Think that weight issues are just a human problem here in America? Think again. There’s always the age-old saying that “you are what you eat,” but it turns out your pet can also be affected by what you eat.
Research shows that an estimated 54% of dogs and cats are overweight or obese in the United States, a statistic that is similar to adult humans. Keeping your dog healthy and fit can extend their life expectancy by an average of two years. Here’s how to start the slim-down journey.
Step 1: See a Vet
Many pet owners get caught up thinking that they can create a diet plan for their dog by themselves. However, it is best to see a veterinarian; these professionals will be able to determine the best diet for your pet’s age and breed. They will also be able to tell you by how many pounds your dog is overweight.
Be prepared for the vet to ask you what the dog’s current diet is, how much exercise they get a week and other possible causes for the weight gain based on environmental factors. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition weighed in on possible environmental causes of weight gain, stating that “the main reason for the development of obesity is having a positive mismatch between energy intake and energy expenditure.”
Step 2: Establish a Meal Plan
As soon as the vet determines how many pounds overweight your dog is, they will be able to provide you with a diet regimen. Normally this will include both a change in type of food and change in amount of food given throughout the day. No matter how much of a good dog they may be, try to reduce the number of treats, too!
Other factors include reducing the number of feedings and increasing the hours or days of exercise. All of these dynamic variables to control a dog’s weight will, of course, depend on breed and age. For example, an older dog may not be able to do as much physical activity, so there will be a larger emphasis on diet control.
Step 3: Diet Pills for Severe Cases
In some extreme cases, dogs can gain upwards of 50 pounds — such as Obie, the dachshund — and fall under to “morbidly obese” category. Morbidly obese dogs can suffer the same health consequences as humans: diabetes, sensory issues (loss of hearing and vision), arthritis and shorter life expectancy.
Ask your veterinarian during the initial evaluation if diet pills are something to consider. These drugs cause a decrease in appetite, much like how human dieting pills function. However, be mindful that these drugs can cause a variety of unwanted side effects and should only be considered as a last resort.
Although these are just the first steps a pet owner needs to take to get started on the weight loss journey, always remember to strictly follow the plan. This will ensure positive results and will ultimately present you with a much happier pet! To help you keep on track with diet and exercise, it’s always a good idea to sign up for dog day care so your pet doesn’t have to stay cooped up in the house all day while you’re at work.