So the weather has suddenly reminded us that summer is coming and the media loves to tell us how we want to get our bodies ready for summer…. but what about our dogs?

Obesity is in the news constantly, due to it being linked to so many illnesses and it’s the same with dogs. It can lead to arthritis, diabetes, kidney and heart disease, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer. I understand how difficult it can be to keep weight off your dogs, our Lily puts on weight just looking at food! It is something we are constantly battling against but it is so important! So lets get our dogs their summer bodies… and maybe they can keep them over the winter too!

Here are just a few tips to help your dog get that summer body!

Tip 1 – Feed Less – Weigh the food and the dog!

Have you ever weighed the food you put in your bowl? We didn’t, in fact we only really did recently to work out whether we were feeding over or under the recommended amount. We found interestingly that both boys were on nearly double the recommendations where as Lily was about half! Does this mean we still weigh their food out? Well, no we don’t. We have a cup that goes in our ‘food bin’ and we have lines that show us where each dogs food should reach based on what we believe the dogs should be eating. Lily eats Millies Wolfheart and the boys eat that with some added raw food to top it up. The boys both have a very high metabolism and until recently Dill was still filling out, Mozi is still growing so they need that extra. Lily however stopped growing a long time ago, then she got spayed and well keeping the weight off her is hard work, where as we have the opposite issue with the boys!

So knowing exactly how much food she should have to stay at her ideal weight is useful! If however she does put on some weight, we reduce it some more. If she looks like she is too skinny then we up it. No we don’t always weigh her food but we do alter it all the time depending on whether she needs to loose some. Don’t be afraid about cutting their food, yes they will be hungry to start with but they will get used to it.

Tip 2 – Bowls

Have you ever tried to diet? Do you find that sometimes the plate just looks really empty and so you want to put some more on it? Well we have the same issues when feeding out pets. A small amount of food in a large bowl looks like we are feeding nothing.

These are a range of our bowls (we have more!). The two silver ones at the front tend to be used for Lily, especially the smaller of the two. We only use these for when we are in a rush or feeding her something different or if she needs medication. Most of the time she eats out of one of the slow feeding bowls, or a snuffle mat, or I might just go throw her kibble on the grass in the garden for her to go find. By doing this and not putting it a large bowl, it looks like I am feeding her more, it takes her longer to eat it and it extends her meal times. If I only ever fed her out of one of the normal bowls her food would be gone in seconds and she would then be scrounging for food. Getting her to work for her food makes the experience longer and more enjoyable for her, she can then go clean out the boys bowls afterwards.

Tip 3 – Treats

Treats are very much a part of our daily life. We take them on most walks because with our dogs and their strong hunting instinct I like to have a way of rewarding them for coming back to me. Mozi is also still ‘in training’ and so I need to have them on me to reward when necessary. The boys we can give treats to and it not matter so much, Lily it does. So the treats we use are usually tailored towards what the boys like the taste of but what is also nutritious. One of my favourite ‘bought’ treats is Platinum. It is a semi moist kibble food, that they can be fed as their main meal, but it is smelly and high value and the dogs love it. Neither of the boys can eat it as a diet because it is too rich for them but they love it for treats.

What we try to avoid and when I say we I mean I… is feeding them ‘our’ food. I like to give them the odd treat after dinner and save them bits but I have got better and I give them much less. Now they only get treats if we treat ourselves to fish and chips as they do love chips! Luckily that is quite rare! But if you do want to give your dogs lots of treats then please reduce how much you then feed them during their meals. They don’t need lots of treats during the day and then their full meals! If you find you are reducing their meals too much then look at the treats you are giving them and maybe reduce it!

Tip 4 – Daily Exercise

Dogs are amazingly efficient at exercise. They are built to be active and just upping their exercise alone will not be enough to help them loose weight. A mix of of upping exercise and cutting food will help loads!

So how do you up it? Well that depends a lot on your dog. If your dog is severely overweight then you need to talk to your vet about how the best way to go about it is. In a lot of cases short walks will be a good start, if the dog is walked once a day then walk them twice a day. Obviously when upping exercise there are a few things to pay attention to, the silly temperatures we are having at the moment being one! Don’t just make a half hour walk an hour walk and don’t try to up exercise by just throwing a ball lots for the dog. Walking, running, sniffing makes walking much more interesting for them!

Tip 5 – Swimming

So I suppose this could be paired with Tip 4 but I felt it needed it’s own tip! Swimming is a great way for dogs to loose weight. It is a non weight bearing exercise so that any dog can do it, even if they have reached the point where they may also have arthritis or other joint issues. We are lucky in Lincolnshire that there are a number of very good hydrotherapy centres. Hydrotherapy is much better for your dog then taking them to the local lake for a swim. The hydrotherapists will swim your dog, using the water to create a resistance that makes it harder work for the dog in the water. They can also create more resistance by putting load on the harness, so the dog has to pull a little more.

These are three hydrotherapy centres we have been to:

Hotshots Hydro – They are based in Lincoln, easily accessible as it is just off the A46. They have a pool with ramps into it. The owner owns a number of dogs and competes in dog sports – so keeping dogs fit and in shape is very important to them!

Millhaven Canine Rehabilitation – They are based near Gainsborough and it is where we currently take our three. They have a a good sized pool and a treadmill, which gives a range of different techniques to work your dog. We went to them because of the treadmill. They are very professional and we can vouch that they will work your dogs to their ability and push them further.

Dip Your Paws – They are in Welbourn, very easy to find. Lovely centre that has personal experience with dogs that have joint disorders and so they know well how to look after your dog.

We strongly suggest looking into hydrotherapy as a way to assist your dog loosing weight. You will need a vet referral form signed but most vets advocate hydro and usually won’t have an issue signing the form for you.

Once you have that summer body….

Don’t loose it! A good fit dog should have a visible waist (you can usually also see the last two ribs) and you should be able to feel all the ribs when you stroke them. Obviously dogs with a lot of hair or a curly coat it can be difficult to obviously see what their body shape is but you can feel and if you still aren’t sure a wet dog will flatted all their coat so you can see their body shape.

It is so important to keep dogs in good shape – it will also reduce future vet bills 😉

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