By Margaret Bonham
Do you have a pudgy puppy? Many dogs, like their owners, could stand to shed a few pounds. That extra weight isn't healthy and can lead to serious health problems. And some canines are simply couch potatoes -- which is never what nature intended for our dogs. But how do you trim down and fire up your pudgy pooch?
- Visit your veterinarian for advice. Some obesity stems from medical conditions such as hypothyroid. Have your vet check for health problems. If your dog is simply exploiting your heavy-handed feeding practices, your veterinarian can recommend a prescription dog food that will help shed those unwanted pounds, or recommend sensible proportions.
- Cut out snacks. That includes the pizza and dinner scraps you've been sneaking under the table.
- Have your veterinarian clear your dog for exercise. Start slow -- a daily walk around the block or a short game of fetch -- but do this every day and gradually build up to longer and more strenuous activity. Easy and fun exercises include fetching a ball or Frisbee, creating a small obstacle course and having your dog negotiate it, or short, brisk walks. Remember to start slow and keep cool, especially in hot weather. As your dog becomes more fit, increase his activity. Bicycle with your dog (provided your dog is well-trained to run beside your bike) using a Springer or similar device designed to safely tether your dog to the bike.
- Participate in a dog sport or activity. In my book, The Simple Guide to Getting Active with Your Dog (TFH, 2002), I discuss activities and dog sports for your pet. Backpacking with your dog (even in urban areas), agility, flyball, Frisbee, and skijoring are all activities open to all dogs.
- Warm up and cool down your dog. Warming up can include a slow walk before beginning an activity or a slow stretch, where you gently move your dog's legs through a full range of motion. Doing this before an after exercise will help keep your pooch limber and fit. So will bringing along extra water so your dog does not become dehydrated.
Margaret Bonham an award-winning writer and pet expert, has written several books on dogs, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pet Health and Nutrition and A Dog's Wisdom.