“One little bit won’t hurt”.
You’re right. One little bit likely won’t hurt, but if that once-off becomes a twice-off, a few times per day, then the situation could start to get a little out of hand. 41% of Australia’s dogs were classified as being overweight or obese. These numbers are pretty shocking, so let’s take a look at how we got here and what we can do to prevent our own magnificent mutts from becoming part of these statistics.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Our relationships with our pets have changed dramatically. They are becoming fully fledged members of our families and are living lives markedly different to those of their predecessors, often with less unsupervised outdoor time and plentiful food offerings. The onus therefore is on us as loving caretakers, to ensure that our pets have sufficient opportunity to exercise and that we’re choosing both appropriate amounts and types of food to adequately account for their nutritional needs whilst maintaining a healthy weight.
The amount of food or energy intake that your dog requires can vary considerably, depending on factors such as breed, size, age, environmental and medical conditions and level of exercise.
According to Dr David Neck from the Australian Veterinary Association, a large factor in dog obesity is the shrinking size of Australian backyards and a trend towards dogs living inside rather than outside. In contrast to years gone by, 66% of our canine companions now spend time indoors as well as outdoors, 14% are kept exclusively indoors and only 20% spend their time exclusively outdoors.
RISKS FOR OVERWEIGHT DOGS
Being overweight or obese really is no fun for our four-legged friends. As well as impacting on their general levels of energy and overall quality of life, carrying more weight than is necessary can contribute to a number of serious medical conditions including:
Osteoarthritis | Cardiovascular disease | Insulin resistance / diabetes | Liver and pancreatic disease
Some types of cancer | Reproductive disorders | Skin disease | Breathing difficulties
Increased susceptibility to infection | Reduced exercise tolerance | Heat intolerance | Increased surgical risk
The good news is that the scales the health of our four-legged friends is, generally-speaking, completely within our control.
KEEPING THINGS IN CHECK
Before making changes to your pet’s diet or exercise regime, it’s important to develop a reference point against which you can regularly monitor the weight and body shape of your dog. Consulting a Canine Body Condition Chart, such as the one available here, or talking to your vet is a good place to start.
In terms of shape, when viewed from above, your pet should have a noticeable waist between the end of the rib cage and the start of their hind quarters, and when using light pressure over their back and sides, you should be able to feel, but not see, his or her individual ribs and spine.
When implementing a new routine, try to perform a quick assessment of your pup every couple of weeks for signs of energy level, body weight and body shape change and make adjustments accordingly.
TIPS FOR FEEDING
- AWARENESS – Become aware of the type of foods you are feeding your dog and their relative energy and nutritional content. Raw, natural and ‘wet’ foods are generally much lower in energy content but offer higher vitamin and mineral content per 100g than their dry food counterparts. Try our 4 Flavour Mix.
- FEEDING – Try smaller amounts of food and feed more often. This helps to keep your pet’s metabolism steady, promoting healthy blood sugar levels and reducing the tendency towards fat storage. Plus, he’ll feel like he’s getting bonus meals!
Remove uneaten meals after 10-15 mins. Food left uneaten within that time frame is generally excessive to your dog’s needs and may encourage over-eating if left for later consumption.
Dogs always ‘seem’ hungry. Stay strong and don’t give in to the puppy plead!
- TREATS – Choose treats wisely. Healthy treats, such as The Golden Bone Bakery’s are ideal, low-fat nutritious training aids or reward for your dog. Try our Carrot and Mint Treats.
- MULTIPLE PETS – If you have multiple pets, ensure that they are fed separately to avoid a dominant animal eating more than his or her fair share.
- MEDICATIONS – Be aware that certain medications such as steroid-based medications and hormonal changes after desexing, can contribute to weight gain and that in these circumstances, dietary modifications might be necessary.
TIPS FOR EXERCISE
- Although the amount of exercise your dog will need will vary depending on size, age, breed and health, around 30 mins per day is a good place to start.
- Include varying activities in your dog’s planned exercise time such as walks, jogs, swimming, fetch, other games with you and dog park visits (if your dog is well socialised). This not only makes exercise more stimulating for your dog, but the variety makes it more enjoyable for you too.
- If you have space, encourage your dog to spend some time outside on his own and allow him to learn to amuse (and exercise!) himself.
With a little awareness and consistency, maintaining your pet’s weight at an ideal level is easy! Give our tips a try, let us know how you go and feel free to share any other ideas you have in the comments!
LET’S DO IT!
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