Eyeing up your dinner, we doubt your pup would agree with Kate Moss’s infamous ‘00s mantra ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’! Still, there’s no arguing that a slim and healthy dog is a happy one and nothing feels good about a hound too heavy to chase a tennis ball. Yet stats show that dog and cat obesity is getting dangerously out of control, vets confirming that 51% of dogs in the UK are overweight or obese.
So, your dog’s got a little chubby… what’s the big deal? Well, those extra pounds can lead to serious health issues, from arthritis and other orthopedic disorders to heart disease. Furthermore, in the last 30 years there’s been a threefold increase in cases of dog diabetes, caused by insulin resistance which is promoted by excessive body weight. Controlling our dogs’ calorie intake and exercise has never been more critical. While our pets can’t process the consequences of that tasty extra treat or calorific dinner, we pawrents can - and we must. Because research has found that those extra pounds can reduce a dog’s lifespan by 20%: that’s roughly two and a half years!
Often, it’s easy to tell what our furry friends need, whether that be breakfast, walkies, a visit to the great toilet outside or a tummy rub. Equally, changes in our pets’ behaviour can raise alarm bells: lethargy, a limp, scooting or loss of appetite. But not all conditions are so easy to spot. How do we know, for instance, if our dog is genuinely hungry? While we can chat to our furry friends all day, inconveniently our pups can’t actually talk back. And even if they could, one thing we know we’d never hear is “No thanks, I already ate.” No matter how carefully we weigh out their meals, those woeful eyes and pleading whines have us reaching for the treats and the pounds pile on. A trip to the vet six months later and we realise, too late, that we’ve got an obese hound on our hands.
It would be wonderful to be able to monitor our pup’s weight on a daily basis, balancing out a couple of cheeky extra treats one day with fewer calories and a longer walk the next. We’d be able to know immediately whether our dog is getting a bit chunky or if they actually just need a haircut (anyone else put their fluffy Poodle on a crash diet only to discover a shivering Whippet post-groom?) However, unless you invest in fancy expensive pet tech, the current reality is impractical daily bathroom scale weigh-ins with an uncooperative Saint Bernard. And while we know it’s time to hit the gym when our jeans start feeling snug, our dog’s coat is always going to fit!
So yeah, we get it – it’s tricky to keep our dogs’ weight in check. But that’s not to say we can’t try. We need to exercise portion control just as we do for ourselves and invest in some of the many organic, naturally low-fat pet treats and meals on the market. The easiest way to swap excess fat and calories for healthy nutrients? Reduce or remove the meat content in your dog’s meals. Our dogs aren’t miniature wolves, burning off thousands of calories chasing prey all day, so they don’t need all that meaty protein. Instead, plant-based dog foods like THE PACK offers all the nutrition your domestic dog requires without the calorific consequences, plus a hefty dose of dietary fibre.
Of course, while our Frenchies and Foxhounds no longer need to ‘earn’ their meals with hours of sprinting, we still need to encourage proper exercise with games and stimulation. Distressingly, the PDSA reports that over 39% of dogs (that’s over 3.7 million) only get up to half an hour’s daily walk. Making sure our pets are active should be a priority - and we might even lose a few pounds of our own in the process…
Next time your dog looks at your leftovers with those big brown eyes, take him or her outside with a ball instead. When you’re choosing their kibble, wet food or treats for the month, try a meat-free brand instead of that ‘ancestral’ diet with the hungry wolf on the packet. When your best friend is trim, fit and living a long healthy life, you won’t regret it – and if he or she could, I’m pretty sure your dog would thank you for it too!