If you have a resolution for your dog to shed a few pounds this year, small changes can be a big help. Here's how to help your pal slim down:
Start with a Check up
Just like people, weight gain or inability to lose weight can be caused by problems you can't solve on your own. In fact, animals can have more medically-related causes of weight gain than their people with underlying causes such as parasites, tumors, fluid retention, thyroid problems, and more. Your check up should also involve a discussion about how much your pet should be eating on a daily basis and your veterinarian's advice on food and treats. Don't cut this corner—there's no reason to put your pet on a diet if the underlying cause of their weight gain needs medication.
Choose the Right Food
Once your veterinarian determines your pet's weight gain is not the result of a medical condition, it's time to take a look at food labels. For some pets, reducing grain in their diet can have dramatic results. More and more pet owners are combating skin allergies and the culprit may be diets high in corn and other grain. Grains can also add unnecessary calories to your pet's diet or cause them to retain fluid. Look for foods with recognizable, natural ingredients and low amounts of organic grains.
Up the Exercise
A little exercise goes a long way with pets—especially small ones. Small and medium dogs should get at least half an hour of play or walking every day. Larger dogs and dogs with high energy require more—sometimes much more. If you have a dog that requires more play or exercise than you have time for, consider a doggy daycare once a week or having a dog walker fill in for you on busy days. If you have children, walking the dog for a prescribed amount of time every day is a fun chore that is good for both of them. If you live in a multi-story house, consider moving the food bowl to the top level and the water bowl to the lowest level.
Make a Treat Plan
Giving pets treats is part of the fun. However, it's easy to go overboard, especially while training your dog. During training, give the tiniest part of a treat that will still motivate them, and they should work for it. Teach them to work for non-food rewards such as praise, petting, or toys. Take note of the calorie count in the treats and dental bones you give them and compensate by adjusting their food or activity level. Let everyone in the family know what the treat plan is so your pet doesn't get "just one treat" from everyone.
Pets lose weight much more slowly than humans. Don't expect overnight results and don't reduce their food more than your veterinarian recommends. Make your plan, weigh your pet once a month, and be patient.
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer who lives in Charleston, South Carolina. When she’s not writing you can find her traveling the world or kayaking, paddleboarding and racing sailboats in the Charleston Harbor. In addition to ghost writing for SMBs and Fortune 500 companies, she is a regular contributor to Charleston Style & Design, Charleston Magazine, IBM Systems Magazine and Computer Technology Review. Robin is the author of Moving to Charleston: The Un-Tourist Guide and is currently working on a guidebook entitled Pluff Mud Pie: A Traveler's Guide to Unforgettable Days and Nights in Charleston.