Obesity is by far the most common disease in dogs with 40-45% of dogs being overweight. Obesity leads to preventable chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, fatty tumors that can impede mobility, and general ill-health. This makes obesity the leading cause of early death in dogs and we need to change it.
First, let’s cover how to know if your dog is overweight. Your dog should be able to get up and down from a sitting or lying position without effort. Your dog should have an hourglass shape rather than an oval or rotund shape. The waist should be defined behind the ribs and before the hips. You should be able to feel the ribs and the hips easily through the skin but they shouldn’t be protruding. If your dog waddles when he walks, he’s fat.
The Best Way to Avoid Obesity Is to Choose a High-Quality Fresh Diet for Your Dog
Sharing meals and giving treats to our dogs brings us joy—I totally get it. I do it all the time. But what allows me to spoil my dogs is that they receive a high-quality fresh diet that keeps them at their ideal weights. This leaves room for me to give them extra treats.
If you are feeding a processed kibble that makes them overweight, additional treats push them into obesity. We must be sure we are not killing our dogs with kindness. You can achieve this by choosing a better diet for your dog and by avoiding highly processed dry kibble and processed treats.
Let’s go over some of the options for feeding your dog a fresh, high quality diet:
RAW DIET – A raw diet, in my opinion, is the best that you can do. I prefer purchasing frozen commercial raw diets rather than making my own. Local suppliers of these frozen raw diets are often less expensive than chain pet stores. Raw diets can also be purchased in freeze-dried form. Freeze-dried form is more appropriate for small breeds because it is more expensive.
FRESH COOKED DIET – This is also a great option. These diets are often part of a home delivery service. This tends to be a bit more expensive and can break the bank for large breed dogs. However, replacing 50% of your dog’s diet with this food will still make a huge difference in your dog’s health. Look out for local fresh dog food stores that are popping up.
DEHYDRATED DIETS – There are some human-grade dehydrated diets that are another very good option. This comes in a powder and you add water. My dogs love it, however, some dogs don’t like the consistency. These can be expensive as a sole food. I keep a box of this on hand for emergencies (if my raw food isn’t fully defrosted). Again, if it is too expensive to feed as the only food, then at least replace 50% of the kibble with it.
AIR DRIED DIETS – These are foods that are gently dehydrated at low temperatures in order to preserve nutrients and flavor while killing germs. It’s the best of raw and home-cooked.
HOME-COOKED DIETS – This is an awesome option if you have the time to do it. You must be sure that you are creating a balanced diet. One way to do this is by adding a base such as Dr. Harveys or Honest Kitchen. Another way is to follow recipes from balanceit.com
If you are not going to switch your dog off of kibble, then at least replace some of it with fresh plain protein, fruits, and veggies. Here are my articles about feeding vegetables and fruits safely:
Contrary to what many have been told, dogs thrive on variety. Their gut biome benefits from a diversity of foods. So, change it up. Use more than one of the above options to supply your dog with the nutrition he needs and deserves.
The Importance of Exercise
Daily exercise is another key way to promote longevity in your dog and avoid costly, painful chronic disease. I recommend developing daily habits around exercising with your dog that you have put in your schedule. A long walk in the early morning before the day starts, a game of fetch as soon as you get home in the afternoon, weekend hikes, a trip to the dog park, etc. Get other family members involved in the responsibility of exercising the dog. Including your dog in your hobbies is another way to ensure they get the workout they need such as running, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking, etc.
If your busy schedule makes providing regular exercise difficult, consider signing your pup up for a couple of doggy daycare days per week. If your dog is geriatric it is even more important to keep him moving. Geriatric dogs show amazing benefits from regular physical therapy sessions that include water treadmill exercise.
This may all seem like common sense. We know that fresh, whole foods and exercise promote health and longevity. But we can get thrown off track by expensive advertising and poor advice from experts we trust. Experts that are also misguided by big companies feeding them inaccurate information. Take control of your dog’s life by making healthy, common sense decisions that will promote his longevity.