Tomorrow is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day! BestBullySticks.com won’t shy away from an issue that needs to be addressed, especially when it comes to our dogs. That’s why we’re following the lead of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and sticking to the facts and dispelling the myths. You might be surprised by some of the statistics.  

The Facts
The 2010 Pet Obesity study conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found that 43 million U.S. Dogs are estimated to be overweight or obese (16 million obese.) There are 77.5 million dogs in the U.S. This means 55.6% of all U.S. dogs are overweight or obese. 

An overweight or obese dog is at risk for these serious health issues:
Osteoarthritis
Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
High Blood Pressure
Heart and Respiratory Disease
Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury
Kidney Disease
Many Forms of Cancer
Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

Excuses
Many dog owners simply make excuses for why their dog is overweight. Some dogs do have health issues that could cause weight gain, however, many veterinarians find pet obesity a hard subject to broach with their clients. Unfortunately, you just might fall into this category. Here are some excuses that dog owners give for their pet being overweight or obese. Here are the “buts.”

 “But my dog doesn’t overeat. He eats very little each day!”
Overeating isn’t the only contributing factor to a dog’s weight issue. A sedentary lifestyle for your dog isn’t good because, just like you, bodies need to exert energy given by food. Dogs should be exercised each day to maintain healthy body functions. The life of a dog used to be one of work and now most dogs “work” through play, a walk or exercise with you!

“But my dog is always hungry!”
If you dog always acts hungry it’s because it’s either learned or instinctual. Your dog’s ancestors never knew exactly where their food was coming from, but your dog will usually get two meals a day. Discipline and a schedule is a good thing for your dog.

“But my dog will starve”/”I can’t bear to know my dog is suffering.”
If you are feeding your dog regularly, they won’t starve. If you put them on a diet they won’t starve. Overfeeding your dog is doing more harm than good because it puts the rest of their body in danger. Physical pain and discomfort from joints that are too weighted down from body fat is a terrible thing for your dog to endure. Do the right thing; alleviate your dog’s pain. It’s the best thing for them.

“But when my dog loses weight, everybody tells me they’re too thin!”
Your dog should have a clearly definable waist and you should be able to just see their ribs. The AKC states, “You should be able to feel the ribs below the surface of the skin without much padding.”

Solutions
There is always hope for your dog. Once you realize that your dog needs to lose a few pounds, talk to your vet to devise a good game plan. Here are some things to consider.

Determine Underlying Health Issues: At this point you want to find out if your dog’s weight gain is being caused by other failing body functions. If it’s not the case, ask your vet if your dog is healthy enough to start an exercise and weight loss program.

Make A Plan: Work with your vet to make a plan for a better diet and exercise and a weight loss goal. For exercise, walk with your dog when you come from work in the evenings, or play a game of fetch for 20 minutes in your yard. For diet, make sure you talk to your vet about a few alternatives for food. Be wary of diet claims and make sure what you feed your dog is something he will enjoy. Remember, what you feed your is important, too. Healthy, wholesome food makes a happy dog.

Monitor & Track: It’s also important to keep a close eye and a detailed report of your dog’s progress. This will help you see the full changes that are taking place for your dog. Close observation and measurements will also clue you in if anything were to go awry. Go to your vet for a weekly weigh in and waist measurement. This is a good way to keep yourself accountable and gives you a dedicated time to speak with your vet about your dog’s progress.

Here’s the sad truth: Most owners do not follow through with a diet for their dog. Many vets say that they hardly ever see a dog improve from being overweight or obese. Owners who put their dog on a diet tend not to count non-meal foods or treats in their caloric intake. Your dog depends on you to do what is best for him because he can’t do it himself. That means you have to make the best food and exercise choices for your dog because he can’t.

We’ll leave you with this quote from Marty Becker, DVM and co-author of Fitness Unleashed: A Dog and Owner’s Guide to Losing Weight and Gaining Health Together says, “When you get this weight off of them, they will sleep better at night,” he says. “They’ll be more energetic. They get up more easily. Everything starts to be possible again. It’s like they had fresh batteries put in them. You thought they were just old, but that wasn’t it.”

If there could be one bad thing about a dog, it would be the fact that they don’t live long enough. So, please, for the sake and life of your pet, if your dog is overweight, act now before it’s too late. 

Participate in the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s Pet Obesity Study. You can also find out great information about pet obesity, weight loss, caloric intake of foods and more.