The holidays are a tough time to keep off weight. Even for your dog, the holiday season usually means more goodies, better “human” snacks, and less time spent outdoors. There’s a reason Santa is described as “fat and jolly.” Your dog may look jolly, but excess weight isn’t doing him any favors. In fact, excess weight is more than just unhealthy...it’s uncomfortable. More than 50% of all cats and dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, and nearly 90% of pet owners say they’re not sure how to tell. Helping your dog maintain a trim, healthy weight year-round is one of the absolute best things you can do for his overall quality of life. Here’s what you can do now to help your dog keep off the holiday weight.
Count Those Calories
Just like in humans, dogs need a specific level of calories each day to maintain a healthy weight. Any more than that without an increase in physical activity can lead to weight gain. Lots of pet owners inadvertently feed their dogs too many calories during certain periods, most notably during the transition from puppy to adult food and also during the holiday season. Remember to moderate your dog’s diet like you would moderate your own to accommodate for extra-rich holiday food. A full-fat steak is great every once in a while but should be balanced out with less food or less calorie-dense food earlier in the day. Which holiday foods will make your dog pack on the pounds?
- Baked goods, especially those made with butter
- Rich, fatty meats
- Casseroles and other cream- or cheese-based foods
Get Up and Exercise
It’s hard to exercise over the holidays. Family is in town, the weather is dreary, and with extra time off work, you just want to sleep! More physical activity is always a good thing for your dog, regardless of the season. (And, pro tip: Dogs don’t know or care when it’s “the holidays!”) It’s easier than you think to help your dog burn a few calories over the festive season. Here are a couple of easy-to-achieve ideas: Go for a walk around the neighborhood after eating a particularly filling meal. You can even make it a tour of lights! Encourage guests or family members to play with your dog while you’re visiting. Take your chat outside and toss a ball back and forth for Fido while you catch up. Make a long morning walk part of you and your dog’s routine. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle-and-bustle of the festivities; a little quiet time does everyone good. For your dog, the holiday season isn’t all that different than any other time of year. He’ll look to you for clues on what to eat, how much to move, and when to beg for scraps. Consistency is key, so don’t be tempted to dole out “human food” just because it’s the holidays! Has your dog been gaining weight and you can’t figure out why? If there’s not an obvious answer to his weight gain, you may want to speak to a veterinarian about medical causes of increased weight. Hypothyroidism, fluid retention, and even parasites can lead to weight gain in dogs.