Is your Husky a little husky? Is your Pom shaped like a pom-pom?
Just like humans, approximately 45% of dogs over 5-years old are overweight. If you can’t see your dog’s waistline or feel their ribs, it may be time to consider a healthier diet for your dog. Since the most popular New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight, it may be the perfect time to include your dog in that resolution.
I foster with OC Pom Rescue and have fostered a few ‘overly-loved’ (the nice word for overweight) dogs. With every dog I foster, my goal is to get them prepared to live their best lives with their adoptive family. This includes everything from basic manners, potty training, walking on a leash, to getting to a healthy weight.
While there are numerous ways to improve a dog’s diet, let’s face it…most of us are busy and need this process to be easy. So, let’s look at some easy changes (I call them busy-life hacks) you can make to your dog’s diet.
Check with the Vet: First, talk to your vet about their weight. Knowing what their start weight versus ideal weight should be is important information to have. Your vet may also find an underlying condition that needs to be treated.
Get real about portions: Check out the amount of food they are supposed to eat for their size and, rather than simply filling up the bowl or free feeding, measure their food.
Consider their hunger: If you feel like your dog is uncomfortable, feeling deprived, or hungry there are a few things you can do to help.
·Change their food: Slowly transition to a lower-calorie, low-fat food so they can eat more food while staying in their calorie range. If you don’t know where to start with low-calorie kibble or canned food, this list may help. Not into kibble? Consider making a do-it-yourself low-calorie dog food or having this freshly-made low-calorie food delivered.
o Busy-life hack: First, I like having my food delivered on a schedule to avoid last-minute scrambles to the pet store when I realize I’m running low. Next, while I rely mostly on a high-quality kibble, adding a little of this pantry fresh option from Just Food for Dogs encourages dogs to eat their low-calorie kibble.
·Expand their food: Add warm water to their food and let it soak for a bit before serving it. The extra water creates a little gravy which makes low calorie food more appealing. The water also helps fill their stomachs up when they eat.
·Expand their eating time: Just like humans, dogs need time to feel full. When they gobble up their food, they may still feel hungry.
o Try sprinkling their food in a Snuffle Mat so dogs can search for their food and eat it at a slower pace – just like their ancestors once did.
o If you have a less curious dog who doesn’t want to sniff for their food, you can try using a Slow Feeder at mealtime.
o Divide the daily food portion into multiple meals during the day so they feel satisfied throughout the day. This can also help them understand that food is not scarce, they don’t have to beg for it, and they can trust you regularly feed them. This trick works well with my fosters who have experienced a life of food insecurity (dogs who have been neglected, have been used for breeding, etc.).
Rethink their treats: While not all fruits and vegetables are safe for dogs, there are some great low-calorie options you can use to replace their high-calorie treats. Here are my favorite low-calorie treats:
·Green beans: They are not only full of fiber which helps your dog feel full, protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins B6, A, C, and K.
o Busy-life hack: I like buying a bag of frozen green beans and use them as training rewards and to keep them full between meals. You can also add them to their meals when you start cutting back on the amount of food the receive.
·Baby carrots: These are full of fiber, vitamin A, and potassium. Dogs enjoy the chewing process too.
o Busy-life hack: I like to buy a bag of frozen, sliced carrots or baby carrots. To avoid choking, I chop baby carrots into bite-size chunks, and throw them in a storage container so they are easy to grab.
o Pill pocket swap: With my overweight foster on thyroid medication, I swapped out his higher-calorie pill pockets for pumpkin puree. I simply tuck his pills into a teaspoon of pumpkin puree and place it on top of his food. He gobbles this delicious treat up so quickly he has no idea that he also ate two small pills.
o Busy-life hack: You can find cans of pure pumpkin puree (not pie filling) in the baking section of your grocery store. For my two dogs and a foster, I use about one can a week. I like to stock up around the holidays when it is abundant and often on sale.
Even if you don’t currently have an overweight dog, you can use some of these ideas to add vitamins and minerals to your dog’s diet while keeping your dog at a healthy weight. If you fall into the category of having an ‘overly-loved’ dog, make the resolution to incorporate these small changes into your dog’s diet. If you’re like me, you want your dog to live their very best, very long life!