Statistics suggest that over 50% of our canine best friends are overweight and this can have serious consequences for their health.
Dogs aren’t a lot different to us. If they’re overweight, their legs have to carry that extra weight, leading to wear and tear on their joints. Studies have also shown that excess weight can shorten their lifespan, with lean dogs living up to two years longer than their overweight counterparts. Wouldn’t you like to have your dogs living and enjoying their walks for longer? It makes sense then that weight loss for dogs is a major key to good health and happiness for them.
The first thing to do is to evaluate your dog’s body condition. Don’t be tempted to say that his size is because of his thick coat or his big bones. You need to assess his condition with your hands more than your eyes. Sure, if you can see a waistline and a neat tuck at his tummy, that’s great. The key however is to run your hands over his chest and see how well you can feel his ribs. If you’re thinking “Ribs, what ribs?”, then there’s a problem. You should be able to feel the ribs and even the spaces between them quite easily. If you can’t, it’s diet time.
There’s a saying, “You can’t out- exercise a bad diet”. This is true because, while increasing exercise will help, the most important part of weight loss for dogs is to control calories. How much is your dog eating? Start by giving him a measured amount of food and watch his body condition. If he gains weight, back off. If he loses weight, great – keep going until you can feel those ribs. You may want to use a prescription weight loss diet to kick start the process, and there is a drug, Slentrol, which is registered to help get those pounds off. Your vet can help with both of these.
The next thing to look at is his between meal snacks. This is often the biggest issue because we don’t usually measure how many treats our dogs get, or how much table scraps they eat. It can be surprising how many calories they actually take in this way. You’ll need to cut out the treats and scraps until your dog is leaner. It’s not easy to resist those big brown eyes but it’s worth trying to substitute treats with something with fewer calories such as a piece of carrot. Dogs seem to enjoy that quite a bit.
As your dog’s weight starts to come down, you can then factor in some exercise because it won’t be so hard on his joints. Swimming is an ideal exercise for weight loss because there is no weight bearing on his legs. If you don’t live near a river or dam, perhaps there’s a canine hydrotherapy center nearby?
It’s not easy getting the weight off your dog. It can tug at your heart strings and make you feel like you’re being cruel. The opposite is the case. If you can keep your dog lean, you’re giving him the gift of a longer, healthier and happier life.