Americans often hear warnings of rising obesity rates among humans, but pets are equally affected. The Association for Pet Obesity estimates that the U.S. is now home to over 100 million overweight or obese dogs and cats, up from 80 million in 2013. Some owners think the extra pounds make their pets just a little cuter but in fact, the consequences of overweight and obesity can be quite staggering. These include a higher risk for problems with joints, as well as the liver, kidney, and heart. One study has already shown that at least in the case of Labradors, even being moderately overweight can significantly reduce their life expectancy by nearly two years. If you have a pup who is getting a little round in the sides, what can you do to help them get leaner and fitter?
Determine Your Pet's Obesity Level
The first step towards battling obesity involves classifying your pooch according to the standard Body Condition Scoring Chart. There are two different versions of the chart used, so it’s important you check with your vet which one they’re following. The first chart rates dogs from 1 (very thin) to 5 (obese), while the second chart rates them from 1 (very thin) to 9 (obese). Both charts rely on factors like rib visibility and how ‘rounded’ your dog looks when you view them from above. A healthy dog, for instance, has ribs that can be felt, since there is no excess fat covering them. VCA Hospitals provide an easy test so you can gauge your pet’s obesity levels. Just place one hand on a flat surface and use your other hand to feel the knuckles of the first hand. This is how your dog’s ribs should feel beneath their skin.
Pay a Visit to Your Vet
During your next vet visit, share your concerns with your vet. There are many dog food brands that cater to weight reduction, but your vet knows your dog’s entire history and can recommend a food type that aligns with your dog’s needs. In general, you will probably be recommended a low-calorie food that contains healthy proteins and no fillers or unhealthy oils. Top-quality dog foods normally have a high percentage of fresh or raw ingredients, including cage-free eggs and free-range chicken. A grain-free diet will also help dogs stay lean.
When following feeding instructions, go for quantities corresponding to the weight your dog should be, not to the actual weight he is now. Of course, diet is only one factor that affects weight. Just as important to your dog's weight is how much they exercise. If you would also like to shed a few pounds, it might be time to make nutritional changes of your own and to be more assiduous with your daily workout. It is recommended that adults enjoy at least half an hour of exercise a day but if you can extend that to an hour while giving Fido a walk, it'll be beneficial for both of you!
Getting Active with Your Pooch
If you want to make the most of a fun day out with your dog, try increasing both your activity levels by doing more than simply enjoying a leisurely walk. If your dog is young and healthy and your veterinarian has given you the okay, you might try jogging. Start out by walking, increasing your pace to a brisk walk as the days go by. Once your dog is used to longer distances, intersperse walking with short spurts of running for a few days, until both of you are ready for a longer jog.
Bear in mind that not all breeds are suitable for high-impact activity. This is particularly true of brachycephalic dogs like bulldogs and pugs, who are more suitable to short sprints of exercise rather than sustained running. If you aren’t into running yourself, make it an energetic workout for your pooch by bringing a ball or frisbee or (if you live in a warm area) taking your dog for a swim. Make sure your pooch wears a certified life vest and try to never leave them alone in the water, so they always feel secure.
Obesity is almost a big a problem for canines as it is for human beings in America. If your dog is obese, a vet visit will help rule out conditions that could be contributing to weight gain. It will also be a good opportunity for your vet to recommend a diet and exercise program that is perfect for your dog’s breed, age, and health condition.
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