Dog Play Area

It’s a new year and many people are rushing to the gym or starting a new diet to shed some pounds.  Many people start January off with some health goals but it is not just humans who sometimes need to buckle down and lose a few pounds; your dog may need to also.  Humans aren’t the only ones who have an obesity problem, dogs do too. If your dog packed on a few extra holiday pounds (or has been overweight for some time) it may be time to set some doggy-health goals for the New Year.

Whether your vet has mentioned it before or you have just noticed that your dog is looking a little chubbier, you may be trying to help your dog start out the year on a healthier note.  If your dog is overweight it is important to help your dog shed those extra pounds because the longer your dog goes with extra weight, the more damage it may cause to their health.  In fact, it is unfortunate but if your dog is overweight it may even shorten their lifespan.  Dogs who are overweight are more susceptible to things like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more so it is best to help your dog lose weight as soon as possible.

First thing is first, take a look at what your dog is eating.  If you are mostly feeding your dog kibble or other dog-specific food, consider if you can cut back a little in portion size.  Some dogs have trouble with overeating – they may just keep going if it is available to them.  By cutting back slightly in portion size your dog may not notice at all but it may make a good dent in their weight.  Next, are you feeding your dog a lot of table scraps?  Some things like lean meats or other low calories dog-friendly food are ok but make sure you aren’t giving your dog high calorie/high fat human food.  Additionally, there are reduced-calorie dog foods available at most pet stores for those dogs who need a little extra help trimming down.

Next, if you tend to give your dog a lot of treats and snacks as a reward for good behavior; consider switching your method of reward.  Rather than using food as a reward, it may be better to use fun and loving interaction as a reward.  Spend some quality time with your dog, go for a walk, play fetch, do whatever your dog enjoys and bonus points if it is physical because that will help with weight loss as well.

Speaking of exercise, if your dog does not get much of it, add a daily walk into your routine.  Start slow if your dog is particularly overweight – just do a 10 minute vigorous walk – and then gradually build to longer walks.  Work up to two 15 minute activities that are strenuous exercise for your dog for optimal health.  If you are not able to walk or have limited mobility, a game of fetch for 15 minutes can be just as strenuous as walking.  Remember, you have to walk before you can run so start slow and work up to more activity and soon you will see a healthier, more energetic dog emerge.