People love their dogs and dogs love their treats. Unfortunately, the desire to keep a beloved pet happy with treats can lead to health risks due to obesity. About 30 percent of canines in California are overweight. The number is only slightly lower than the national average but still too high. Here are four ways you can have a healthier, svelte pet and increase their chance of living a long life.
1. Start With Meals
Not every dog becomes overweight by indulging in treats. Some pet owners mistakenly overfeed their pets at mealtime and become confused as to why their dog is so large. You need to discuss how much food the dog needs with a vet by basing it on their current size and activity level.
For example, Pet MD suggests an average 60-pound dog needs 3-4 cups of commercial dog food per day. Experts recommend dividing this into two servings. But people that buy a large pet food dish for their dog and fill it twice a day may be unaware they are serving their pet four cups of food at every meal. Measure the food to make it easier to identify what a serving looks like.
2. Form a Group
Humans and dogs both benefit from exercise, and walking is a low-impact activity that most people and pets can do with ease. To make the most of the time spent on a stroll and to encourage continued participation, many people meet with others and walk their dogs together. You can also look into national groups that organize local walks or start a group of your own.
The social aspect of these walking groups is beneficial for dogs. The pets get to meet other animals in their city, feel like part of a pack, and have exposure to fresh air and exercise. Even slightly lazy pets will feel more motivated when other dogs come along.
3. Snack on Produce
Fruits and vegetables have fewer calories than dogs treats and are packed with vitamins and minerals. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and green beans are just some of the healthy and safe vegetables for dogs. Choose apples, blueberries, and watermelon for sweet treats. Not all fruits and veggies are pet-safe, so always look online or call a vet before trying a new snack.
Offer the fruits and vegetables in a different form if the pet refuses these healthy treats. Shred carrots into their dog food. Blend cooked vegetables into a puree with a little homemade beef or chicken broth and give a tablespoon or two as a treat, or freeze them in ice cube trays for a healthy doggy popsicle in the summer. Dehydrate sweet potatoes for a chewy snack.
4. Check Their Health
Sometimes the weight gain is not due to inactivity and overfeeding. Certain health conditions could be to blame for the extra pounds on a pup. If a healthy diet and more exercise do not take off any weight, make an appointment for an exam. Remember that weight loss should occur gradually, so give the pet a couple of months to show their results.
A large belly could be due to water retention from a heart condition or because of a parasitic infection. A slow metabolism from an underactive thyroid can also lead to weight gain. Owners that follow a healthy regimen for their dogs but still see no improvement in their body weight after a few weeks should ask their vet about screening the pet for a health condition. Arthritis, diabetes, and heart conditions are a few of the health risks elevated by obesity.Many pet owners do not even realize their dog is overweight. At Central Veterinary Hospital, we can help. Weight control is a valuable preventative service. Schedule an appointment for a full health screening today.