It’s been three months or so since I adopted Hen, my working cocker spaniel. I originally fostered him before falling in love with his sassy personality and decided to keep him forever. When he arrived, Hen was a little chubby around the waist. In fact, I had to use a large harness designed for springer spaniels when he first arrived, as it was a squeeze to get his one on!
Since adopting Hen, I’ve been working on helping him lose some of those excess pounds. Obesity in dogs is on the rise in the UK with an estimated 35% of pets being classed as overweight. It’s been a learning curve for both Hen and I but I’m delighted to say he’s back to a healthy weight for his age and breed. I thought I’d share some of the tactics we’ve been using to help your dog lose weight.
Consult Your Vet
First and foremost, it’s important to visit your vet if you’re concerned about your dog’s weight. They’ll be able to rule out any underlying health conditions, as well as recommend a healthy weight you and your dog should aim for. I took Hen for a health check as soon as he arrived and chatting in depth with the vet about his weight. I was advised he should lose around 1kg in weight and was given some advice on how to do this in a healthy, maintainable way.
Your vet may also stock products to aid weight loss. Quite often practices sell specialist ‘diet’ pet and dog food for their patients. It’s well worth discussing the options available to you during your appointment, as well as finding out any symptoms to look out for that may indicate an underlying condition.
Check Their Diet
I adopted Hen from Spaniel Aid when he was 4. I don’t know too much about his past, as is the nature with adopted/rescue dogs. However I did know that the majority of Hen’s obesity was due to a poor diet in his previous home. He’d been fed human food in addition to dog food on a regular basis. In fact, he often refused dog food altogether, in favour of tasty snacks that were by no means nutritionally appropriate. The first thing I did was to cut out the human food. He’s been fed dry kibble ever since he arrived and has learnt that this is the only option at meal times.
The dog food industry can be a minefield, with all sorts of raw, kibble, cold pressed and complete meal options to choose from. Asking local pet shops for their recommendations, as well as friends and family who also own dogs is a great place to start. It may take a while to find the right choice for your dog but it’s well worth doing your research. Remember to stick to recommended portion sizes, as per the food label. Overfeeding is a leading cause of obesity in dogs. If you’re helping your dog lose weight, you’ll need to pay particular attention to the portions you’re feeding them.
Lack of exercise is another contributing factor to dog obesity. A recent study by Forthglade found that less than half of UK dog owners walk their dogs every day. Shockingly the average weekday walk for a dog was less than 20 minutes long. If your dog is struggling to lose weight, be sure to check their daily exercise schedule to ensure they’re getting enough.
As well as the length of exercise, it’s worth looking at how you can vary your dog’s activities too. Just like in humans, different activities work different muscles in the body. If your dog is used to walking in the woods, why not switch things up every so often and encourage them to swim at the beach? It’s important to let your dog adventure off lead too, as they’ll cover more ground and burn more calories while you’re walking.
Choose a holiday destination where dogs can roam free on the beach and you can take long walks in the coast and countryside. Choose your dog friendly holiday acommodation in sepctacular destinations around the UK, such as dog friendly cottages in Devon or holiday homes that take dogs in Northumberland.
Healthy weight loss won’t happen overnight. The change is gradual and you may not always see it. I didn’t fully realise just how much weight Hen had lost until I did these side-by-side comparisons for this post! As you can see from the photographs, it’s safe to say Hen is a much healthier weight now, which stands him in good stead going forward. It could take weeks, months or even years to help your dog lose weight. It’s important to be patient in order to lose weight in a healthy, safe manner, rather than all at once. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to helping your dog lose weight.
I’m keen to enable him to live his active, healthy lifestyle and will continue to monitor his weight and activity levels over time. Owning a dog is such a bit commitment and it’s only fair we as owners set them up for a long and happy life.
Have you helped your dog lose weight? What are your top tips for helping them live a healthy, active lifestyle?