We humans aren’t the only ones packing on the pounds during quarantine. Our four-legged companions are also hitting that “COVID 15”. Changes to their regular exercise schedule and more treats available from attentive dog parents is resulting in overweight dogs. A new survey conducted for Banfield Hospital revealed that “33 percent of owners say their pet has gained weight during quarantine”.
Being home full time with our pets has resulted in pet owners giving extra love and affection. Banfield veterinarian Dr. Heidi Cooley says, “With owners spending increased time with their cats and dogs during quarantine, they may be showing affection with food more often…”
While fat dogs are often times regarded as “cute” and praised for their jelly rolls on social media, the health side effects of excessive weight gain for dogs are dangerous. Things such as ligament damage, diabetes, difficulty breathing, heart disease and increased blood pressure are common in overweight dogs and pounds will shave years off your dog’s life.
So how can we help our pups get back to their healthy bods and lifestyle?
Ditch High Fat Treats
While everyone is at home with their dogs, a trip to the kitchen for a snack often turns into a snack for two. While giving your dog a treat is a great way to show them affection, choosing what kind of treats to use is very important. Next time you’re in the market for treats, skip the high protein “jerky” and organ meat snacks. Empty calorie cookies are also no good. Instead, choose a low calorie training treat. We recommend Zuke’s Minis, Crazy Dog Train-Me!, Fruitables Skinny Minis, and Cloud Star Tricky Trainers. They are smaller in size and often only 3 calories per treat. Your dog doesn’t understand size just quantity. Offering them a small low calorie treat instead of a large cookie or piece of Jerky is still a treat!
You can also try using healthy pet friendly alternative as treats. Try this quick list of yummy people treats that your dog can also enjoy! Healthy snacks for you and your bestie:
- Baby Carrots
- Apple slices
- Sweet Potato
- Green beans
- Kiwi Fruit
You can also make them refreshing summer treats that are healthy and delicious. Loaded with a variety of nutrients, these DIY “pupsicles” are fun to make and they are the perfect treat to give your dog to help them cool off during the hot summer.
Use their Food To Train
With lots of new puppies and dogs joining families, training is picking up! Opt for using your dog’s food for training at home. Inside your house is a pretty low distraction environment, high grade treats are not necessary. Your dog’s food is one of the most accessible assets in your home. It is also the thing you spend the most on. Use that to your advantage and get your dog on a training routine using their food as treats.
Keep a Feeding Schedule
It can be hard to get a schedule going, and having us around all the time is getting confusing for our dogs. They may not be eating during their normal meal times. If you’re working from home, creating designated meal times might feel impossible especially with a picky eater in the house. Free feeding is the quickest way for dogs to gain weight as there is no real measure for how much your dog is consuming per day. Free feeding also creates picky eaters and can have you making meals more and more enticing with toppers, canned food, cheese and more. These ghi fat toppers contribute to overweight dogs under normal circumstances. Help your dog get on a healthy feeding schedule with these quick tips:
1. Serve a meal at breakfast time around the same time everyday
2. Give your dog 15-20 minutes to eat their food
3. Whatever they don’t eat in the time gets picked up and put away
4. Don’t try again until the next meal time
Not to worry! Your dog won’t starve. They may skip a meal or two but eventually they will eat what you serve them.
Even though we’re all home with our best four-legged friends, it doesn’t mean they aren’t bored. Did your dog attend daycare? Have a dog walker? Keeping routines like these in place can help your dog stay active and healthy. While you might not need daycare services right now, your dog does. Keeping a routine of socialization and exercise is important for your dog. Next time you’re doing your living room virtual dance party workout remember your dog can’t connect to the world digitally. They need to maintain healthy social relationships to avoid boredom and weight gain due to overall inactivity and complacency.
We know you love their companionship, and they love yours! Just remember, your dog needs stimulation, variety and socialization as a healthy part of their mind and body. If you are giving more treats, avoid overweight dogs by getting them more exercise. Cut back on their daily feeding regime to account for the extra treats. Sign them up for a hike, beach trip or swim lesson! Start slow, especially if your dog is out of shape.
Start with a low impact activity once per week, like daycare or swimming. Then work them up to more intensive activities like hikes and beach excursions. Already hiking your dog? Great! Be sure to get their healthy socialization in and help them spend a little time away from you to relearn healthy separation and self soothing habits.