We’ve all heard the news: Obesity is an epidemic, it’s growing, and it’s very dangerous. What you might not have known is that obesity is as large a problem among dogs as it is among humans, due in part to the fact that many pet owners subject their pets to the same diseased lifestyle that they themselves live. Many people believe that fat dogs are cute or that fat dogs must be happy because they have been treated in a spoiled manner, but, in actuality, allowing your pet to become obese is nothing short of cruel.
Obesity causes a wide range of distressing and often very painful conditions in pets, including overuse injuries, joint stress and pain, respiratory problems, diabetes, and excessive strain placed on the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. Fat dogs are, as you can clearly see, no laughing matter.
If you suspect that your pet may be overweight or obese, check out the tips below:
1. Perform the rib check.
First, it’s important to see if your pet truly is overweight or obese, as some breeds appear stockier than others but may actually be at a healthy weight. A general rule of thumb is that you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs when you run your hand lightly over his midsection. Contrary to popular American belief, the visibility of ribs, at least to a certain degree, does not indicate a starving or underfed pet (or human, for that matter). Rather, if the ribs are not easily felt beneath your pet’s fur, then chances are, they’re hidden by a thick layer of fat, meaning your pet has reached an unhealthy weight.
2. Change his eating habits.
Once you’ve determined that your pet is overweight and have consulted your veterinarian for guidance, your first step should be to alter your dog’s eating habits. It’s time to ditch the table scraps and extra treats (yes, all of them), and you should also consider switching him to a healthy weight dog food formula, which should contain a lower fat content. Also, remember that dogs will eat when they’re hungry, but if they’ve become accustomed to eating much more than they need to sustain themselves, they will have a tendency to gorge on their food. Therefore, it’s important to measure his food to ensure you are no longer overfeeding him.
3. Start exercising him.
Dogs require exercise to stay healthy, just like humans. If your pet is overweight or obese, it’s very important that you start your exercise regimen slowly and under the direction of a vet. Just because you must begin slowly, however, does not mean your pet is too unhealthy to exercise; that’s no excuse. Begin by experimenting with short walks around the block or playing fetch in the backyard. If, like some people, you know that for whatever reason, you simply will not exercise your dog (due to lack of time, motivation, etc.), then it’s time to rethink your role as a pet owner. Keeping your pet healthy is one of your most basic responsibilities, and if you’re too lazy or busy to do so (or are otherwise indisposed), then as much as you might hate to admit it, it may be time for you to find someone else to care for your pet, someone who is able to keep him healthy.
If your pet is overweight or obese, it is important that you be honest with yourself. All excuses aside, it was inadequate training and care that caused his serious health problem, and, as such, it is your responsibility as a pet owner to reverse the situation. Be sure to consult your vet before making any changes, but, after you have done so, by changing his eating habits and making sure that he receives regular exercise, you will be well on your way to ensuring that your pet lives a longer and happier life.
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