Are you ready for this? It’s my fourth post created in collaboration with my friends at Hill’s Pet Nutrition and it’s loaded with extra cuteness – oh and some pretty helpful info too!
So, sometimes you’ve got to be strict and when you’re as big a sucker as I am for those puppy dog eyes (literally) it can be really tough! For those of you wondering what the heck I’m talking about – and I’m guessing that’s most of you right now – I should probably tell you that I’m referring to doggy diets.
I know, I know, even the word “diet” is enough to make me shudder (fun fact: I was a really chubby kid so I’m not a fan of the d-word!) but you know what? They’re not all bad! Losing weight and getting in shape can not only add years to your dog’s life but can actually add more life to those years too! Even better yet, it’s much easier to shed those extra pounds than you might think – a little something we realized when our little porkchop, Maddie, lost 10lbs (holy moly!) almost three years ago.
Since we know it’s a subject that very often feels as overwhelming as it is important, we’re taking the time to answer all of your questions (and then some) today!
Is my dog overweight?
Studies conducted by the amazing staff at Hill’s have found that only 10% of owners think their pet is overweight but in reality, more than half of all dogs and cats have weight issues. Sadly, this means more than 80 million pets are at greater risk of developing kidney disease, diabetes and even cancer.
Your vet will be able to tell you what your dog’s ideal weight is but in between checkups you can assess whether he or she is maintaining a healthy weight simply by placing your hand on his/her side – yes, really! If the ribs are difficult or even impossible to feel, then chances are your dog is overweight. Other signs to look out for include loss of an obvious waist, difficulty walking and even irritability. I mean, I’m a lot nicer when I can button my jeans too!
It’s just a few extra pounds! Why your dog should lose weight . . .
We love our fur babies so naturally we want them to be as healthy and happy as possible, right? Well, even being just 20% above his or her ideal weight can leave your pet at risk of developing serious medical conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and worse.
Not only that but heavier dogs tend to interact less with their families and are generally much less energetic and playful. I realize snuggling with Fido is one of the best things ever but so is seeing that goofy little face (well, goofy in Maddie’s case) light up whenever you so much as think about a game of fetch – I swear the girl just knows!
I’m lost, how and where do we begin?
Every dog is totally unique meaning there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. If you notice your pooch is packing on the pounds, then taking him or her to the vet is generally a great first step. Why? Because very occasionally weight gain (especially sudden weight gain) can be a sign of undiagnosed conditions such as hypothyroidism.
Please don’t freak out just yet! Happily, as is the case with us humans, weight gain in dogs is usually linked to too much food and not enough exercise. Sure, it can feel overwhelming at first but once you’re armed with the right information, you’ll realize there’s a lot you can do in this case – and that’s exactly why we’ve put together this post!
Okay, tell me more about the whole food/exercise thing . . .
Your dog’s caloric intake should primarily be based on two things: activity level and life stage.
Life Stage: Nutritional requirements are different for a puppy versus an adult or senior dog. As your pet gets older, it’s important to switch to a different type of food that provides the right balance of fats, carbohydrates (yay carbs!) and proteins so your dog has enough energy but doesn’t gain weight. All of this being said, “rules” vary from one pet to the next. An adult or senior dog should only be placed on lower calorie diets if in fact they are less active – something we didn’t even realize Maddie was! #BadParents
Activity: Alright, don’t get me wrong, she was still getting exercise and lots of it (three longer walks per day and multiple potty breaks) but just walking wasn’t enough for her – especially since we were still giving her the same amount of food (her fave Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d food which is the only one that’s ever worked for her) she would have had as a crazy pup! Fact is, Maddie has a ton of energy and if she doesn’t get in one really good game of fetch per day (lasting anywhere from 15-30 mins and we always use a Chuck-It) she’s just not burning that off and at the time she certainly wasn’t burning off those excess calories either!
So, my dog’s gotta shed some pounds . . .
Knowing that is half the battle – trust me! While it’s always crucial to make sure your fur baby is getting the nutrients they need, proper nutrition is even more important now.
One Key Thing – The Food: Not all weight loss strategies work for every dog, so there are many different foods to address this. Today, a great number of weight control foods are available at pet stores but it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about which food will be best for your pet especially if your dog needs to lose a significant amount of weight or, like our girl, has food sensitivities and other medical conditions.
Specializing in science backed nutrition the team at Hill’s has been transforming lives for the better since the 1930s, so you won’t be surprised to know that their range of weight management foods is one of the very best. For instance, Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d has a high fiber content to help your dog feel full and satisfied.
Realizing that overweight pets have a different biology and metabolism than lean pets (slowing metabolism is a major cause of weight gain for pets) Hill’s researched and identified ingredients that can support a pet’s metabolism to achieve a healthy body weight. Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight is specifically formulated to help pets with a slower metabolism. In fact, over 70% of pets lost weight within 10 weeks when fed this nutrition. Another incredible benefit? Healthy weight maintenance and long-lasting weight support!
Got it! Have any more doggy diet tips?
- If more than one person is feeding your dog, be sure to measure out the total daily food into a separate container. This way, everyone knows how much the dog has been fed.
- Enjoy giving your dog treats? If you want to treat them with food, you can choose several pieces of kibble from their total daily allowance or some veggies – Maddie goes nuts for carrots and broccoli! Be sure to avoid table scraps or people food to make sure ensure you’re giving them the best diet!
- You’ll undoubtedly find lots of different dog food brands at your local pet store but it’s super important to look past the packaging and check the nutrition label for yourself. I always compare this to eating a square of milk chocolate, for me it’s never enough but a square of high quality dark chocolate? Much more satisfying – just remember who’s being treated as dog’s cannot digest and therefore should not eat chocolate.
- Much like us, dogs can mistake thirst for hunger. If they’re begging for food, then try showing them their water bowl.
- Never underestimate the power of distraction! Again, if your dog is begging for food then try petting or playing with them! Another good option? Walkies!
- Get crafty! Try a puzzle feeder to slow eating (the slower we eat the more likely we are to register that we’re full) or frequently move the food bowl further away – bonus points for popping it upstairs!
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