The biggest loser, doggy style

Pet obesity is one of the biggest health threats to pets in the United States. Of the 77.5 million pet dogs in the United States, an estimated 54 percent of us are overweight or obese, according to a 2010 study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. I was one of those portly pooches but lost weight. Your dog can too.

Even a couple of extra pounds on a dog can be significant. According to Dr. Ernie Ward, the lead researcher on the study, a 90-pound female Labrador retriever is equivalent to a 186-pound 5 foot, 4 inch female and a 12-pound Yorkshire terrier is similar to 223 pounds on the same woman. I weighed over eight pounds before my vet ordered me to lose two pounds. My girth made it difficult for me to walk up hills, was hard on my spindly legs and put me at risk for a multitude of health problems, including kidney disease, various forms of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, hyperthyroidism and heart and respiratory disease.

Your furry friend is overweight if it’s difficult to feel his ribs under the fat, if he has a sagging stomach, and if he doesn’t have a waist. Rather than buy an expensive doggie treadmill, it’s more economical to switch to reduced calorie dog food, cut back on the treats, and increase your pooch’s aerobic activity. Walk your dog 30 minutes a day but instead of allowing Fido to stop and sniff every time he wants, walk at a fast pace for a portion of that time. This benefits the dog walker as well.

Treats are often full of sugar and fat and are the main culprit for obesity in canines. Make sure they don’t account for more than five percent of your little pal’s caloric intake. Have the vet gives a paws up before your four-legged friend begins a weight loss exercise program.

– Trevor the dog