It's Pet Obesity Awareness Month
Estimates range from over 40% to over 50% of dogs are overweight – with a significant percent deemed obese. How does this happen? Why is it important? What can be done about it and what should we feed an overweight dog?
How Do Dogs Get Overweight?
Weight gain is usually a fundamental mismatch between the amount of calories (energy) eaten and it’s usage (metabolism/exercise). Obesity is the natural response of your dog’s body when too much energy is saved as fat. We love our dogs and want to make them happy. Spoiling our dogs becomes unhealthy when we’re feeding them more energy than they can possibly expend. Blame it on our lifestyles, or too much affection shown through food and treats, or bad food and treat choices. Ultimately, if your dog is overweight, you should be making some changes in your dog’s lifestyle.
Why Should You Be Concerned?
Excess weight isn’t healthy for your dog. Obesity exacerbates certain conditions such as hypothyroidism, Cushings Disease, pancreatic cancer and pituitary problems. Overweight dogs can unnecessarily stress their internal organs, and their joints are more stressed. For overweight dogs it’s easy to continue gaining weight, as obese pets are predisposed to painful arthritis, which makes them want to move even less and expend even less energy.
An overweight dog’s reduced activity means they are less playful, less happy and less integrated into family activities like visits to the park, trips to the beach, or walks in the neighborhood. Participation in fewer of these activities make these dogs even more susceptible to weight gain and its associated problems.
What Can Be Done?
A combination of fewer calories taken-in and more calories burned is required. Diets that are lower in fat but rich in dietary protein and fiber are often recommended. Quality dietary protein helps maintain muscle tone, stimulates metabolism and energy expenditure, and helps your dog feel fuller so he’s not as hungry soon after eating. While dietary fiber contains little energy, it helps stimulate intestinal metabolism and energy use and also helps your dog feel fuller longer.
The ideal choice for your dog’s dietary protein is real meat ingredients like those found in Bil-Jac Reduced Fat Dog Food. With 1/3 less fat than Bil-Jac Adult Select formula, dogs still love the real chicken taste and thrive on the animal based protein.
The Road to Success
Weight loss should be slow and steady – don’t put your dog on a “crash diet.” When you feed, carefully measure the amount of your dog’s food. Start by using the feeding recommendations on the dog food bag for the weight your dog SHOULD BE, not the weight he is now. Carefully monitor your dog’s weight and adjust the amount (up or down) fed based on results and a plan for slow and steady weight loss. The feeding guidelines are just a recommended amount for a “typically active dog” and your dog is likely not “typical.”
Hand in hand with the right food, controlling the amount of treats and increasing the amount of exercise is key not only in losing weight, but keeping the weight off. Calories from treats should constitute no more than 10% of your dog’s total caloric intake. Using treats as a reward for active behavior can also help burn more calories.
If you give your dog human food as a “treat,” those calories can add up quickly. Consider minimizing or eliminating these from your dog’s diet for their health. Increasing your dog’s activity level and controlling calories is vital for successful weight loss and maintenance.
How to Really Show Your Love
Don’t overfeed and under exercise your dog – show them how much you love them by carefully controlling their diet and spending more active time with them. Your dog’s physical and mental health will both improve when you spend more time in active engagement. With a firm commitment to maintaining your dog’s healthy weight, you will grow confident your dog is feeling its best.
Have you had issues with your best friend's weight? Share what you did to overcome this obstacle in the comments section below!