It may come as a surprise that humans aren’t the only ones suffering from an obesity problem in this country. Pets, especially service dogs, are also more likely now than ever before to be overweight. In fact, some people estimate that as many as half of American pets are overweight. As with people, being overweight comes with all kinds of side effects: Heart and kidney disease, arthritis, diabetes, and more. Our pets aren’t just our friends, we’re responsible for their well-being and even though it’s hard not to indulge them, we have to consider their health first. Luckily, there are so many easy things to do to get your pet back in shape or, if the little guy is already healthy, that he stays that way.
The first one is pretty obvious: exercise! Even the most low-energy of dog breeds need some degree of physical activity in their lives and studies have shown that it’s not just great for physical health, but mental health as well. Exercise with your dog doesn’t have to be something that pushes you and your furry friend to your limit either. You already have to take your pet out a few times a day, so when you do, make an effort to go on a longer walk. Even at a slow pace, it’s a great start and it will actually bring you and your little friend closer together as well. Check out the shop for more info on exercise products for dogs.
Another important step is to re-think your dog’s relationship with treats. Don’t get us wrong, treats are great but there are two things people often do wrong: Give out too many treats and give out the wrong kind of treats. If you’re using treats as a way to keep your dog quiet or stop him from bothering you, that’s already a sign you’re encouraging the wrong kind of behavior. Many of us just buy whatever treats are on hand at the store, or worse, feed our dogs human food from the table. Instead, keep an eye out for single-ingredient treats – and these don’t have to be meat. Things like sweet potato can be found in many pet stores. Once you’ve gotten treats that are healthier, use them as a reward, not out of guilt.
In fact, you don’t have to buy special treats for your dog at all! Many vegetables and fruits make a great substitute for calorie-packed processed treats. Carrots, broccoli, green beans, and sliced apples, and bananas all make great options. Just be sure not to overdo it with the fruit, as the sugar content can be a bit high. These are all things you might already be buying for your family at the store anyway, so you don’t have to go out of your way to get them and you might even save some money.
Measuring meals is another great way to get a handle on your dog’s weight gain. Many of us simply scoop an estimated about of food into the bowl without giving it a second thought. Unfortunately, even a few extra pieces of kibble, compounded over days, weeks, and months, can lead to weight gain. Relying on the serving size suggestion on the package can be tricky too because every dog has his/her own needs. It’s best to check with your vet and see exactly how much food your specific dog should be eating each day. Then, replace that indiscriminate scooper with a measuring cup and stick to the program.
Getting your dog to lose weight can be hard, but with a little patience and a real game plan, you’ll soon be raising a happier, healthier pup.