Keeping Your Dog at a Healthy Weight
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is key to a happy and long life. It is especially important when it comes to small dogs like Toby, because their little frames can't hold additional weight.
In the US, over 45 percent of dogs of dogs and 58 percent of cats are now estimated to be overweight or obese according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Overweight dogs, no matter what their size, can have knee and joint problems, and develop diabetes or other health-related issues.
Toby has been the exact same weight since he became an adult dog - 12.6 pounds. My vet says he's healthy and always tells me to "continue doing whatever it is you're doing."
In honor of this month's National Pet Obesity Awareness Day (October 12), here are five tips to keeping your dog at a healthy weight.
1. Find a Food That Works for Your Dog
Just like people, each dog can react differently to food. Not every brand will work for every dog, and it's good to know what does, and does not, work with your dog's natural metabolism and body type. If you find a food that keeps your dog trim, is nutritionally balanced and he or she seems to do well on, then stick with it!
2. Keep Your Dog Stimulated
Taking your pup for a walk is important, but so is playing catch, giving them toys, socializing them, taking them to the dog park and exposing them to new experiences. It will not only keep their body trim, but their mind sharp.
To be honest, Toby doesn't get to go for a "walk" everyday, but he does go see my mom in the nursing home, hangs out on the front porch watching everything going on in the neighborhood and is around people daily. These activities keep him sharp.
3. Read Dog Treat Labels
Have you read what's in your dog's treats? It's not always pretty. While there's an endless debate over the dog food you should, or should not, be feeding your dog, the ingredients in dog treats seem to get overlooked even though it's just as important as what what you're feeding them for a meal.
Since Toby was a puppy, I've always been careful about the treats he gets on a regular basis. Unless someone buys them for him or it's a one-time deal, Toby doesn't get fake bacon strips, or treats that look like your favorite deli meat. Instead, I try to feed him low-fat, crunchy treats that are made with ingredients I can pronounce and limited artificial flavors.
4. Feed Healthy 'Table Scraps'
In my house, you can't bite into an apple, or open a jar of peanut butter, without having a wagging tail begging for a bite. Toby loves peanut butter, apples and eggs. There is nothing wrong with giving your dog "table scraps" if they are the correct kind. Select vegetables, eggs and fruit all make a good supplement to your dog's regular food.
5. Know Your Dog's Body Type
When I tell people Toby is a 12-pound Chihuahua they look at me like he must be some rolly-polly dog. They always say, "12 pounds?" But, if you look at Toby you know he is a trim dog with very little excess body fat.
Just because a dog's breed says they should be one weight, it doesn't necessarily mean it's the correct weight for them. Your dog's healthy weight should be based on his or her specific body type. The best way to determine this is by talking with your vet, as well as by just observing your dog. You will see when they are most active and if you're in-tune with your pet, you'll know when they are are feeling their best and when they're not.