Dogs are programmed to be hungry pretty much all the time—this harkens back to dog evolution and their wolf ancestors, for whom meals were hard to come by. Today things are different; domesticated dogs don’t need to work for their food, and according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, about 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Here’s what you need to know about managing obesity and giving your dog the right treats:
THE EFFECTS OF OBESITY IN DOGS
We love our pets and want them to be happy, and the easiest way to them happy is giving them food. Unfortunately, we tend to overfeed them. Overfeeding leads to obesity, which can be a major factor in several health problems, including:
- Breathing difficulties
- Decreased stamina
- Heart problems
- Joint problems
- Low heat tolerance
- Poor liver function
GIVE YOUR DOG HEALTHY TREATS
It’s our job as pet owners to help our dogs stay healthy and live richer, longer lives. Most of the time, your dog is just as happy with a low-calorie, low-fat treat. Fat has twice the calories of carbohydrates and protein, so it can be a major factor in your dog’s weight gain. Here are some of the best healthy treats for dogs who need to get healthy or maintain their weight:
Bully sticks are fibrous cartilage and thus low in fat and highly digestible. A 6-inch bully stick can contain up to 130 calories, or 22 calories per inch, depending on the thickness of the stick. You need to take this number into account when determining your dog’s ideal caloric intake.
Like bully sticks, piggy sticks are low in fat and completely digestible. They are also extremely palatable. However, they are not calorie-free, so feed your dog judiciously.
The world’s most classic dog chew, rawhide has an average of about ten calories per chew. With as few calories as a carrot, it’s hard to go wrong with rawhide.
Pork Hide Chews
These high-protein, highly digestible pork treats are also lower in fat than many other dog treats. Once again, quantity counts—if you feed your dog several per day, he will not lose weight.
Homemade Dog Treats
Raw vegetables like carrots make a delightfully crunchy, low-calorie, no-fat treat for dogs, although some dogs take a while to warm up to veggies. Dog-friendly fruits like apples, banana slices, and certain berries are higher in sugar and calories but are still healthy. Air-popped popcorn, oats, and rice cakes are also good choices. Never treat your dog to grapes, raisins, chocolate, macadamia nuts, or onions, all of which are toxic to dogs.
GIVE YOUR DOG ENOUGH EXERCISE
Exercise may be the one treat that dogs prize above all others. It is the only treat with a negative calorie count, and the more your dog partakes of it, the stronger, leaner, and healthier he becomes. A mere 30 minutes of vigorous exercise per day will burn fat, awaken your dog’s spirit, and give him something healthy to enjoy. Pet parents also benefit from being outside and enjoying the air, exercise, and priceless companionship of our best friends.