Find food that fits your pet’s needs
Find a dog food that fits your pet’s needs
Find a cat food that fits your pet’s needs
Being overweight or obese is a big problem these days for humans and animals alike. Around 40% of cats and dogs in Europe are thought to be overweight or obese. With busy lives, it’s easy for our weight to gradually creep up, too. Foods designed for weight loss or weight maintenance might help with a weight loss plan for your dog but exercise is really important for both of you, too.
Do you have a personal weight loss goal? If so, you've probably heard that the best way to stick to your health plans is to have a weight-loss buddy. Your dog may be the perfect choice for a fitness pal, especially if they could do with losing some weight themselves. Not sure what a healthy dog should look like in the first place? Read on for everything you need to know about training with your dog.
Signs your dog is overweight
If you’ve noticed your dog has been less active lately, it may be a sign that they’re becoming overweight or lacking in energy. Other signs of a pudgy pooch include shortness of breath, having to loosen their lead or collar, and no longer seeing an obvious "waist" behind their ribs. However, you should always talk to your veterinarian about what a healthy weight should be for your dog. Don't rely on the internet or a friend to tell you if your pet should be losing weight.
There may be many reasons a dog becomes overweight. Some health conditions, such as heart disease, can also be marked by exercise intolerance, notes the PDSA. With this in mind, always speak to your vet before simply going for a weight loss plan. It could be dangerous to diet a sick animal and with all health issues, the sooner they are diagnosed, the better. Whatever the cause, your vet is the best person to determine the most suitable course of action.
If your dog is a healthy weight or just starting to get a little tubby, now is the best time to act! Once your dog becomes overweight or obese, some of the related health issues may be irreversible, and it’s always easier to prevent weight gain than to lose weight afterwards.
The PDSA estimates that nearly half of dogs in the UK are overweight, putting them at risk of health disorders like:
- Joint problems.
- Breathing issues.
- Skin problems.
- Kidney disease.
- Heart disease.
- Shortened life expectancy.
But the good news is that taking steps toward establishing a regular fitness routine can help your fluffy companion live a longer, happier life. Remember that a kilogram or two overweight may not seem like a lot to you, but to smaller dogs it could be the same as 10 kilograms to you. It's best to not think about your dog's weight in kilos, but rather their body condition score. This is a more accurate way to tell if your dog is overweight and accounts for differences in breed types. Ask your vet or nurse to show you how to assess your dog’s body condition.
Even if your dog doesn't look overweight or still seems to be fairly active, it's a good idea to confirm that they are at a healthy weight before you start an exercise routine for the pair of you. You and your vet can also review the type, amount, and frequency of the food you’re giving your dog.
Finding ways for your dog to join in your weight loss goals
Including your dog in your weight loss activities can help boost your motivation to meet your health goals. The extra effort required to make a dog-friendly exercise routine might also spur you to plan out your workout ahead of time, since you'll have to figure out places and activities that will let you and your dog be active together. Scheduling exercise can make it a more integral part of your life and increase the likelihood that you'll follow through. Over time, your dog will pick up on your exercise routine and give you a nudge when it's time to get busy burning calories.
The benefits of exercising with your dog
Net Doctor and other health and fitness experts tout the benefits of staying motivated with a workout partner, but that buddy doesn't have to be human! Spending time with your dog has holistic benefits far beyond your waistline. Dogs have such a good influence on us that they serve as therapy and service animals for people with a wide range of physical and emotional health needs, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and post-surgery rehabilitation, according to Patient.info. Whether your dog is a working dog or just a pet, they’re your lifelong companion. Staying focused on losing weight and eating better so you can be a more energetic, healthy pet parent can be a huge personal motivator.
Running and working out is also just another form of playtime for your dog, and when you increase playtime, both you and your pet will burn calories. However, there is another perk to increasing playtime: lower stress levels. Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which is linked to excess abdominal fat, notes University College London. Reducing stress can help you to prevent weight gain before it even happens.
Whether you’re adding an extra walk each day, creating an obstacle course in your backyard for you and your dog, or just finding a local pet play group to attend together, more time playing as a pair will likely lead to better overall health for you and your furry friend.
Always talk to your vet before embarking on a new exercise regime with your dog. If your dog is unfit or very overweight, you may need to increase their activity very gradually. And remember, while dogs love to run, they don’t necessarily enjoy running miles and miles like a human. It’s really important for dogs to stop and sniff and explore as well. Extra walks with natural, off-lead exercise are much more fun. And walking is a great way for you to burn calories, too.
When it comes to improving your eating habits, talk to your vet about healthy snacks that might be okay for you and your dog to enjoy together. You and your pup should also increase your water intake and stay hydrated, especially during warm weather. If stress or boredom makes you snack, throw your dog a chew toy before you head to the fridge — and see if your craving is still there after an hour of running around with your pet.
Making the commitment to lose weight and eat better (and getting your dog to do the same) can be a bit overwhelming at first, but having your pet as your weight loss buddy should make things more fun and purposeful. Have fun walking, running, and fetching toward your best results!