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Although a chubby dog or cat might look cute and make you smile, you must know that being overweight is dangerous for our beloved pets. Therefore, veterinary professionals lead a constant awareness campaign on keeping your pet at a healthy weight.
Furthermore, veterinarians also know how hard it is for pet parents to help their dogs lose weight. But be assured that the reward is worth the fight! Indeed, a healthy companion means less time and money spent at the vet office, more walks, runs, fun times with your pet, and more years spent together!
Control how much you feed your dog, including treats.
Like us humans, overweight dogs need to decrease the calories they eat daily. Depending on how much weight your dog needs to lose, it might be wise to book a visit with a veterinary nutritionist. Weight management is not easy, and we'd recommend working with a professional. However, we'd like to share a few simple rules that will benefit your pup and get you pointed in the right direction.
- Most food brands will display the amount you should feed your dog based on their ideal body weight. You should feed your dog at most the recommended amount.
- Break up your dog's meals into three, so they don't feel hungry throughout the day.
- Treats are part of the total food intake you feed your dog. If you give treats, you should decrease the amount of kibble or wet food you give your dog daily.
- Ad veterinarian's secret ingredient to each meal: Zucchini! You can cook it or shred it raw on your dog's food.
- Switching to weight loss kibbles or wet foods is a good idea if you still need to do it.
Key takeaway: Determine your dog's ideal daily calorie intake and stick to it! Include treats as part of it. It's always a good idea to speak with a veterinary nutritionist before making radical changes in your dog's diet.
Chose the appropriate treats for your overweight dog
According to Banfield Hospitals, pet owners with an overweight pet cite giving treats as the main reason for their inability to help their dog maintain a healthy weight. Indeed 46% reported struggling controlling meal portions because of treats.
Because we understand it's hard to rule out treats entirely, we recommend being smart about the treats you give to your dog. Apply the same principles you apply ( or should apply) to your snacking habits:
- First, select healthy, low-fat ones and ask your veterinarian for advice. Some easy examples are celery sticks, zucchini, carrot sticks, cheerios, etc. Or you can find specialized dog treats and use these.
- Second, convert the daily treats into calories. Most treat boxes will have labels with the Kcal/treats.
- Third, you need to subtract your dog's daily food portion from the number of calories you give with daily treats.
Total calories per day=Calories from treats + calories from meals.
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Please note that you do not need to count dog supplements (for joint support, for example) as treats. This is because they are usually low in calories, and you only give your dog one or two daily.
The Jope trick: If you do not wish to spend time doing math, a straightforward way to continue to give treats to your pup is by using their food. In that case, you separate your dog's food portions in two: give one part for their meal and use the rest as treats throughout the day.
Key takeaway: Treats should be healthy, low in calories, and be included as part of your dog's daily food intake.
Be careful when feeding leftovers to your dog.
Veterinarians are not fans of leftovers, so we recommend stopping. However, if you wish to continue giving them scraps, you must reduce your dog's daily regular diet calories.
So, you need to determine how many calories are in the human foods you are giving your pup. We recommend asking a nutritionist to figure that out.
Stay active with your overweight dog
Calorie control and burn are the two main actionable items you should focus on to help your dog lose weight. Therefore, we recommend you maintain or increase your daily activity.
Be mindful of the intensity of the exercise and adapt it according to your dog's overall physical condition. For example, running puts pressure on your dog's joints. This pressure increases if your dog is overweight. So, if your dog needs to lose weight, start with regular walks or aquatic exercises until your dog loses a few pounds.
Be as regular with activities as possible. Ideally, your dog should regularly move through the day. But we know it's a challenge. Indeed 26% of overweight dog parents state they don't have time to exercise with their dog. If you identify with this statement, try to be creative. Take turns doing doggy-day care with friends, get a dog sitter or walker, and ask a neighbor's kid to come to play with your pup!
Key Takeaway: Stay active with your dog but don't stress about it! We suggest applying the small steps theory: set a goal and break it down into small attainable goals. For example, if you want to walk 3 miles daily with your dog, start with one block and increase the distance daily.
Celebrate the small milestones of your dog's weight loss journey!
Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint! So it's important to reward you and your dog for small victories! Take a picture when your dog loses their first pound. Share your first 5-mile walk on Instagram or brag to your friends. Get your pup a cute new toy when you get that second pound down. Whatever it is, stay positive and turn this journey into a fun, rewarding experience. And remember that the ultimate prize is keeping your dog healthy to live a longer and happier life with you!
Key takeaway: remember that it takes time to help your dog lose weight and that you will see results over 6-12 months, sometimes 1-3 years, depending on how much your dog needs to lose. Find someone or a way to celebrate the small victories!
When your dog is overweight, it will lead to an unhealthy future and likely premature death. So it's essential to help your dog keep a healthy weight so they can live long, happy lives with you. Your veterinarian is a great resource to help you in this journey. Mindfully controlling your dog's calorie intake and burn is the key to weight management.