Is Your Dog Overweight? Here’s How to Walk Your Dog for Weight Loss

I’m embarrassed to say that our collie mix, Jason, is overweight. The pounds crept on as I accepted more freelance and volunteer work leaving less time for daily dog walks.

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day is Oct 11 and we are determined to get Jason back into shape. When it comes to dealing with pet weight issues our family has plenty of company. In fact, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 53.9 percent of dogs are overweight or obese and a majority of their owners are blind to the issue.

“Obesity continues to be the greatest health threat to dogs and cats,” said APOP Founder and Veterinarian Ernie Ward. “Obesity is a disease that kills millions of pets prematurely, creates immeasurable pain and suffering and costs pet owners tens of millions of dollars in avoidable medical costs.”

Among all diseases that affect pets, obesity has the greatest negative impact according to APOP. Osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint injury, various forms of cancer and decreased life expectancy are all linked to obesity in pets. There are many things that families can do to help a dog get back into shape. For some pets, feeding a special diet or substituting vegetables for commercial treats can help. Any new play or exercise routine should be introduced gradually with owners watching for signs of fatigue or injury. The APOP website offers a chart on the daily caloric needs of dogs that can be paired with an exercise program to help your dog safely lose weight.

JasongettingcarrotIn addition to walking for weight loss Jason is getting carrots instead of commercial dog treats.  

How to Walk Your Dog For Weight Loss

It’s important to have a conversation with your veterinarian before beginning any weight loss program with your dog writes Ward in his article “Walking the Dog: Tips for Getting the Most Out of Exercising Your Pooch” published on the APOP website.

In his article Ward writes:

“When you combine exercise with proper diet and lifestyle, you extend the years you’ll have your four-legged friend around to hug and love and snuggle with at night. Walk with your dog every day and you’ll enhance an already deep spiritual bond with the knowledge that you’re doing both of you a world of good.”

Following are Ward’s tips for helping your dog lose weight by walking:

Get the right equipment

A head halter or walking harness is the safest choice for any walking routine. Look for wide, soft and padded straps and breathable materials. Steer clear of collars as they can compress the trachea when pulled causing difficulty breathing or even injury. Choke-collars are especially dangerous.

Four-foot leashes are ideal as they allow you to keep your dog close so you can maintain a steady pace. Longer leashes can be saved for casual strolls around the neighborhood. Protective booties may be required for winter romps. Don’t forget to bring along water if it’s warm (above 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit for most dogs) or if you’ll be walking for longer than thirty minutes.

Set the right pace

Walking for weight loss is very different than walking for pleasure. Make your objective to walk briskly and focused at the outset. If you start out slowly allowing the dog to sniff and smell everything, it can be challenging getting him/her up to speed for the rest of the walk. You can allow your dog some sniffing time on the return home. If you have an older pet or if your dog has an injury or medical condition, a short five-minute warm-up is a good idea.

Keep the leash within two to three feet of your body and set off at a pace you feel comfortable sustaining. This should be about a fifteen minute per mile pace for most small dogs. It should feel like a brisk walk and you should break into a light sweat. The key is to keep it up! Don’t stop. Don’t look down at your dog when they inevitably want to stop and smell something or mark a hydrant. Continue staring straight ahead, tighten the leash (don’t jerk) and give a command such as “Come” or “Here.”

womanwalkingdog

Set time goals

For most overweight or obese dogs that have normal heart and lung function and normal blood pressure and no other pre-existing medical conditions, start with thirty-minute walks a minimum of five times per week. If possible, walk 30 minutes a day seven days a week.

Following is a sample exercise schedule:

  • Week 1: 30 minutes total – 10 minutes brisk walk followed by 20 minutes at a casual pace
  • Week 2: 30 minutes total – 15 minutes brisk walk followed by 15 minutes at a casual pace
  • Week 3: 30 minutes total – 20 minutes brisk walk followed by 10 minutes at a casual pace
  • Week 4: 35-40 minutes total – 30 minutes brisk walk followed by 5-10 minutes at a casual pace
  • Week 5 plus: 35-60 minutes total. The goal should be to do two 20-30 minute walks per day with 15 to 25 minutes at a brisk pace followed by a 5-minute casual walk.

Monthly weight checks

Until your dog reaches his/her ideal weight have your vet do monthly weigh-ins. In addition, have a technician inspect the pads for any injuries or problems and to ensure that the nails are short and healthy. Once your dog reaches the desired weight, he/she should be re-weighed every three months to ensure a healthy weight is being maintained.

Related:
6 Health Benefits of Having Pets
Health Benefits of Pumpkin for Dogs
10 Warning Signs of Diabetes in Dogs and Cats

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

39 comments

Glennis W
Glennis W1 hours ago

Very informative Walking helps both animal and human Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W1 hours ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W1 hours ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing

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Mia G
Mia G18 hours ago

Thank you

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s2 days ago

Thank you

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Janis K
Janis K2 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Maureen G
Maureen G4 days ago

As a child, many decades ago, I was given a dog so I would take him for a walk around the block a couple of times as part of a regime to improve my health.....that was in the times when walking around the block by oneself for exercise wasn't fashionable. It worked... improved my lung capacity greatly. Quite often walking the dog is good for the human too.

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE4 days ago

My dogs are not overweight, but thank you

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One Heart inc
One Heart inc5 days ago

Thanks!!!!

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Marc P
Marc P5 days ago

thank you for sharing

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