How you can help your dog lose weight and maintain their good weight.

How you can help your dog lose weight and maintain their good weight.

How you can help your dog lose weight and maintain their good weight.

Full disclosure, every single companion animal we take to our vet for a checkup is healthy, but “she’s at the top of her weight” or, “I’d like to see him lose a pound or two.” She is a macaw, and he is a dog. Okay, both dogs. The macaw, being Butters, isn’t a data point for this conversation. But she is lazy. Extremely lazy. That is a point for animal or human. The dogs, being active daily, leaves the other side of the conversation open. Calories. Companion animals and humans gain weight for the same reasons. Not enough exercise and too much food. The balance between the two changes as we all age. It will always be a moving target. What a puppy needs is not what a senior dog needs.

Dante’s weight concern is for knees and hips health. His joints don’t need more baggage than necessary. Dante isn’t a fan of walking. He’ll gladly follow Angus into a walk, but it doesn’t take long for him to act like he’s been suckered into something unpleasant. He becomes a boulder rolling uphill. He loves Perimeter Checks. A walk around our property, the field behind our house, and a half block in all directions. He also loves running sprints in the backyard, chasing Angus and whatever toy Angus grabbed. Dante will run until he collapses in joy. They come into the house drooling and panting hard with bright pink tongues. Quick bursts of elevated cardio for an hour or better a day. Perimeter Checks. And stair work. We have stairs; he follows me everywhere. He’ll get in 100 stairs a day. It adds up.

Angus has zero issues, except those inherent to an intelligent, stubborn Catahoula hound. Health-wise, he’s bulletproof. He loves runs, walks, and all the backyard games. He is the dog picture next to the saying, “A tired dog is a good dog.” Angus gets miles of runs and walks every day. He’s not a foodie. Unless it’s the parrot food he hunted out from under the chair. Recently I found the answer to get him to eat his kibble consistently. Which solved some of the food hunting.

Our dog's weight is an ongoing consideration around here. We’ve succeeded at requested weight management at their last vet checkup. You can see their last ribs and their flanks thin into their hips. But that’s our dogs. Every dog has a healthy profile that’s a little different. What’s healthy looking for a hound isn’t going to be healthy looking on a Pekingese. Ask your vet to explain what a healthy profile looks like on your dog. Get that checkup and the knowledge. And follow through on instructions.

How you can help your dog lose weight with food exercise and consistency.

Attain and maintain your dog’s healthy weight

Food

  • Small calories add up quick! If you’re using pill pockets, training treats, supplements and joint chews, or kibble flavoring to deliver meds, you’re adding food calories.
  • Covert Calories. Stuffed dog bones. Basted dog bones. Healthy chews to replace the unhealthy rawhide. It adds up quick!
  • Sneaky calories. We’ve got a problem with sneaky calories here. It’s parrot food. Seven parrots tossing all kinds of things all day long. Good things to a dog’s nose. We spend a lot of time sweeping. They spend a lot of time hunting the stuff we missed sweeping.
  • Smaller meals more often are great for their (and our) metabolism. We feed three smaller meals a day. Senior dogs benefit from smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Fresh filtered water. Like us, good hydration keeps the metabolism healthy. Monitor their water bowls. Consistent water intake is important.
  • Inventorying what’s really going on with food and our dog is no different from using the NOOM weight loss app for ourselves. Our issues with foods can translate into how we feed our dogs. I speak of myself here. Smothering our companions is a thing for me. And it can backfire with food. I gut check what I’m doing with food, pun not intended, but there it is.

Exercise

  • If you’ve been told to help your dog lose weight, that means whatever exercise currently going on isn’t enough. There’s that balance between calories and food again. Your dog needs to use more calories than they take in.
  • Senior dog exercise needs a gentler approach. Swimming and hydrotherapy. Low-impact movement helps their metabolism and their minds. Nose work games are a thing!   How much exercise is right for a senior dog?
  • Add another dog walk into their day.
  • Get off the sidewalk and walk in a park up hills and over dales. All the terrain you can get under their feet. Flat sidewalks aren’t a challenge.
  • Try the 2-1 mini marathon training. Walk for two minutes, jog/run for a minute. Dante loves this sporadic excitement. It’s changed his way of looking at walking. LET’S GO!! I shout and dramatically pump my arms as if I’m finishing a marathon at the ribbon. Dante loses it and dashes ahead of me with gigantic eyes and lolling tongue. HIT works for dogs because it builds an expectation of something exciting about to happen.
  • Backyard play. Time to find the toys that get them moving. If they need a partner, a dog park could be the answer.
  • Just like humans, exercise needs to be surprising, interesting, and challenging to keep the hardest part of it.

Consistency

  • Every breed has their drive. Angus, being a hunting and herding dog, needs goals. Five small hidden treats in the yard turn his brain on and he’ll spend days looking for the other 104 he’s sure is out there. (Nose Work Games) (Yes, I count those calories)
  • Dante is a follower, and he’s shy about decision making. Whatever Angus does, Dante is right there doing it. We buy longer toys so Dante and Angus can run back and forth together with the same toy in their mouths. Dante won’t run with a toy alone.
  • New toys, new goals. Consistency requires inconsistency.

A dog's healthy weight is important for their quality of life. Every dog and every lifestyle they live in presents unique challenges. Ours is parrot food and my propensity to smother the animals I love. Boiled down, there’s four points to inventory for your dog’s weight loss and healthy weight management. Food, exercise, water, and you. It’s that human piece that quietly invades how our dogs eat, and how much. Speaking from experience and successes.

Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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