Did you know that over half of Britain’s 8 million pet dogs are now classified as overweight? That’s a dramatic increase from 35% in 2010. So as we are putting our New Years resolutions into action, joining a gym and going on a diet, it might be a good idea to include our canine pals in our goals.
Obesity in pets can be life-threatening, just like it can be for humans. Health problems that are common in overweight dogs include pancreatitis, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, ruptured ligaments, hip dysplasia and other forms of surgical complications, weakened immune systems, and even cancer.
If your pet is overweight it’s up to us to help them get back into shape. After all, studies have found that dogs that remain within their ideal body weight can live up to 2 years longer than their overweight companions. However it’s important to consult your vet first before embarking on any dietary changes or weight-loss programme. Your dog needs to be weighed and checked over for any underlying disease problems before any dietary change takes place, just to be on the safe side.
To find out if your pet is in need of shedding a few pounds, feel around his ribs and spine. If you can’t find his ribcage then you have an overweight dog. You should be able to feel their ribs under a layer of overlying fat. Unfortunately some breeds are prone to obesity. Breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels and Scottish Terriers are much more likely to gain weight compared to breeds such as Greyhounds and German Shepherds, but don’t use that as an excuse to explain why your dog is overweight.
There’s no alternatives when it comes to losing weight. Just like us, dogs need to increase the amount of energy used and reduce the amount of food that is consumed. It really is as simple as that.
The amount of exercise your dog requires will vary depending upon their breed and energy. While every dog is different, the most active breeds are Greyhounds, which can reach running speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. However that still doesn’t mean small dogs don’t need a healthy amount of exercise. Adding an extra 10-minute walk each day can be just as beneficial for you as for your pet. Make sure the type of exercise is vigorous to get their heartbeat up and make it worthwhile.
When it comes to food, dogs thrive on high-protein diets. Diets to help your dog lose weight should be high in protein and low in carbs. Fat on the other hand has more than twice the calories per gram of protein or carbs, so the amount you feed them should be limited. However just like us, fat is also what satisfies their appetite the most. A diet that is too low in fat will leave your dog feeling hungry, and could lead to food-stealing and a very unhappy pet. It’s better to feed a diet with moderate fat and reduce the portion size as needed rather than feeding a low-fat diet. However you must reduce the amount you feed gradually rather than making drastic changes all at once and never starve your dog in an attempt to lose weight quickly. It’s not safe to reduce food intake by more than 15%, as your pet won’t get the right balance of essential minerals and vitamins and could run the risk of becoming seriously ill. You must also weigh your dog frequently and aim for weight loss of 3 to 5 % of body weight per month, any more or less may be harmful to their health.
- Set a realistic goal – Be careful about what sort of dietary plan will work best for your dog and determine how much weight needs to be lost with the help of a Vet.
- Be wary of treats – Dog treats should only account for 10% of your dog’s calorie intake. Be more aware of the treats you are giving them and look for healthier options – why not try giving them fruit or veg?
- Don’t leave their food out all day – If your dog is on a diet, he needs to be on a strict feeding schedule. If his food is left out all day, it will encourage him to eat when he is simply bored and not actually hungry.
- Monitor their weight regularly – Seeing results will encourage us to keep going and if you find your dog isn’t making any progress then you know you need to alter your plan and make some changes to their diet and lifestyle.
- Portion control – Read food packaging for guidance about how much food you should be giving your dog and reduce it as necessary depending on how much weight they need to lose.