Just under half of U.S. households own at least one dog, and Canadian statistics put the canine ownership quotient at about 35 percent. It isn’t much of a leap to say North Americans are crazy about Rover and Fifi, or Jack, and Sophie, with the ongoing trend to name our cherished pets as we would our children. But one of the key issues affecting our pets today is obesity.
Ask The Expert —Your Dog’s Vet
According to Dr. Jeff Mayerson, DVM, a Lewiston, Maine, veterinarian with nearly a quarter-century in practice, who agrees many dogs are overweight.
Dr. Mayerson believes we tend to feed our animals more food than they actually need, something he calls “free feeding” rather than measuring. Additionally, he maintains many of the grain-free foods now on the market are higher in calories than traditional pet food. If people automatically feed the same number of cups or cans per day as they always have, it may result in overfeeding. Obesity is often the gateway to heart, liver, and kidney problems, diabetes, and serious joint issues. With food, feeding guidelines on the bag or can is not necessarily the way to go, he says.
It’s best to consult with a veterinarian who knows your pet and can recommend appropriate amounts based on size, activity levels, age, health needs: Is your dog pregnant or lactating? Recuperating from illness or surgery? Practicing for agility trials? These and more can affect recommended calorie intake.
Healthy Puppy Snacks
For snacks, instead of traditional dog biscuits which can be high in calories and preservatives, try feeding your dog baby carrots, uncooked broccoli, or pieces of apple, pear, peach, watermelon, cantaloupe, and other fruit. Pieces of (cooked, of course) boneless, skinless chicken breast, fish, or other proteins are also good alternatives to more common high-calorie canine snacks.
Also, nothing beats exercise (for dogs and their humans!) to stave off weight gain, improve circulation, increase oxygen intake for optimal brain function, keep joints limber, provide for better sleep, and release those all-important “feel better” endorphins. A brisk, daily, 20- to 30-minute walk (longer if you have the time) can do the job. Even a prolonged ball toss-and-retrieve in the yard works if your dog is predisposed to running after balls.