More than half of our pet dogs are overweight. And just like with people, overweight dogs are at higher risk for diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and breathing problems.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 60-to-70% of the weight gain is caused by a bad diet. Meaning, we feed our pets too much, hand out too many treats and cave when they beg for table scraps. Add in the fact that a lot of pet parents don’t walk their dogs, or play fetch – and we end up with fatter and fatter pets.
That’s why a lot of kennels and pet spas now offer fitness programs with everything from trotting on treadmills, to chasing balls into swimming pools and raw vegetables for treats. But the programs are costly – running from $40 to $100 a day. So here’s how to help your pet get fit on your own:
Check to see if your dog’s overweight. Use the touch test: Run your hand over their ribs. It should feel no more padded than the back of your hand.
Start reading food labels. Find a dog food endorsed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. And know this: A lot of pet foods contain carbs as fillers – like corn, wheat, and potatoes. But dogs don’t need carbs unless they’re pregnant or nursing.
Ask your veterinarian how many calories your dog should get every day. Because various breeds and lifestyles have different nutritional needs. For example, an active adult Lab may need 1,000 calories a day – including 100 calories of treats. But some chew treats are 1,000 calories each.
Dog trainer Cesar Millan says that just letting them into the backyard isn’t exercise. In fact, research shows that dogs live longer when they move enough to start panting every day. So, take them walking, running, swimming, herding, or agility training. But if your dog’s fat and out of shape, a short, slow walk down the block and back may be all they can manage at first.