Every year, we see news stories filled with statistics that reveal that obesity is on the rise. In fact, in many western countries over a third of dogs are overweight.
Last year vet and genetics researcher Dr Eleanor Raffan embarked on a research project to discover what role a dog’s genes play in obesity and she discovered that in some cases genes are a factor, but only with certain dog breeds.
Alongside her research team, she concentrated her research on the Labrador – often thought of as one of the greediest dog breeds.
After screening and monitoring 300 Labradors, they discovered that a quarter of the dogs carried the same gene (called the POMC gene), and it’s this gene that is thought to be the cause of the breed’s desire to overeat because it controls how the brain recognises hunger and the feeling of being full after eating.
Speaking to the BBC she said, "Although obesity is the consequence of eating more than you need and more than you burn off in exercise, actually there's some real hard-wired biology behind our drive to eat.”
Researchers carried out similar screening between Labradors and Flat-Coated Retrievers where dogs with the same gene were found to be overweight by around 2kg. They found no such similarities when comparing the Labrador with other breeds, such as the Shih Tzu and Great Dane.
So, how can you help your dog lose weight?
Well, breed genetics aside – make sure the calories your dog consumes is less than what they burn. Sound easy, doesn’t it?
As we all know, losing weight isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds so we’ve put together some tips to help your dog lose weight and have fun at the same time.
Changes to your dog’s diet will help them to lose weight
If your dog needs to lose weight you should begin by speaking with your vet to decide on what your dog’s target weight should be. This should be based on their age, health and breed.
Once you know what your dog’s target weight is, you can begin by making changes to your dog’s diet to reduce their calorie intake and the first step is to find the right food for your dog.
Your vet might have recommended a diet but you can also do your own research by reading reviews and making sure you’re happy with the ingredients, price point and quality.
Begin by searching for weight loss foods – also known as a diet dog food – although not all light dog foods are weight loss foods, some are designed to help dogs maintain their weight so look for a low fat dog food, or similar.
This is because good quality foods will be low in fat to reduce calorie intake as well as being high in protein to support your dog’s muscles as they lose weight. They will also include vitamins such as Omega 3 fatty acids for added health benefits while your dog is losing weight.
While changing your dog’s food, you should also look to change their dog treats too – all calories count, don’t they.
Swap high calorie treats for those low in fat and made from 100% natural ingredients, and mix with vegetables, such as chopped up carrots and apples and even frozen broccoli, which is packed full of natural goodness.
Could technology help your dog to lose weight?
Digital pet feeders let you set a digital timer so you control when food is accessible to your dog.
This may be particularly helpful if you want to encourage your dog to eat what you put down at certain meal times, rather than allowing them to have access to food constantly.
Why not read some reviews and see if they might be right for your dog? Pricing varies from £30-50 (and upwards).
Shake up your dog’s exercise routine for weight loss success
Hollyoaks actress and personal trainer Sarah Jayne Dunn recently shared her top fitness tips in K9 Magazine telling us, “just 30 minutes of brisk walking a day can vastly improve both your own and your dog’s health both physically and mentally.”
If you (or your dog) have become bored of your usual walk she says, “Choose more challenging walking routes. Don’t let your walk become routine, this can easily get boring and it can be hard to motivate yourself to get outside if you know just what to expect. Look on your local community website and find some interesting walks, these will challenge both the body and mind.”
Another tip she shared with us is designed to make exercise time more fun.
“A great way to incorporate exercise into a fun game with your dog is to find a safe area of green to play in and take your dog’s favourite toy. Whether it be a ball, frisbee or some other type of toy, throw your pet’s chosen play thing and as your dog runs after it, so do you!
“Try to beat your dog to the toy, retrieve it, throw it again and run again! This is called interval training, short bursts of high-intensity exercise, great for increasing your fitness levels and awesome for burning fat, win-win!”
Once you begin to shake up your dog’s regime, most will lose the weight they need to within 6-8 months.
If you have any concerns along the way, speak with your vet to get the right advice and make sure your dog’s health in on the right track.