Welcome to the second and last part of our weight management blog. Did you miss part 1? You can read it here.
To summarise, in part 1, we discussed that maintaining a healthy weight is essential for the sporting and pet dog. An overweight dog is at an increased risk of injury with additional stress on their joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
As promised, today we will provide you with some tried and tested tips on how to help your dog lose weight healthily and sustainably.
1. Track your progress:
2. Lean in on your veterinarian:
It's not a secret that our country has faced a veterinary shortage crisis within the past couple of years. If you have a relationship with a local veterinarian, lean in on them! Yes, you can only discuss so much in an appointment, but don't wait until your dog's annual check-up to bring this subject up. Consider making a specific appointment to discuss your dog's weight loss journey. Is there an underlying medical issue causing an increase in weight?
3. Avoid free-feeding:
It is vital to implement a feeding schedule time. Measuring or weighing food is equally important. By tracking the amount of calories your dog consumes at their meals you can be sure that the proper amount of food is being given to your dog. Beware of the feeding guidelines and recommendations on the brand of food you are giving. These recommendations re: the amount of food you should feed do NOT work for every dog. It may be less or more depending on the metabolism of your dog and their individual needs. Try to set up two feedings per day. If your dog has not eaten after 5 to 10 minutes, pick up the bowl and offer it later. Your dog won't starve themselves, trust me!
4. Avoid late-night feeding:
Just like the doctor advises us to avoid eating chips, ice cream, chocolates, etc., we must have the same considerations for our dogs. Again, the equation is simple: not much physical activity + high-fat treats late at night = higher chances of obesity.
5. Remove high-calorie treats from the house:
Quit cold turkey! GET - THEM - OUT. Consider a healthier alternative, such as dehydrated or homemade treats. When high-calorie dog treats are visible and close to our reach, we'll be more tempted to offer them to our dogs.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.― Hippocrates
6. Track food and treat intake:
Use a calendar or journal and track everything your dog eats (including healthy snacks) on a daily basis. A helpful strategy I share with my clients is to put a treat in an empty bowl or jar for every treat they give to their dog in a day. Then, over the day, you can see how many treats you gave them! Sometimes we have no idea how much extra treats we are giving our dogs – a few here and there doesn't seem like much, but it can add up at the end of the day. Get your family on board and devise a tracking plan – consistency is critical. I had a client do this once, and she was giving her dog an extra 3 cups of treats a day! We don't realize how much extra we are giving them!
7. Resist begging:
If your pup is a naturally-born beggar, consider having them somewhere else in the house during your meal times (e.g. different room, crate, lying on a cot). Table scraps, pizza crusts, and steak with gravy are some foods to avoid for our dogs. You need to have the willpower to resist those sad puppy eyes! You can do it.
8. Avoid high-fat supplements:
Many dog supplements (e.g. omegas, CBD oil, etc.) can positively affect our dog's health but can also be very high in fat, which makes them less than ideal for our dog's weight loss journey. It is always best to discuss adding supplements with your veterinarian, animal nutritionist, or dog's health care team.
9. Daily exercise:
It may mean implementing a good walking program – not just a sniff-a-ri!! Make them walk briskly, change terrain, attempt some hills – add challenges – change up your regular walk! When I walk my dogs, they have 5-8 minutes to "empty their tanks." After that – we are on our mission – faster walk, more intense – we like to go up and down the curb, which adds more cardio and body awareness and strengthening – I am sure my neighbours wonder what I am doing! It is recommended that dogs have a 20-30 minute walk 4-5x a week. If you have a backyard - GREAT! But, this is not a substitute for regular walking.
10. Canine fitness!:
We advocate canine fitness work three times a week for 10 minutes. Extra training treats will provide more calories; to balance this, reduce some of their breakfast and dinner to ensure they still get the same daily calories. Canine fitness has many benefits and can help increase your dog's metabolism in conjunction with many other things. Take a look:
11. Work with a healthcare provider to accelerate results and ensure you do it safely:
Not only can they provide excellent info on how to best go about it for your dog – (remember, it isn't cookie-cutter), but you can also have more accountability and support on your journey. In addition, having someone who can devise a tailored approach to your dog's weight loss journey will bring you tremendous success.
12. Ensure food quality:
The quality of the food we feed our dogs directly impacts their health. Feeding them highly-processed food is the equivalent of us eating junk food every day. I advise you to consult your dog's healthcare team regarding their unique nutritional needs. A tip to start increasing the quality of your dog's nutrition is to reduce the amount of dog food and add in fresh vegetables and fruits (e.g. broccoli, cucumbers, kale, spinach, and blueberries, to name a few).
13. Watch high-fat bone intake:
Marrow equals fat. Watch how often you offer your dog marrow bones, bully sticks, etc., as quite a lot of fat comes from these bones. Consider other alternatives for your dog that will keep them busy but have low calories. A perfect example is stuffing a Kong toy and putting it in the freezer. Click here to watch what I use to stuff Kongs for my dogs!
We have these 13 tips laid out for you in this handy infographic
Click here to download this infographic and print it!
Trying to implement these 13 tips simultaneously could lead to frustration and failure. In addition, change can be challenging for both humans and dogs. So instead, I want to ensure you are set up for success in your dog's weight loss or weight-gain prevention journey.
To ensure you remain consistent in this journey, I recommend reading one of my favourite books: Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Purchase Atomic Habits here.
In this book, James talks about how you don't rise to the level of your goals (e.g. weight loss); you fall to the level of your systems. So, for example, if you have a goal of losing weight but don't have a plan, you will most likely never achieve this goal.
This journey is about taking small steps - “the aggregation of marginal gains”. Meaning, focus on 1 to 2 strategies at a time and slowly build from there. Finally, with the right system in place, and a few methods to guide you, your dog will start to reduce those extra pounds and shed their parka!
Let me know in the comments which one of these 13 tips you will start implementing to aid in your dog's weight loss journey or to keep them at an ideal weight.