Doggy dieting? Here are 5 tips to manage your pup’s weight
As pawrents, we only want the best for our doggos. There’s very little we won’t do to make them feel loved and appreciated. Belly rubs on demand? Of course. Or a few scraps of food or treats during the day? What’s the harm? Well, it could affect their weight.
There are so many reasons your dog may gain a few extra pounds. Sometimes busy schedules can leave those long walks on the backburner. Your pooch might just not be an overly active type. Some breeds are more prone to weight issues. Or, as they get older, it might be difficult to strike that balance between their food portions and decreasing activity levels.
All this to say that it doesn’t take much for a dog to pile on a few pounds. But obesity isn’t something you want to overlook. It’s linked to all sorts of issues, including arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and breathing problems. And it’s definitely something you’ll want to nip in the bud sooner rather than later.
With this in mind, we’ve put together our top five tips for some doggy dieting and managing their weight.
Look out for the warning signs
You might not always notice their weight creeping up. But a few pounds can actually make a big difference to their health and wellbeing. And it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
It doesn’t help that our sense of ‘healthy dogs’ in some breeds might actually be leaning towards obesity. Take a labrador or retriever versus a boxer or whippet. You expect very different body types in these breeds. When in reality, the first two are far more likely to be overweight. So what you consider ‘normal’ may not actually be healthy.
Your vet will be able to help you determine the ideal weight for your pup, depending on their breed, age, and lifestyle. But there are some quick ways to determine whether their weight needs some extra attention.
It’s really simple. Regardless of breed, you should be able to feel (not see) all of a dog’s ribs. There shouldn’t be a thick layer of fat covering them. To the eye, their chest should also be noticeably wider than their stomach when looking from above. Another telltale sign of a well-proportioned pooch is a tuck up in front of their hind legs where their waist sits.
When it comes to lifestyle signs, being less active, panting more during exercise, or acting lethargic can all point to them being out of shape.
Take portion control into your own hands
There’s a lot of guidance out there on how much you should be feeding your dog. But each one is different, so we’re sceptical of any hard-and-fast rules. Instead, we recommend taking matters into your own hands.
You’ll need a little bit of trial and error. If your pup is looking rounder than usual, try cutting down their daily calories gradually. You want to find the sweet spot where they’re maintaining a healthy weight, but are still able to run, play, or zoom around the living room.
You also want to be mindful that cutting down on calories isn’t cutting down on nutritional content. Even dogs on a diet need enough protein, fats, carbs, and nutrients to support their lifestyles!
Be careful with treats
Who are we to tell you that you need to stop treating your pup? We wouldn’t dare! But it’s important to make sure you’re factoring any extra treats into their total calorie intake.
After big training sessions or those days where their cuteness is simply too much to resist, cut down their mealtime portions to account for the extra treats. You can also find healthier alternatives to spoiling them. For example, fresh fruit or veg as opposed to processed, store-bought snacks.
As a bonus tip, make sure your whole household is on the same page with treats. The last thing you need is the kids or Grandma reversing all your hard work with the leftovers from their Sunday roast.
Find new ways to move
Long daily walks aren’t always going to be possible. We all know how easily life can get in the way. But when it comes to exercising, anything is better than nothing. And this goes beyond their weight. Dogs need exercise for mental stimulation and satisfaction too.
If you’re struggling to make it out every day, or you’ve got a lazy pup on your hands, get creative and find some alternatives. Games of fetch, nosework, or training can all get your dog’s heart racing. Chase them around with a bottle of bubbles. Set up an agility course in your garden. Do whatever you can to keep them active for at least small periods each day.
The impacts of obesity can be slow, and prevention is always going to be better than cure. So the best way to approach your dog’s weight is to develop good habits as early as possible, stopping problems in their tracks.
Even if their weight seems fine right now, be mindful of how much they’re eating and exercising each day. Take stock of any changes that could lead to weight gain, such as an injury, illness, or change in diet. Like we said before, the signs aren’t always obvious, but that doesn’t mean their weight won’t creep up over time.
We all want our dogs to be around for as long as possible. And unfortunately this sometimes means being the bad guy who has to say no to sharing a scrap or wake them up from a nap for a daily walk. But trust us, obesity isn’t something you want to take any chances with. And your pup will thank you in the long-run!
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