Obesity is one of the most dangerous, yet common health conditions which afflict dogs in the UK. As in humans, it is commonly caused by an accumulated calorie surplus, as well as occasional hormonal imbalances. According to the British Royal Veterinary College, obese dogs have shortened life spans, reduced quality of life and higher frequencies of conditions including arthritis, breathing problems, heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Despite how much of an impact obesity has on dogs’ health and quality of life, it is perhaps surprisingly easy to prevent with a combination of adequate exercise and diet control. Although this does require a little thought on the part of the owner, the benefits it brings are remarkable.
If your dog has become overweight to the point that you feel it may be obese, we would first always recommend a visit to your vet to diagnose or rule out the presence of conditions such as hypothyroidism. Once this has been established, you can begin to adjust your dog’s food and exercise. Helping your dog lose weight is a gradual process, so small but sustainable changes will be the best and most successful way forward.
As a first step, establish how much your dog’s daily feed weighs, both in total and spread across its meals. This can then be reduced by an initial 10% to bring its daily calorific intake down. A 10% reduction is significant enough to support weight loss, but be small enough that it does not cause excessive hunger and discomfort. Over time, this alone can lead to modest and sustainable fat loss as well as improved health.
Increasing exercise should also be considered, especially because of the cardiovascular benefits it offers beyond simply promoting weight loss. All dogs can benefit from increased heart health, and a new exercise regime should be maintained even once the desired weight has been reached. As obesity often reduces a dog’s exercise tolerance, owners should refrain from increasing walks’ length or intensity. Gradually increasing daily time spent exercising is more sustainable, and easier for the dog concerned.
While helping a dog lose weight often seems intimidating, doing so is perfectly achievable. Small steps which can be consistently maintained and lead towards a calorie deficit will ultimately yield results. As appealing as quick fixes and supplements may seem, they are unlikely to provide you and your dog with the results you need. Slow and steady will be what wins this particular race.
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