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Dabl At Home Dec 2020
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Dabl at Home

Here’s How You Can Improve Your Dog’s Fitness!

Feeding your dog a healthy diet and making sure he gets enough exercise could prolong his life!

Did you know that approximately 30% of the general canine population is obese? And when you only consider dogs over the age of 5, approximately 45% of the canine population in our country is overweight. Even more dogs are considered to be overweight without being categorized as obese. 

Obesity is a big problem because it can shorten your dog’s lifespan, potentially by years, and puts your dog more at risk for certain health conditions. Thankfully, obesity is a preventable disease and there are plenty of ways you can help your dog lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. Just like people, you’ll want to focus on implementing a healthy diet and exercise into your pet’s daily routine. 

Get a baseline from your veterinarian. 

Before you start your dog on a new diet or exercise regimen, it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian do an exam first and help you come up with a plan that is right for your dog. How much weight your dog may need to lose will vary based on his breed, age, height, and other health conditions. The way you should help your dog lose weight will also vary based on those same factors. For example, a senior dog with arthritis may not be able to tolerate long walks and naturally have a slower metabolism due to age. The senior dog would need a different diet and exercise regimen than a young dog that might simply need longer walks. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you how much weight your pet needs to lose (if any) and help shape your health goals for your dog accordingly. They can also advise on which healthy lifestyle changes may be best for you and your dog’s specific needs. 

How is my dog’s diet? 

When it comes to your dog’s diet, you have to consider both the quantity and the quality of what you are feeding him. First, consider if you are feeding your dog the correct portion size. If your dog is eating too much, cutting down on his portion size will help him lose weight and maintain a healthy weight going forward. You also may want to research different brands of dog food, or switch to feeding your dog fresh food. If you have an obese dog whose situation is particularly dire, your vet may prescribe a low-calorie pet-food diet. 

But before you switch your dog’s food, remember that you will need to make the transition slowly by gradually mixing the new food with the old food. Over time, you can include more of the new food, and then cut out the old food entirely. Skipping this step can cause your dog to suffer from an upset stomach. You may also want to check with a veterinarian before switching to a new dog food brand to confirm the brand’s reputation, portion size, and that your dog will get all the nutrition he needs from his new food. 

How much exercise does my dog need? 

If your vet has categorized your dog as obese, there is a good chance they are not getting enough exercise. Depending on your dog’s age, breed, size, and overall health, they typically need between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise per day. Generally, small dogs and giant dogs need less exercise, while medium to large-sized dogs that fit into the herding, working, or sporting categories need the most daily activity. If you need an example of how to re-introduce a dog to exercise, check out how Dog Expert Brandon McMillan does it with a bulldog mix named Popcorn! 

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The default to making sure our dogs get enough exercise is by walking them! It’s good for us, and great for them! And if you live somewhere like an apartment, you may be taking your dog on at least four walks per day that double as bathroom breaks. But if you would like more creative ways besides walking to exercise your dog, consider the following alternatives:  

Invest in doggy daycare.

Even if you work remotely, your dog might get bored sitting around waiting for you to finish with your workday. And if you work in the office, your dog may be sitting around all day waiting for you to come home. Instead of letting your dog be a couch potato, enroll him in a doggie daycare where he can run and play with his friends all day! If you don’t feel comfortable using a doggie daycare, consider investing in a dog walker who can give your pup some mid-day exercise while you’re busy at work!

Enter the world of dog sports! 

Your pup might have a star athlete hiding inside him, and you just don’t know it yet! Consider getting involved in canine sports, such as agility. You can enroll your dog in agility classes, or train him yourself to strengthen your bond! Alternatively, you could try out disc dogging, which is sort of like a really intense game of playing fetch with a frisbee. Instead of just catching the frisbee, your dog would learn a form of choreographed freestyle catching. If you want it, you have the option to enter your dog into competitions for both of these sports. But of course, they are also great activities to do just for fun and get some exercise! 

Hit the pool! 

Unless you have an indoor, heated pool, this is likely a seasonal activity. But when the weather heats up, swimming and playing fetch in the pool is an awesome way for you and your pup to both get some exercise! Swimming is a particularly great choice for dogs with joint problems or mobility issues, as it’s a low-impact sport. Some veterinarians even use hydrotherapy, or water therapy, as a form of physical therapy to treat a variety of ailments. So far, hydrotherapy has successfully been used for weight loss and to rehab pets with neurological problems, ACL injuries, and other orthopedic conditions. 

If you’re not sure how much exercise your dog needs, you can research their breed online or consult with a veterinarian. In addition, make sure to increase your dog’s daily exercise slowly. For example, if your dog is only used to being active for 10 minutes a day and you are suddenly walking them for an hour or more, your dog could suffer from over-exhaustion, mobility problems, paw injuries, and anxiety. While exercise is a wonderful thing, you don’t want to over-exercise your dog either! 

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