You owe it to your dog to ensure he lives a long and healthy life—and the right dog diet is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle.
By Guest Blogger, Mark Webster
If you’re like most dog owners, your furry friend is your most reliable source of love and companionship. For all that your dog does for you, you owe it to him to ensure he lives a long and healthy life—and the right dog diet is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle.
In this article, we’re going to go over some essential tips to set your dog on a healthy diet properly. Let’s get started!
Your vet is the best resource for pet health, so any pet owner concerned about nutrition should first visit their vet. They can advise how much to feed your dog, how often, and which dog food brands to choose from. Your vet can also act as your accountability party to ensure well-balanced nutrition for your pup.
They’re also a vital resource if you want to help your dog lose weight. Vets can rule out underlying medical issues, such as thyroid conditions, that may be to blame if your dog is packing on the pounds. Once your dog receives a clean bill of health, your vet will help you formulate a weight-loss plan with a target weight range and timeframe.
Additionally, many clinics offer weight loss programs for canines that include weigh-ins and specific instructions about feeding your dog.
Determine How Much Your Dog Currently Eats
One thing your vet will likely ask you to do is determine how much your dog is eating. Weigh the total daily amount of food to get a ballpark of your dog’s current calorie intake, which you’ll need to ensure she’s getting the right amount.
Adjust the Amount If Necessary
After you figure out how much your dog is currently eating, it’s likely time to make some tweaks. You may find that the amount is above or below your furry friend’s daily recommended intake. Check the food’s label for the feeding guide, but consider that several factors can influence how much you feed your dog. Age, weight, and projected growth (for puppies) are the three most critical aspects.
If you’re still unsure how much to feed your puppy, consult with your vet. Plenty of pet owners serve dog food without much regard to portion control, so be diligent about giving them the proper serving sizes. Use an actual measuring cup (not just a cup from your cabinet) to measure the food.
If your dog needs to cut back, start by reducing the daily amount by only five to ten percent less than what you regularly give them.
Do you leave your dog’s food out all day? This unlimited access to food, otherwise known as free eating, is the primary cause of overeating. Plenty of dogs cannot self-regulate, eating out of boredom or beyond satiety. Think of it this way: wouldn’t you be tempted to eat with a buffet always available?
Instead, most vets recommend establishing strict mealtimes for your pet. Whether they eat two or three times per day, leave their bowl out for a specific period, and then remove the food. Fifteen to thirty minutes is an ideal place to start.
Add Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Dogs aren’t so different from humans that they can benefit from fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet. Fruit and veggies are chock full of fiber, which helps your pup feel fuller longer. They also aid in digestion and encourage better pooping—a win-win for everyone.
The best part? You can give your dog lots of things, such as:
- Pears (make sure to remove the pit and stones!)
- Green beans
However, not all fruits and vegetables are dog safe. Here are some that are forbidden:
To avoid unwanted vet visits, always check to make sure the food is safe for your dog.
We get it—those sweet little faces are impossible to resist. But passing them treats whenever you feel like it can be more harmful than helpful. It’s hard to gauge how many calories you’re giving your dog, and trust us—they add up quickly.
Avoid Table Scraps
It may be hard to recognize, but the truth is that those table scraps you slip your dog are probably doing more harm than good. Human food is not nutritionally balanced for dogs, and too much can lead to nutritional deficiencies or too much of a nutrient. Perhaps most importantly, not all human food is safe for pets—some foods are even deadly.
Feeding your dog table scraps also creates bad behaviors, like begging at the table (which no one wants). Because of all these critical reasons, it’s best to try and stop this habit.
Make Your Dog Work for Food
Dogs like a challenge, and making them work for their food has lots of benefits. It’s an excellent way to keep destructive or high-energy breeds occupied, and it offers the mental challenge many dogs need. Making them work for their food can also help with indigestion, as it’s nearly impossible to eat too fast or overeat.
Plus, the options are endless. Puzzles and activity feeders like the Kong are the most popular. You can get creative with some yummy Kong stuffing recipes your dog will love.
Adapt to the Seasons
Like humans, canine activity levels and ebb and flow throughout the year. If you and your furry friend are stuck inside during the winter, you’re both probably exercising less, which means you probably need to adjust their meals accordingly.
Weigh Your Dog
A critical part of ensuring your pup’s health is by weighing them frequently—especially smaller breeds. If your small dog goes from 10 to 12 pounds, that’s a significant gain. It would be roughly the equivalent of a human gaining twenty pounds and something you need to address.
You can weigh many small to medium-sized breeds using a simple household scale. Otherwise, frequent vet visits are the best way to control your dog’s weight. And remember: if your pup has a few extra pounds to shed, slow and steady is the name of the game. Don’t expect significant losses after just a few days of dieting.
Finally, we would be remiss not to mention exercise. Most dogs can benefit from training, and getting active with your furry friend is good for your waistline, too! As is the case with humans, diet and exercise are the cornerstones of any healthy dog life.
Inactive pups should get the all-clear from your vet before starting a regimen. You don’t want the exercise to aggravate any underlying conditions. Once you’re cleared, it’s best to start little by little, with short, frequent walks. You can gradually progress to more intense movement as your dog gains endurance.
Some owners choose to engage in agility training once their dog is fit. Agility training keeps your pup entertained and their weight under control. Plus, it offers precious bonding time with their favorite person (you!) since you have to work with them. Just be sure to monitor your dog for any signs of discomfort, like heavy breathing, limping, or pain.
Get Your Dog on a Healthy Diet Today!
Remember, before making any drastic changes to your dog’s eating schedule, consult your veterinarian. Find a plan that works for your pup, and don’t forget to pair the new dog diet with plenty of exercise!