Just as in humans, the rate of overweight cats and dogs is on the rise. Almost 53% of dogs in the United States are at risk of related health complications from obesity. Diabetes, arthritis, kidney and heart diseases, as well as certain forms of cancer are among the possible problems.
So what is the best way to keep your dog physical fit and in good health? How will you reduce their risk of developing serious ailments? It’s not as difficult as you might think. Here are five steps you can take now to help your dog shed those extra pounds.
1. Keep tabs on their caloric intake
Some dogs learn as puppies the right way to keep themselves fed. These are called “free feeders”. However, dogs that were raised in homes with many other dogs competing for food don’t learn the signals of hunger and fullness. Instead, they simply eat as much as they can when food is available, just like their wolf ancestors had to in order to survive.
Nonetheless, there is an appropriate amount of food each dog needs in a day. If you are not aware of your dog’s calorie needs, then you might be feeding him too much. Do a quick web search with your dog’s weight, age, sex and breed to better gauge how much he needs every day. Divide feedings into two or three meals adding up to the correct total. When in doubt, consult with a veterinarian.
For those times when you can’t stay on top of your dog’s eating habits, there are also automated feeding bowls that can handle this task for you. If you plan on leaving your dog with a local boarding, grooming or day care service, inform the staff of your dog’s diet plan. With just a bit of forethought, you can make sure healthy eating become an everyday practice for your dog.
2. Think before you treat
There are a number of pet treats laden with sugar and excess calories which can impact the health of your canine friend. The makers of dog treats have become more sensitive to the demands for information about their products and will often print an ingredients label and even nutrition facts on their packaging or post them on their website.
Many dogs, especially of small breeds, are liable to develop pancreatic problems when eating a diet too high in sugars, starches or fats. Health consciousness has spurred new lines of treats complete with delicious and health ingredients such as sweet potato, salmon, and fruits. Whole foods also provide a bonus for your dog’s teeth, since they contain fiber and micronutrients.
In any case, treats should be treated as treats; not as part of a regular diet. Avoid getting your dog used to treats at every little occasion or he may lose interest in his normal food. Some dog owners feel guilty for leaving dogs alone and so treat them far more than is needed. Don’t worry; your dog will still love you when you return! Instead, keep treats useful as a reward for specific good behaviors.
3. Veggies for dogs? Yes!
Processed, store-bought dog treats are delicious to dogs like doughnuts are delicious to us. However, we understand that there are far healthier options that make just as enjoyable snacks. Many dogs will happily eat apples, baby carrots, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, green beans, and bananas. These foods are highly nutritious and make for delightful chewing without added calories. The vitamins and minerals that occur naturally in these foods will keep your dog healthy with a thick, shiny coat for grooming. You might even set a good example by having some yourself!
4. Choose smart supplements
Over the past few years, a number of supplements for dogs have hit the market. For instance, dogs benefit from a daily supplement of Omega-3 fatty acids just like humans. Fish oil keeps their coat shiny and keeps their minds sharp as well as preventing many inflammatory diseases, including arthritis. Moreover, nutrient supplements can improve weight loss efforts by helping your dog beat the cravings that might occur due to any deficiencies. Of course, consult with your veterinarian before beginning a supplement regimen.
5. Cut down on bulky carbs
Dogs descended from ancient wolves that scavenged for diets high in animal proteins. They also occasionally ate foods like berries, grass, and plant roots. As a result, dogs are not well adapted to a diet high in starchy carbohydrates. However, many dog foods are made with corn or rice starch to bulk them up and make them more filling.
Thankfully, many dog food brands have caught up with the demand for nutritious dog food. Some brands now offer “primal” type foods designed to be more like the diet of your dog’s ancestors. For instance, you can now choose low- or no-grain options with enough protein to cover your dog’s genetic dietary needs. The effect on your dog’s weight may be profound, since starches normally cause high insulin, which facilitates fat storage and increases the likelihood of cravings.
Veterinary research has shown links between conventional starchy dog foods and conditions like diabetes, obesity and kidney failure. We must remember that dogs are not humans as much as they try to convince us they are! They just cannot process foods like dairy, wheat, and starches nearly as well as we can.
6. Dogs should go to bed tired
It is our responsibility to keep our dogs in good shape and maintain a healthy weight. Most of the time, pet dogs are confined to a backyard or even an apartment. Dogs are made for running and playing with other dogs. It is simply not possible for an inactive dog to be truly healthy. Naturally, you may take your dog on daily walks around your neighborhood.
Dog parks are also a good solution, as they allow your dog to run and play freely, without a leash. The presence of other playful dogs will make for an even more enjoyable outing! Exercise keeps dogs metabolically fit just like it does for humans. It keeps their metabolism in top-performing condition, keeps their muscles strong and their joints flexible, all of which bodes well for a good weight management plan.