I love taking my dogs for morning runs and weekend hikes. I also play fetch with them every night to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Since my pups are in good shape, I was surprised to find out that 54 % of dogs in the United States are considered overweight or obese. That statistic comes from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
So Why Are So Many Dogs Obese?
In most cases, it’s because we are feeding our pets more calories than they’re burning off. With over a third of all American’s tipping the scales of obesity, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our little furry friends are getting a bit pudgy.
Top 5 Causes of Dog Obesity
Are you guilty of leaving your fur baby’s food dish out 24/7 so he can graze all day? How about table scraps? Treats? Do you frequently share your food with your pup? For many pet parents, the answers to these are probably yes, but they are habits we should definitely reconsider.
Back when I fed kibble, I used to free feed. So my dogs had access to their food around the clock. Since switching to fresh food, though, I serve a perfectly portioned out breakfast and dinner. As a result, my dogs’ bodies maintain their healthy weight.
When I home-cooked, I used a food scale to ensure I was feeding my dogs the right amount. Now I use The Farmer’s Dog and they do that work for me by sending customized bags that each contain four days worth of food.
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2) Not Getting Enough Exercise
Exercise is so important. It burns calories and benefits overall health. Exercise provides balance — calories in vs calories burned. While I don’t fully believe in the energy balance theory (because many people who follow this approach feel the type of food consumed isn’t important), there is no denying more energy (or calories) in than out over time will lead to weight gain. So remember, if you’re feeding your dog more calories than he can burn, then the extra calories are going to turn to fat.
Some breeds are naturally more prone to obesity than others. It doesn’t mean that all dogs from these breeds will become obese, it just means that it’s easier for them to pack on the extra pounds. The Basset Hound, Beagle, Bichon, Bulldog, Cocker Spaniel, Dachshund, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland, Pug, Rottweiler, and St Bernard are more prone to gaining weight.
As your dog goes through each stage of life, his dietary needs will continue to change. Make sure to feed the right formula balanced for your canine companion’s right age — puppy, adult, or senior.
5) Certain Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions can cause your pooch to gain weight too. That’s why it’s important to get checked. If your dog is overweight or obese, see your vet for a basic health check and make sure the weight gain is from overeating and not from a health issue.
Is My Dog Overweight/Obese?
Place your hands on your dog’s spine and run them over his back and ribs. It should be easy to feel the ribs and spine (although, it shouldn’t poke out either). If not, chances are your dog is overweight.
Check out this chart from GuideDogs.org for a better visual:
Overweight Dogs are at Risk For:
Just like with humans, dogs that are obese are more
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Thyroid Problems
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Respiratory Disorders
- Osteoarthritis and Other Joint Disorders
- Exercise Intolerance
- A Shortened Lifespan of up to 2½ Years
Tips To Managing Your Dog’s Weight
Just like with humans, losing weight is going to require some behavior modification and lifestyle changes… for you and your fur baby.
Increasing exercise is as easy as going for a walk. It’s not only great for Fido, but it’s great for you too. Depending on your own activity level, you can take your dog running, go on a hike and/or bump up your playtime. If your dog is not used to exercising, start slow and increase the workout as he gets used to it. Never exhaust him.
Get off free feeding and start portioning out your pup’s food. Some pet parents choose to feed their dogs once a day, others twice. If you have little dogs, though, I definitely recommend spacing out the calories and feeding twice a day.
As I mentioned above, if you’re home-cooking then get a food scale and measure out the correct portions. If you use a fresh food service, like The Farmer’s Dog, that work is done for you!
Your fur baby can still have snacks, just make them healthy ones.
- Baby carrots are great for teeth and eye health. They are loaded with vitamin A and beta-carotene.
- Green beans are low calorie and filling. No salt. You can also dehydrate them for a crunch.
- Apple slices are a satisfying treat. They’re loaded with vitamins and antioxidants and provide a nice crunch. Not too much apple because of the sugar, though. Plus, NEVER feed them the pits!
- Blueberries, strawberries, watermelon. These all freeze well too!
- Dehydrated sweet potatoes.
- Frozen banana slices.
These are just a few low-calorie and healthy snack ideas for you. But remember, these are still treats, so don’t overdo it.
With a few lifestyle and dietary changes, your pudgy little pooch will slowly shed those pesky pounds!