Helping Prevent and Treat Canine Obesity
Happy New Year! Tradition which dates back to 153 B.C. dictates every 365 days or so you should try to kick bad habits and start life anew! What kind of resolution did you make this year? Chances are, since it is already January 3rd most people have already failed at what they wished to accomplish.
I kicked the habit of once a year commitments many years ago, however I still find myself pining at the idea every new year’s eve. The idea is simple and magical; it’s the follow through that takes determination and willpower!
At the dawn of this new year, I would like you to consider the impacts of obesity on your furry friend. Obesity is an epidemic not only with humans in our country, but also in our pets. We believe that over indulgence is a form of love and so we not only allow but sometimes encourage over indulgence in our animals.
Extra pounds place demands on virtually all organs of the body not only in ourselves, but also on our pets. Overload of the organs often leads to disease and death. Specifically obesity can lead to:
- Damage to joints, bones and ligaments (especially in large dogs)
- Heart disease
- Increased blood pressure (yes dogs too, can suffer from high blood pressure)
- Decreased liver function
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased stamina
- Heat intolerance
- Increased anesthesia risk
- Digestive disorders
- Immune dysfunction
- Skin hair and coat problems
- Increased risk of cancer
- Decreased quality and length of life
I want my best friend to be around as long as possible. I want his life to be full of fun and excitement. I do not want to be administering shots of insulin or drugs that can be avoided or be shortening his life with each meal and treat. Over indulgence of food has a price and I am not willing to pay with the life of my friend.
- A normal healthy dog is always hungry! This is how the wild dog adapted and survived, but it does not mean your dog is starving. Dogs have different nutritional needs and amounts throughout their life time. Younger dogs and active working dogs require more calories and protein than couch potato and older dogs.
- The recommendations on the back of the bag of dog food is prepared for an intact, male working dog. Most of us do not have dogs that are intact (hopefully) and certainly do not have active field trial, or police working dogs. So we can cut down on the amount that we use and the bag recommends.
- Meal feeding is another easy way to reduce intake. Just like we might over indulge if we take the whole bag of chips in to snack on in front of the TV because we are bored, your dog probably over indulges if food is left out all day.
- Provide exercise! Exercise has benefits for his heart, and muscles and also for his mind!
Regulate His Weight:
- Pop into the vet for a quick hello and a weight check! This is a quick and easy way to make vet visits less traumatic and to maintain a healthy weight!
Limit or Eliminate Treats:
- I believe in using treats to my advantage while training, however I make adjustments to my dog’s meal at mealtime if we have had a big training day by decreasing the amount of food I give.
Beginning a Weight Loss Program
Visit Your Vet:
- Certain medical conditions can cause weight gain in dogs, and as with humans a physician should evaluate your dog prior to beginning an exercise regimen. Your vet can help you determine a realistic weight goal and timeline.
- We normally recommended starting by measuring the amount the dog was currently giving and decreasing by ¼. We also recommended giving fresh or frozen green beans (not canned because there is too much salt) as a filler to help your dog feel full.
- Make a chart and monitor your successes!
I have often found it difficult to maintain my own success when it comes to my relationship with food (although I am proud to announce I am currently training for a half marathon). I wish someone would feed me in small doses and control my access to food! But, I can control what my dog eats, and his ability and access to exercise. I think of it as a gift I can give to him and myself, the gift of a long quality life spent together!
So here is my challenge to you for the new year to come, pick something simple about life with your dog and change it for the better. Spend more time together, or vow to drop some weight and exercise together!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.