Our lemon beagle Lulu recently started gaining a lot of weight. When we adopted her last year she was underweight, but the good life of having bowls refilled when they got empty meant Lulu gaining weight rapidly. Beagles are notorious for not being able to say no, so we had to make a plan to help her cut down on her intake.
Fat Dogs Age Quicker
As recently as a decade ago, dog years were measured at approximately one dog year multiplied by seven human years. The formula still holds, but your dog’s weight impacts it.
Fat dogs, for instance, are physically older than thinner, healthier dogs. The formula for a fat dog is one dog year multiplied by eight or nine human years. Fortunately, there are many things to do in order to help your little furry best friend thin out and live longer.
Approximately 60 percent of dogs are overweight, and half of those dogs are obese. One of the reasons there is a large population of overweight dogs may be because many pet owners “guesstimate” how much they are feeding their dog.
For small, indoor dogs, research has shown that all it takes is an extra 10 kibbles of food per day for weight to increase up to a pound per year. As such, one of the best tools for helping your dog lose weight is a measuring cup.
You cannot know how much to feed your dog each day if you do not know how many calories your pet needs to maintain optimum health. Unfortunately, for a large portion of pet owners the feeding guidelines on a dog-food bag does not apply to their dogs. These feeding guidelines are typically designed for active, adult dogs that have not been spayed or neutered.
If your dog does not fit this criterion and you follow the instructions on the dog-food bag, you could be inadvertently feeding your dog 20 percent to 30 percent too much. To address this, you can ask your veterinarian to help you calculate the appropriate number of calories your dog requires to maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, you can use the following formula as a starting point.
1. divide your dog’s weight by 2.2
2. multiply by 30
3. add 70
4. answer equals recommended calories per day
This formula this gives you a general idea of how many calories an inactive, indoor, neutered or spayed dog should eat each day.
Note: this formula is just a starting point. Every dog is different. It is recommended that you consult with your veterinarian before starting any weight-loss diet.
Once you have determined the optimal amount your dog should be eating each day, it is time to start slowly tapering back. If your dog has been eating large portions of food, reduce the amount a little each day. Using this approach will help your dog easily accept the daily changes in the amount he or she is eating.
Over the course of a month or so, you should continue reducing the amount, each day, until you reach the appropriate portion size. Additionally, you should use a measuring cup to help you accurately decrease each daily amount. Remember, decreasing the total amount might mean removing a few kibbles each day.
Cutting back on treats is another great way to help your dog lose the extra weight. In fact, you may not realize how many extra calories your dog is eating every time you toss her a treat. Many treats are filled with fat and sugar, which causes weight gain and negatively impacts overall health.
Fortunately, there are low-calorie, no-sugar treats available. You should look for treats with single ingredients, such as freeze-dried, chicken breast, jerky, or sweet-potato snacks. You can also incorporate functional treats, such as flavored chew toys, that help to promote mobility or maintain healthy teeth.
Replace with Healthy Alternative
You can also replace highly-processed, store-bought treats with healthier options. For instance, the following treats are low in calories and a healthy option for many dogs.
- green beans
- baby carrots
- sliced apples
Note: you should only give small portions of bananas and apples because both are high in sugar.
Whatever treats you decide on, you should make sure to include them in your daily calorie count. You can easily undermine your efforts with just an additional snack per day. In fact, just 30 extra calories per day results in your dog gaining over three pounds per year. For a five-pound toy dog, this results in morbid, canine obesity.
How to Begin
You can start by giving half the amount of treats you usually give. You can then continue this reduction slowly over the next few days. Another option is to break treats into small pieces throughout the day.
Often a pet owner feels bad for not taking his or her dog for a walk or for leaving the dog home alone. Once the guilt sets in, the treat makes the dog happy, which, in turn, alleviates some of the owner’s guilt. There is only one thing to say here: “Bad Owner!”
To maintain a healthy weight, it is recommended that you should only use treats to reward good behavior–not to alleviate your guilt.
Note: you should check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet. Pets with health issues or certain conditions, such as kidney failure, may need a specific type of diet.
People need to exercise. Not surprisingly, the same recommendation for daily exercise applies to dogs.
You can boost your dog’s immune function, reduce behavioral problems, and improve cardiovascular health with just a 20- to 30-minute, brisk, daily walk. However, you should not let your dog spend time sniffing during a walk. Instead, you should make sure your dog walks alongside you.
There are, in fact, several ways to increase your dog’s daily exercise.
– going for a neighborhood walk
– going for a walk in the park
– playing fetch
– moving the bowl upstairs
– playing with a laser pointer
Bonus: the health benefits of a daily walk are not exclusively for your dog. You will benefit, too.