There are a lot of health risks for overweight pets, such as diabetes, joint pains, trouble breathing, heart disease, and others. Obesity affects the quality of life as well. Dogs love to run and play, but carrying excess weight makes those activities painful and difficult. We may think dogs want to lie around and sleep all day, but they don’t.
The basic principal of weight loss is very simple and applies to both humans and pets. In order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in. Pet obesity is at an all-time high. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that 45% of all dogs are overweight. With the number of dogs numbered in the millions, that is a lot of overweight dogs.
Although the concept is simple, there are some circumstances that make it hard for pet parents to understand exactly why their dog is overweight. If the amount of food is being controlled properly, they wonder, why does their pet, not only to fail to lose weight, but also continue to gain weight? Remember that the solution is two-fold. Along with controlling the amount of calories your pet consumes, you must also increase the amount of calories burned.
Maintain the Status Quo
The concept is this – feeding too much (food or treats) causes your pet to gain weight. Cutting back food rations without adding more activity may succeed in stabilizing weight gain, but unless the scales are tipped in favor of burning more calories in addition to eating less, you will never succeed in helping your pet return to a healthy weight.
As modern conveniences increase and less effort is required to accomplish once physically demanding tasks, we (and our pets) have become sedentary. Our ancestors had to work in the fields or hunt to provide food for the family, cut wood for cooking and keeping warm, and, many times, walk to where they needed to go. Now we drive everywhere, turn up the thermostat to keep warm, and simply turn a dial to heat up the oven to prepare food. Many of us do not even mow the lawn with a push mower; we ride to do that too.
Work it Out
We know that physical activity is a key component in maintaining weight, mobility, and strength. Even those pets and people who are limited in what they can do physically, benefit from some form of exercise. Even walking to the mailbox and back helps.
Make a Plan
Formulate a plan of action, taking into account the physical capabilities of your pet and yours as well. Dogs, just like people, will suffer from sore muscles if pushed too hard at first. You and your dog will both need to work up to the level required to keep in shape. So start small. If you live in an area where it is safe to walk along the road, start with walking a block or so every day. Do this every day for the first five days. The next five days, go a little further and continue to work up until you reach the goal you have set.
Playing the Field
Make exercise fun. Get out in the yard and play fetch, Frisbee, tug-of-war, or just wrestle around on the ground. Playing together will strengthen the bond between you and your pet also. Dogs love to have your undivided attention, so the benefits go beyond just weight loss.
Healthy Eating Habits
Talk to your vet about the number of calories per day your dog needs for his age and size and stick to it. Along with portion control, breaking up the daily ration into several small meals instead of two large ones, will help your dog not feel deprived, even while eating less overall.
Hint: Use a measuring cup or spoon so you know exactly how much you are feeding your pet.
Limiting the number of treats is another essential ingredient in the plan. Dogs can eat a variety of fruit and vegetables, and they are a healthy alternative to high fat treats. Some examples are: cantaloupe, carrots, green beans, apples (no seeds though), and sweet potatoes. Plus fruits and vegetables provide needed vitamins.
Hint: Green beans are low in sugar compared to some other fruits and veggies. So green beans is our favorite treat to give pets who need to lose weight.
Healthy changes, be it for you or your pet, are not as hard as you might think. It takes 21 days for an action to become a habit. Be diligent and purposeful in the beginning of working your plan, and soon it will be second nature.
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