We all love our dogs, but many of us erroneously give our furry friends too much to eat which makes them fat. With their unconditional love and understanding, we want to show them our appreciation – and feeding and petting seem to be the only rewards we have to offer.
However, we also want our furry friends to live a long healthy life, but to make that happen, we have to treat them properly. They're not just smallish human counterparts with four legs. They can't tell us when they don't feel well, so we have to be extra diligent when it comes to taking care of their health. They are susceptible to many of the same health issues we humans suffer from, including obesity. National studies today indicate that both we and our beloved pets are at increased risk of the deleterious effects of overeating.
Overweight dogs suffer the same health problems as the obese population does. And as such, they, too, need to be treated similarly in terms of diet and exercise so that they can achieve and/or maintain a healthy weight.
How can you keep your dog from getting fat?
• Stop using "treats" as rewards or for signs of affection
It's common to reward pets with treats when they've done something good or simply because we love them and want to show it. However, you'll do your dog a much better service if you don't reward or show affection with treats but instead simply give your dog your love and attention. That will be enough.
• Watch your pet for signs of being prone to obesity
Just as with humans, some dogs are prone to obesity, while others aren't. Control food intake and encourage exercise. This is a good idea even if your pet is at a healthy weight, but it's especially important to do so if your dog is obese. Basset Hounds, Beagles and Cocker Spaniels are among the breeds that are especially susceptible to being overweight or getting obese, but just as with people, any dog can gain weight if it's overfed and not given enough exercise.
• Provide proper nutrition and enough exercise
Ask your vet for recommendations about how much food your pet requires every day. In general, it's a good idea not to leave food out all the time but instead to feed at specific mealtimes, such as twice a day.
• Take your dog in for a checkup
If necessary, your vet can give you special foods for overweight pets that will help keep your dog feeling full and provide proper nutrition without providing excess calories. The vet can also recommend ways to incorporate exercise into your pet's day in ways that are fun and healthy. However, it's also important to note that in some cases, a dog’s being overweight or obese may not be caused just by nutritional excesses or lack of exercise. Your vet can diagnose any disease that may be contributing to the obesity (such as Cushing's disease or hypothyroidism), and recommend treatment.
• Recognize that your dog has a weight problem
Once your dog has been diagnosed as being overweight or obese, it's important that you recognize this without panicking, ignoring it, or feeling guilty. You are your pet's pathway to good health and a proper weight. By changing your pet's eating and exercise habits, and by providing proper nutrition, you can control the problem with modest effort. Just as importantly, once your pet begins to eat properly, exercise, and lose weight, you may find that you yourself are on the road to a healthier lifestyle as well.