If your dog is overweight it could potentially be a medical issue like thyroid problems or heart issues that are causing bloat. If your dog gains weight rapidly or takes on the appearance of being “sausage like” with a hard abdomen, it is important to take them as soon as possible to a veterinarian where they can be evaluated for underlying medical issues that might be causing the gain. This article is not to be used as a substitute for veterinarian advice or medical treatment, and is specifically for owners of dogs that are simply gaining weight because they are taking in more calories than they are burning off. Just like human beings, when we take in too many calories and do not burn enough off to counter-balance the intake, we gain weight. This is an unhealthy situation that can lead to larger problems and even death. Weight management in your dog is 100% your responsibility, as you control both their food intake and the amount of exercise they get. In order for your dog to lose weight, they are going to need to eat less (with that food being less fatty) and exercise more. It is as simple as that.
If you “free feed” your dog, they are controlling the amounts of food that they eat on a daily basis. Dogs are opportunists, which means that they are going to naturally take in as much food as they can while burning the least amount of calories. Because we have created a world for our dogs that is not even close to their natural state where they would need to spend huge amounts of energy just to find enough food to survive, we are allowing the natural instinct of the dog to lead them in the wrong direction. Your dog does not want to burn those extra calories, and as a matter of fact his or her instincts are to conserve them. In the wild, dogs can eat well one day and starve the next, so the natural instinct is to spend the least amount of energy possible to get your belly filled. The downfall of our dogs in their current state is that they have everything provided for them, without changing their physical makeups to balance that caloric need. The result is overweight dogs that have no desire to run, play or exercise in any way. Unfortunately, this is a completely unhealthy state for them that will eventually lead to their early death. Their natural physical state is one of burning roughly the same amount of calories as they intake, and anything outside of this state is going to lead to negative health issues. By allowing your dog to choose how much food he or she can eat at any time, as soon as you add more exercise they will simply eat more food. The result is going to be a fat dog even if the exercise is increased. You as their caregiver must ration their food appropriate for their body weight and physical state.
Increasing the amount of exercise your dog gets is the second component to effective weight loss. If you have a handle on the appropriate amount of food they should be eating daily, then you must start providing them with more ability to burn off the calories. It is a balance between proper nutrition and exercise, so as to not weaken or starve your dog and still have them grow leaner and stronger. If you currently do not walk your dog at all, then walking them a few miles a day alongside you is a good first step. If you currently walk them once a day for one mile, then you may need to walk them twice a day for 1.5 miles each time. This process is going to take time because you need to figure out the balance of nutrition and exercise that is right for your particular dog. This will mean putting them on a diet that does not starve them, then judging if they are losing weight each month. If they are not losing enough weight, you need to exercise them more.
Running, swimming and hiking are the best exercise for dogs. Even though you have been told that walking your dog is enough, unfortunately for most dogs it is not even close to enough. Dogs do not even put very much weight on their back legs when walking at our pace, which is why you see dogs later in life that have skinny back legs and larger front legs. Their rear legs have atrophied from years of inadequate exercise. In order to actually exercise your dog enough to maintain a good health state, they need to run. Running is not only what they were built to do, it is the only real way that they burn those extra calories. Just like it is very difficult for you to gain muscle mass by walking around the block, your dog suffers from the same situations. Just like you need to go to the gym to use specialized equipment to lose weight effectively, so does your dog. That specialized equipment can come in the form of large fields where your dog can run without a leash at a full speed. It can come in the form of hiking up and down mountains. It can come in the form of treadmill work or other kinds of specialized training designed to build muscles in dogs. No matter what, you are the one in charge of giving your dog what they need.
If you do not have the ability to give your dog the exercise they need, our mobile dog gym can come to your location and give them regular 30 minute workouts. These workouts are designed like interval training, raising the heart rate and lowering it, thus building a healthy heart and lungs while also building muscle and losing fat.
Love your dog? Run your dog.