As dog lovers, we all want our pets to live long, healthy lives. And that means keeping our canine companions fit. When it comes to obesity-related conditions, prevention is easier than the cure. If you’re looking to develop a fitness regimen to help your dog lose weight safely and effectively, here we will discuss the causes and preventative steps you can take as a pet parent.
Causes of Obesity in Dogs
A 2018 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 56% of dogs in the US were obese. Obese dogs are at an increased risk for conditions such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, respiratory illness, and osteoarthritis. These conditions can be both life-threatening and costly to treat.
Dogs can become obese for many reasons including:
- Insufficient daily exercise
- Poor diet
- Health problems that limit mobility (such as arthritis)
Additionally, some breeds are more prone to obesity than others. Popular breeds vulnerable to obesity include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, Pugs, Boxers, Shelties, Dachshunds, and Basset Hounds.
Building an Exercise Routine for your Dog
Most healthy younger dogs require brisk daily exercise lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. If your pet is obese, however, it’s best to start slow when developing an exercise regimen. Begin at a pace of 1 mile per 25 minutes, and gradually speed up until you and your dog can complete a mile in 12–15 minutes. Encourage a brisk walking pace, but not a run. Other than toilet breaks, try to avoid interruptions or unnecessary stops.
Editor’s Note: Flat-faced dog breeds—like French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers—have unique breathing challenges when it comes to exercising. Here are tips for safely exercising your flat-faced dog.
Regular visits to a local dog park are another way to keep your pet both physically active and adequately socialized in a safe and supervised environment.
Keeping your dog exercised within the home is also essential. Try to engage your pet in vigorous play twice daily for about 15 minutes. Check out some of the many toys that encourage sedentary pets to be more active. For example, hiding a nutritious treat within a toy can encourage your pet to burn more calories and to stay more mentally engaged.
Creating a Healthy Diet for your Dog
Creating a healthful diet for your obese dog can seem daunting, but there are some things you can do to make the process easier.
- Select a kibble that’s low in carbs and high in protein. Dogs are omnivores but they don’t benefit from starchy fillers. Ask your vet to recommend a protein-rich, low-carbohydrate kibble that will meet your pet’s nutritional needs.
- Limit treats and snacks. Treats are a great reward for a job well done or a task learned, but over-snacking can be as detrimental to our pets as it is to us.
- Eliminate table scraps. While it may be tempting to share our meals with our pets, obese dogs don’t benefit from human food. And a dog that is accustomed to regular table scraps may eat less of its nutritionally balanced food.
Combating Boredom and Stress Eating
Like humans, dogs often eat when stressed or bored. If you’re out of the house for a large part of the day, be sure your pet has activities (other than eating) to help stay occupied and engaged.
If you visit your local pet supply store or shop online, you’ll likely find a wide array of toys designed to keep your pet mentally stimulated while you’re out. Also, consider investing in a slow feeder—a food dispenser that discourages rapid eating or automatically limits portions. Not only do these feeders discourage overeating, they reduce gulping of air at mealtime.
If you’re looking to develop a holistic regimen to help your dog lose weight safely and effectively, review these steps you can take.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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