This article first published on Care2.com
I’m embarrassed to say that our collie mix, Jason, is overweight. The pounds crept on as I accepted more freelance and volunteer work leaving less time for daily dog walks.
National Pet Obesity Awareness Day is Oct 11 and we are determined to get Jason back into shape. When it comes to dealing with pet weight issues our family has plenty of company. In fact, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 53.9 percent of dogs are overweight or obese and a majority of their owners are blind to the issue.
“Obesity continues to be the greatest health threat to dogs and cats,” said APOP Founder and Veterinarian Ernie Ward. “Obesity is a disease that kills millions of pets prematurely, creates immeasurable pain and suffering and costs pet owners tens of millions of dollars in avoidable medical costs.”
Among all diseases that affect pets, obesity has the greatest negative impact according to APOP. Osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint injury, various forms of cancer and decreased life expectancy are all linked to obesity in pets. There are many things that families can do to help a dog get back into shape. For some pets, feeding a special diet or substituting vegetables for commercial treats can help. Any new play or exercise routine should be introduced gradually with owners watching for signs of fatigue or injury. The APOP website offers a chart on the daily caloric needs of dogs that can be paired with an exercise program to help your dog safely lose weight.
In addition to walking for weight loss Jason is getting carrots instead of commercial dog treats.
How to Walk Your Dog For Weight Loss
It’s important to have a conversation with your veterinarian before beginning any weight loss program with your dog writes Ward in his article “Walking the Dog: Tips for Getting the Most Out of Exercising Your Pooch” published on the APOP website.
In his article Ward writes:
“When you combine exercise with proper diet and lifestyle, you extend the years you’ll have your four-legged friend around to hug and love and snuggle with at night. Walk with your dog every day and you’ll enhance an already deep spiritual bond with the knowledge that you’re doing both of you a world of good.”
Following are Ward’s tips for helping your dog lose weight by walking:
Get the right equipment
A head halter or walking harness is the safest choice for any walking routine. Look for wide, soft and padded straps and breathable materials. Steer clear of collars as they can compress the trachea when pulled causing difficulty breathing or even injury. Choke-collars are especially dangerous.
Four-foot leashes are ideal as they allow you to keep your dog close so you can maintain a steady pace. Longer leashes can be saved for casual strolls around the neighborhood. Protective booties may be required for winter romps. Don’t forget to bring along water if it’s warm (above 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit for most dogs) or if you’ll be walking for longer than thirty minutes.
Set time goals
For most overweight or obese dogs that have normal heart and lung function and normal blood pressure and no other pre-existing medical conditions, start with thirty-minute walks a minimum of five times per week. If possible, walk 30 minutes a day seven days a week.
Following is a sample exercise schedule:
- Week 1: 30 minutes total – 10 minutes brisk walk followed by 20 minutes at a casual pace
- Week 2: 30 minutes total – 15 minutes brisk walk followed by 15 minutes at a casual pace
- Week 3: 30 minutes total – 20 minutes brisk walk followed by 10 minutes at a casual pace
- Week 4: 35-40 minutes total – 30 minutes brisk walk followed by 5-10 minutes at a casual pace
- Week 5 plus: 35-60 minutes total. The goal should be to do two 20-30 minute walks per day with 15 to 25 minutes at a brisk pace followed by a 5-minute casual walk.
Monthly weight checks
Until your dog reaches his/her ideal weight have your vet do monthly weigh-ins. In addition, have a technician inspect the pads for any injuries or problems and to ensure that the nails are short and healthy. Once your dog reaches the desired weight, he/she should be re-weighed every three months to ensure a healthy weight is being maintained