As a loving dog owner, you may often feel inclined to show affection towards your dog by doling out treats and perhaps feeding him some table scraps. After all, dogs love food and who can resist those pleading eyes asking for some tasty morsels? As hard as you try not giving in to begging behaviors and keeping an eye on your dog’s overall food intake, consider that it’s often difficult to recognize when Fido has packed some pounds. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention about 54 percent of the pet population in the United States is categorized as overweight! The following tips will help determine if your pet has a weight problem and will help your dog shed some pounds.
Perform a Rib Check
A good way to tell if your dog has packed some pounds is by feeling your dog’s ribs. In a normal, non-obese dog you should be able to feel his ribs under a thin layer of skin. If you have a hard time finding them, most likely there’s some plump “padding” getting in the way. Also, if you look at your dog from the side, you should notice a nice waist line. You should notice how, right behind the ribs, your dog’s tummy trends upwards versus sagging towards the floor. This “hourglass silhouette” is what you see in dogs with a healthy weight.
Consider a Yearly Physical
Yearly physical exams aren’t for people only; they greatly benefit pets too. Often the big wake-up call comes from your vet’s office when staff record your dog’s weight. Truth is, only a fraction of pet owners consider their companions obese, yet the pet obesity problem is overwhelming. Your vet is the best person to determine if your dog needs to lose weight and how much exactly. Truth is, weight loss isn’t only for looks. Obese dogs are more prone to develop medical conditions such as crippling osteoarthritis or type-2 diabetes.
Ask a Nutrition Expert
You may feel tempted to pick a dog food meant for weight loss and follow the feeding guidelines outlined on the bag, but there’s more to that. Consider that pet food feeding guidelines are generally meant for adult dogs without keeping into consideration important factors such as activity levels, metabolism and age. Senior dogs and inactive lap dogs need considerably less calories than the average adult dog. A nutrition expert who looks at individual factors is your best bet if you want to determine the proper number of calories your pet needs each day. He or she should suggest a diet custom tailored just for your dog. Choosing the right food for your dog plays an important part in managing your dog’s weight.
Implement Lifestyle Changes
Starting a weight loss program for your dog isn’t just about looking for a specific number on the scale, it’s about implementing a comprehensive plan. Your goal should be promoting fat loss while preserving lean muscle mass. Lifestyle changes improve your dog’s quality of life. They can simply consist of brisk, twice-a-day walks, more frequent play sessions and the use of food dispensing toys in place of food bowls so your dog stays active and mentally stimulated.
Choose Low-Calorie Goodies
Starting a weight-loss program doesn’t necessarily mean banning all treats. You can still give them as long as you consider those additional calories and make adjustments to your dog’s daily calorie intake. Consider that treats shouldn’t make more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet according to Animal Hospital of North Asheville. Choosing treats wisely is a good approach. Try feeding choice of baby carrots, sliced apples, bananas, green beans, sweet potato or blueberry bites. Also, consider portions. You can divide treats in tiny pieces and your dog will still be happy to do some training in exchange for them.
Be Patient and Track Progress
Remember that losing weight isn’t a one-time occurrence; rather, it’s a life-time journey. You’ll have to schedule follow up appointments with your vet to track your dog’s progress. You’ll have to weigh your dog frequently over several months to see if everything is proceeding as planned. Most of all, you’ll have to keep up implementing dietary and lifestyle changes discussed before.
Enjoy Pay Back Time
Implementing dietary and lifestyle changes not only will help your dog lose weight but will also cause some pleasant surprises to pop up along the way. This is when your investment starts paying back. You’ll be rewarded with a more joyous pet that has much more vigor and may appear to be rejuvenating. Many pet owners happily remark: “my dog is acting like a puppy!” Truth is, those extra pounds may have sapped your pet’s mobility and vigor over time, and now that he has shed those pounds, he’s reaping the health and mental benefits. This is when you can pat yourself on the back for the effort and you can finally enjoy your dog’s renovated joie de vivre!