Winter weight gain is a problem for both us and our pets because we are less likely to go outside and exercise when it is cold and the days are short.
About 55% of adult dogs are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. And, just like with people, pets that are too fat can get heart and breathing problems, diabetes, cancer, and kidney disease. Dogs that are overweight are also more likely to get arthritis and other joint problems.
A quick “rib check” can tell you if your dog is too fat. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs and see a “waistline” when you run your hands over him. If you can’t, you should do something. Just like with people, losing weight means eating less and moving more. And now that spring is here for real, the experts say it’s time to get outside and get moving.
The best exercise is a fast walk or run, but a game of fetch in the backyard or a run around with other dogs at the local dog park can also be good. Young and middle-aged dogs need 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day. Check with your vet to see what’s right for an older dog, then go at a slower pace and keep an eye out for signs of stress.
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When you take your pet for a walk, make sure to follow these safety rules:
- Use a leash at all times, unless you are in a fenced-in dog park. Even if your pet is good, he could run after a squirrel or other pets and get weight lost or hit by a car or truck.
- Face oncoming traffic when you walk or run with your dog. This puts the dog on your left, away from the traffic, if he is healing correctly.
- If you’re going for a long walk, run, or to the dog park, bring water with you and give it to your dog every 20 minutes.
- If you want to run or jog with your dog, choose a surface that is soft, since asphalt can hurt your dog’s paws and joints. Start out slowly and build up your speed and distance as you and your dog get used to it.
- On hot days, keep an eye out for signs of overheating, like heavy panting or drooling. Dogs don’t do as well in hot weather because they don’t sweat as people do. If you see signs that your dog is getting too hot, stop and let him cool down.
- You don’t like living an active life? Sign your dog up for day camp or a playgroup. It’s a great way for him to stay happy and busy. Your local Best Friends center can help you find a fitness program for your pet.