fetch. Swimming is easy on the joints and works wonders on arthritic dogs. Going for a daily walk is good for the waistline and the soul of your dog. Enjoy the fresh air and get those steps in! Playing fetch in the backyard burns a lot of calories with sprinting and diving for the ball.
It can be hard to figure out how much exercise your dog is getting beyond the amount of time you spent on a walk. One easy way to track your dog’s activity is with a fitness monitor. BabelBark’s Fitness Monitor is a great example – it’s like a FitBit for your dog! Simply clip the monitor onto your dog’s collar and start your new exercise regimen. BabelBark’s phone app will track your dog’s activity and sync the information to your phone, where you can regularly assess Fido’s needs and share information with members of the family as well as your vet.
If your dog is overweight, set a weight loss goal and once it is reached, CELEBRATE! Find an activity your dog loves most and do that. Exercise should be fun and rewarding so your dog will look forward to it.
Fit for Life
Once your dog reaches his ideal weight, keep him there. It’s a lot of work, but worth every minute. You’ll probably notice that your dog has more energy and is more playful once he’s settled into his new routine, no matter his age. In addition to an improved quality of life, you’ll get to enjoy your friendship even longer. Now that’s a treat worth savoring.
Interested in monitoring your dog’s health and fitness? BabelBark’s Fitness Monitor and phone app are a modern solution that can help you give your dog the very best in nutrition and care. The BabelBark app includes nutrition information, weight graphs, and vet goals, in addition to vet appointments, medications, emergency contacts, food offers near you, and more. When you enter the type of food you are feeding, and the nutrition profile will upload – making the BabelBark app a fantastic way to keep Fido fit!
Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by BabelBark. BabelBark is the app that connects your dog with the people you trust in their lives. Learn more at BabelBark.com.
Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast that resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.
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