You want your new dog to live a long, happy life. Did you know that managing his weight is essential to his health? According to a survey of veterinarians by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of all the dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This can lead to a host of health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and many forms of cancer, and it can dramatically reduce a dog’s healthy years. Taking steps to keep your dog at his ideal body condition today will help keep him at his best for years to come!
By helping your dog maintain an ideal body condition, you’re helping him maintain a high quality of life. If you have a puppy, start healthy habits early. If you have an adult dog, take a close look at his shape:
- Can you feel the outline of your dog’s ribs?
- When you look at your dog from above, does he have a waist?
- Does his belly appear tucked up when viewed from the side?
If you answered no to these questions, your dog may be overweight and needs to see your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems. If you answered yes to all of them, your dog likely has an ideal body condition. That’s great! Your job is to help him maintain it with proper nutrition and regular exercise.
A high-quality complete and balanced diet, when fed correctly, can help extend your dog’s healthy years. Start your dog off right with the best nutrition possible. Puppies do best on puppy-specific formulas that meet the unique needs of their growing bodies. If you have an adult dog, it’s important to choose a food that helps him maintain a healthy weight. That means if your dog is overweight, you may need to feed him a formula that has lower fat and fewer calories. Look for formulas with names like “healthy weight” or “weight management”.
When determining how much to feed, always see the packaging for specific guidelines. If your dog needs to lose weight, your veterinarian may suggest reducing the amount of food given at each meal until he reaches his ideal body condition. Monitor his weight regularly. If he continues to gain weight, you may need to adjust his feeding amount again.
The benefits of exercise are widely known. Exercise has the added benefit of discouraging destructive behavior. That’s because bored, unexercised dogs just might release their pent-up energy in the home. Keeping your dog active benefits everyone!
When establishing an exercise routine for your dog, it’s best to consult your veterinarian. The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on his age, health and sometimes his breed. Young dogs typically have more energy than older dogs, and they usually have the healthy joints to partake in more vigorous exercise. In general, working, sporting and herding type breeds may require more exercise than others, although this depends on your dog’s individual personality.
Establish an appropriate and enjoyable exercise schedule for your dog early, and try your best to stick to it. For example, a typical schedule may be a morning walk, with play time and a longer walk after dinner. Switch up the type of exercise to suit your dog. If you have a young dog with energy to burn, good exercises could be jogging, swimming, chasing balls or playing at a dog park. Very active dogs may enjoy structured, high-intensity exercises like field training or agility courses. If he’s a more sedentary senior dog, one easy walk each day may be best. As always, offer him plenty of fresh water after any activity.
If you’re concerned about your dog’s weight or what might be an appropriate level of exercise, talk to your veterinarian. He or she can help you establish a plan to get your dog back to a healthy weight, so he can live the healthy, happy life you both want.