Over half of American pets have parents with “feeding disorders.” Ok, to be fair, there are some breeds that are more prone to becoming overweight, but by and far we’ve become a nation that’s feeding the human equivalent of fast food to our dogs and super sizing them at the same time.
Who doesn’t love a double cheeseburger with fries now and then-but for every meal? Obesity is a major health concern for dogs that often leads to such acute conditions as heart and liver disease, diabetes, arthritis, digestive disorder and an increased risk of cancer. Nearly 25 percent of all overweight dogs will develop serious joint complications. The health risks to overweight dogs are severe and every dog owner should be aware of them.
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to prevent your dog from packing on the pounds.
10 Ways to Help Dogs Avoid the Battle of the Bulge
1. Start them out right. Puppies that are overweight while growing have a greater risk of becoming overweight as adult dogs. While it’s important that developing puppies have adequate nutrition, we need to be careful not to feed them to excess. In addition to contributing to weight problems as they age, extra juvenile weight can lead to other issues such as joint disease.
2. Select dry kibble varieties with high amounts of animal-based (versus plant) proteins. How can you tell? Look for foods in which the list of ingredients starts with a named meat like chicken or lamb and is immediately followed by the ‘meal’ (dehydrated) equivalent, such as chicken meal or lamb meal. Stay clear of foods using meat by-products (cheap and very indigestible protein sources).
3.Avoid foods containing corn, corn gluten meal, wheat, wheat gluten meal or soy protein. These are simply cheap plant protein sources being used instead of meat. These foods are very high in carbohydrates–which are quickly stored as fat. Dogs are not ‘cornivores!’
4. Stay away from low calorie/low fat foods. So called ‘diet’ foods may be great marketing, but the protein-to-fat imbalances and high carbohydrate levels found in these foods often cause the reverse effect over time. This is similar to the effects of human diet foods and fad diets and can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Instead, stick with a natural, premium food and strictly observe the serving portions.
5.Treats should be given very sparingly. One medium-sized Milk Bone to a 40-pound dog is the equivalent of a large Snickers bar to us!
6. Do not give table scraps or people food. You may be feeding your dog way more calories than you realize. She’s not really hungry; she’s simply perfected those loving puppy dog eyes. Begging is a behavioral issue, not a hunger issue.
7. Long daily walks can help combat excess weight, they’re good for you as the parent, and they can increase the bond you have with your dog. Playing fetch and swimming are also very effective activities.
8.Regularly monitor your dog’s weight. It’s easy for us to put on a few pounds and not notice until we try to slip into that pair of jeans we haven’t worn in a while. It’s even harder to notice small weight gains in dogs. Three extra pounds on a 15-pound Jack Russell is the equivalent of an average woman gaining 30-pounds. Ouch!
9. Involve everyone in the household. One of the key reasons that weight issues emerge with dogs is that one (or more) member(s) of the household is not following proper nutrition guidelines–quantity or quality. Everyone must understand and agree that managing a dog’s weight is essential for its life and long-term health. Young children, in particular, must learn to respect and follow the guidelines to ensure success.
10.Recognize any contributing factors or diseases. Although the majority of weight gain in dogs is due to feeding too much and exercising too little, there are some medical conditions that can contribute to obesity, many of which can be treated if diagnosed properly. If your dog has a sudden increase in appetite or weight, have him examined by your veterinarian for any possible medical cause.