October 10, 2018 was Pet Obesity Awareness Day. While most of us understandably think our pups are perfect the way they are (and they really are), keeping your dog at its optimal weight can improve its quality of life, prevent or decrease the severity of medical problems that come with age, and increase its life expectancy. As is the case with humans, a dog’s weight is impacted primarily by its level of exercise and diet. With the holidays around the corner, it’s important to start taking control of your dog’s health so they stay in shape (or get in shape) and feel their best, much like you do for yourself. Here are a few simple ways you can keep your dog healthy during the holiday season.
Exercise Tips for Dogs
Exercise is beneficial to humans and dogs alike. However, some dogs lack the natural inclination towards even mildly strenuous physical activity. As a result, some dog parents will quickly conclude that, for example, their pup won’t run more than a quarter mile, or gets too tired after 10 minutes of walking. While such may be the case, it’s important to gradually increase your dog’s level of physical activity, especially while the weather is still nice around the country.
As always, you should be cognizant of the temperature, particularly if you’re trying to get your dog to engage in an increased amount of physical activity. If you notice that your dog is puttering out during mid day outings, schedule the more strenuous outings for the early morning or late evening, to avoid the heat. On the flip-side, wait until it warms up a little if you live somewhere extremely cold or outfit your dog with the proper apparel.
You can also increase their activity by increasing their play. Have them run after a ball or play hide-and-seek around the house with healthy snacks. Making exercise a game, much like us, will distract your dog from the actual work they are doing. You can even just carve out some time for the dog park to let them run around or take a trip to the beach!
Diet Tips for Dogs
A dog’s optimal diet will depend on its breed, size, and current weight, so it is important to consult a veterinarian to develop a dietary plan for your pup. Further, exercise will do little to control your dog’s weight if it’s being overfed. If you are giving large portions and high caloric treats, you’ll end up fighting a losing battle. So take a look at what you are feeding your pup.
To assist with weight loss or control, there are several healthy, low calorie food options, and we suggest asking your vet for specific recommendations. In addition to helping with weight loss or control, lower calorie dog foods allow for an increased portion size as compared to the same caloric serving from more typical dog foods. With regard to treats, switching to a lower calorie options means you get to reward your dog more and know they are still eating well.
It’s hard to monitor your dog 24/7, especially running around to all your seasonal commitments, but make sure you do your best to not feed them any table scraps during your holiday meals. This can be incredibly dangerous and will lead to overeating and poor table manners to deal with the rest of the year. Ask guests to follow this rule as well, or just put your dog away during meal times, with a healthy pre-made snack of their own, like a stuffed kong.
A healthy pup is a happy pup, so do what you can to get your dog to its optimal weight and a proper exercise regimen. Do it together and you will both look and feel amazing!