Our dogs rely on us to keep them happy and healthy. In return, dogs provide us with love and companionship. All too often though, we are damaging our dog’s health without even realizing it.
We tend to love our dogs in the wrong way. We cave into those puppy dog eyes, we want to cuddle up on the couch, we feed them too much and give them too many treats. This will have a detrimental effect on your dog’s health.
What a dog really needs from us is:
• Health – nutrition and check-ups
• Position – knowing their place in the family
• Guidance – knowing the rules
• Enrichment – stimulation and socialization
• Consistency – knowing what to expect
Our dog’s health is our responsibility and there is an alarming increase in the number of dogs that are now overweight or obese. It is up to us, as responsible dog owners, to recognize this and make a change.
A study by the Pet Obesity Prevention Organization found that an estimated 56% of dogs in the US were overweight or obese. That’s over 40 million overweight dogs.
Obesity in dogs can cause numerous health conditions including:
- Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart and Respiratory Disease
- Ligament Injury
- Kidney Disease
- Many Forms of Cancer
- Decreased life expectancy
While some breeds like Cocker Spaniels, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds are prone to weight problems, any dog can become overweight. There is always a balance between food and exercise that will keep your dog at their optimal size. Here are some factors to consider if your dog needs to lose weight.
Dogs require a certain amount of food each day in proportion to their size and activity level. If your dog is overweight, measure the food that you are normally giving to your dog and reduce the amount. Don’t free feed your dog as most dogs will eat until the bowl is empty. The portions may seem small but these are calculated to provide your dog with all the calories and nutrition that your dog needs.
Treats are another culprit to causing weight gain in dogs. Treats are treats and should only be given to you dog in moderation. Use treats for training purposes to positively reward behavior and not because your dog is giving you those big puppy dogs eyes. If your dog is overweight, use low fat, smaller and healthier treats.
Not only will exercise keep your dog’s body and mind healthy it is a great way to relieve doggy boredom. It is also a chance to spend quality time with your dog, have some fun and get healthy together. As a general rule your dog should be getting between 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise per day depending on your dog’s breed. If your dog is overweight, start with gentle walking, swimming, throwing the ball around and even making your dog walk get up and follow you around the house.
Book a check up with your dog’s veterinarian to check your dog’s overall health and ideal weight. Your vet will provide you will guidance on nutrition, food quantities and important health advice.
If your dog gives you those big puppy dogs eyes, he is not just saying “give me food” be is wanting your attention. Replace food with fun. Rather than give your dog a food treat, give your dog some attention, a nice belly rub, play fetch, throw a toy or practice some training. Use this opportunity to jump off the couch and go for a walk. Your dog wants to spend time with you.
Weight loss can be harder in older dogs but this is no excuse. It is vitally important that older dogs are not overweight. A senior dog may be weaker, have sore joints and health issues. Being overweight will only increase their pain and reduce their quality of life. Change your dog’s diet to a senior blend which generally has less calories and often contains important vitamins and minerals for older dogs. Older dogs still need exercise but this will need to be gentle. Go walking rather than running and try swimming as this is great exercise for dogs.
Our dog’s health and wellness is up to us. By maintaining your dog’s health and active lifestyle, you will be rewarded with many years of love and enjoyment.
Dee Bryant is the founder of the blog The Dog Effect which aims to enhance our lives by promoting a healthy lifestyle with our dogs. The Dog Effect provides information on how to make dog’s lives happier, healthier and more enriched. When not writing about dogs, Dee and her Lakeland Terrier, Tiger spend their days at the beach in Australia having fun and getting healthy together.