Written, with love, on: September 25, 2019
Heed these takeaways:
- More than 50% of dogs in the United States are either overweight or obese.
- Obesity is a serious problem and can lead to diabetes, osteoarthritis and an increased risk of cancer.
- Use Heed’s calorie calculator to work out how many calories your dog needs each day to stay in optimum shape.
- Remember that treats contain calories too, so you’ll need to be careful not to spoil your pup too much.
The United States is in the midst of an obesity epidemic — and it’s not just our country’s two-legged citizens that are suffering.
According to the latest survey from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 55.8% of American dogs are either overweight or obese.
It seems that the same bad habits we adopt when managing our own health and wellbeing carry over to how we care for our pets. And that’s a big problem.
Why weight matters
So your pet is carrying a few extra pounds — what’s the big deal?
Just like in humans, obesity in dogs is a contributing factor in a wide range of serious health conditions. At the lower end of the spectrum, you might notice your pup struggling to cope with exercise and suffering from breathing difficulties.
More seriously, excess weight can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis and an increased risk of developing cancer.
All things considered, it’s no surprise that obese dogs live shorter lives than healthy pups. In fact, one study of over 50,000 dogs found that overweight dogs have a lifespan up to two-and-a-half years shorter than pups who maintain a healthy weight range.
What causes obesity?
Obesity is often the result of many contributing factors.
In some cases, the attitude we have towards excess weight is a big problem. If an owner doesn’t realize that carrying additional weight could have serious health consequences for their dog, they’re hardly going to think twice about putting a little extra in their pet’s dinner bowl.
But there are plenty of other situations where pup parents want to do the right thing by their pets but just don’t know how. If you don’t know how many calories your pup needs each day to stay happy and healthy, how can you be sure she’s not having too much of a good thing?
Finally, there’s the problem every pup parent can relate to: saying no to your pup when she turns her adorable, pleading eyes on you and begs for just one more treat.
Top 5 dog weight management tips
It’s every pup parent’s responsibility to ensure that their pet is as healthy as possible. These five simple tips will help you keep your pup in a healthy weight range:
- Stay active. Regular exercise is crucial to help your dog stay healthy, so find ways to raise your pup’s heart rate each and every day. Just remember that your pup’s breed, age and fitness level can all affect her activity requirements, so ask your veterinarian for advice before starting a new exercise regime.
- Look beyond the label. Many of the feeding guides you see on pet food labels are too general and often overestimate portion sizes. Your pup’s caloric needs aren’t just affected by her size and weight, but also by her age, her current body condition and whether she has any underlying health issues.
- Use our calorie calculator. To get a more accurate idea of the optimum serving size for your dog, use Heed’s calorie calculator. Be sure to re-check and adjust periodically so that your pup is always getting just the right amount.
- Limit treats. When calculating your pet’s daily calorie intake, don't forget that all of those treats you give your pup also contain calories. Healthy treats can still be a part of your dog’s diet — just be careful not to overdo it.
Speak to your veterinarian. If you’re unsure about the best diet for your dog, or what you can do to help your pup maintain a healthy weight, ask your veterinarian for help. He or she will be able to provide expert advice tailored to your dog’s unique health needs.