Think your pooch has put on a few pounds? Maybe it’s time to help your dog lose weight. Even if it seems like your furry friend is always happy to have more food or another treat, you should think twice before giving them an extra portion, as data shows that fat dogs have a shorter life expectancy.
According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association’s (PFMA) latest report, dog obesity in the UK has increased significantly in the last decade with 51% of dogs in the country classed as overweight in 2019. According to the same research, 74% of UK vets are concerned about the rising dog obesity. In stark contrast, 67% of dog owners don’t consider their dog’s weight a problem.
If you think your dog might be a little bit overweight, we have a few tips to help you help them trim their waistline and get healthier.
How to find out if your dog is overweight
The first thing to do is get into the habit of weighing your dog - something that only 2% of UK dog owners do according to the PFMA. Keeping track of your dog’s weight changes will give you a clear idea if your weight loss plan is working and it will also allow you to spot potential health problems, whether they are related to rapid weight gain or rapid weight loss.
To know what’s a normal weight for a dog, you need to research the specifics of the breed. Each breed has average weight brackets that should serve you as a guideline. However, much like humans, dogs are different and no average can apply to everyone, so you should never go into extremes and panic if your pup is a pound or two above the average weight. To be on the safe side, you should always discuss any changes in your pet’s diet or any concerns about their weight with your veterinarian before you take action.
Not a fan of the scales? A good way to see whether your four-legged friend is in need of a diet is to examine their appearance. Yes, we know, you love your pup the way they are and that’s how it should be. However, if your dog has a belly, no defined waistline, fat pads around their back and neck or you're struggling to find their ribcage, they are probably carrying some extra weight. Losing it would make them happier and healthier.
7 tips for healthy weight loss in dogs
As important healthy weight is for a dog, losing weight can harm their health too if it’s not done right. This is why you should always follow the healthy weight loss tips below.
Speak to your vet first
We all know how well things turn out when humans self-medicate based on WebMD advice, right? The same applies to dog health. If you think your dog is fat, even if you have researched dog diets and nutrition on your own, before you do anything, speak to your vet first. It will give you peace of mind knowing that you are on the right track.
Don’t rush it!
Fast weight-loss diets are extremely popular amongst humans, especially when summertime is just around the corner and we want to fit in that old swimsuit again. Healthy weight loss, however, takes time and that’s especially true for dogs. Quick weight loss can cause nutritional deficits, behavioural problems and serious illness in dogs. To set realistic expectations, your pooch shouldn’t lose more than 1-2% of its weight in a week.
Limit the treats
Treats are part of your dog’s daily calorie intake which means that they have to be accounted for if you don’t want weight to be an issue. The general rule is that the food vs treats ratio in a healthy dog diet is 90/10. For some dog owners, positive reinforcement (or giving treats for good behaviour) plays a big role in their relationship with their dog. If this applies to you, it’s important to know that you can still treat your dog but you may need to reduce the quantities. For example, don’t give your dog a whole biscuit when you want to commend them, split it into smaller pieces and distribute them throughout the day.
Choose quality food
What your dog eats is just as important as how much they eat. Some of the cheaper dog food options contain rendered fat, artificial colouring, gluten, meat byproducts and under unhealthy ingredients that could put a serious strain on your pet’s health over time. High-quality dog food comes with a heftier price tag but it has better quality ingredients, more nutritional value and is less likely to upset your dog’s stomach. At the end of the day, premium quality is well worth the extra cost if it makes your pooch healthier overall.
Exercise, exercise, exercise (safely!)
Daily exercise is a crucial element of dog health. Every breed needs different amounts, as well as types of exercise. Make sure you read up on the activities your pooch should be doing and work them into your daily routine if you haven’t yet. Whether it’s a longer daily walk or more playtime, small changes in activity levels can make a big difference in your dog’s life. In addition to burning more calories and achieving steady weight loss, introducing more exercise into your pet’s routine can improve their mood and make them happier too.
Design a nutritionally balanced diet
Above all else, designing and implementing a nutritionally balanced diet is the most effective way to keep your dog healthy, not only in terms of weight but as a whole. The key is customisation. Simply following the guidelines on a pack of dog food isn’t enough because they are just that - guidelines. Your dog is unique and their diet should be tailored to fit their specific needs. This is why here, at Bug Bakes, we always create a completely bespoke feeding plan for every dog that eats our eco-friendly dog food.
Commit to change
Last but not least, you have to know that weight loss will soon turn into weight gain if there is no maintenance. To help your dog not only lose weight but keep it off as well, you have to commit to a lifestyle change. All the dietary plan changes, as well as the extra daily activities and limited treats, have to be there to stay. Going back to your old ways will surely lead to your canine friend going back to being overweight. Don’t let your efforts go to waste and stick with the changes!