How to Lose Weight and Keep Your Dog Healthy by Walking
Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Can You Really Lose Weight by Walking Your Dog?
Of course you can! You probably already know that it can benefit you both, and now it has been proven. A study at the University of Missouri showed that walking your dog was actually more effective for weight loss than having a membership in a gym or joining a diet plan.
If you weigh about 150 pounds and try to walk briskly, you can burn up to 135 calories for every 30 minutes you walk. You might burn less (based on your weight and the speed at which you walk), but the point is the same. The more you walk, the more you will burn.
Do I Have to Spend a Lot of Time Walking the Dog?
Participants in the Missouri study only walked the dogs 20 minutes at a time, five days a week. This is totally inadequate for most dogs. They really need to be walked every single day, at least a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon. The weight loss benefits would obviously be better if you walked your dogs more often and more consistently.
However, if you own a Pug, Shih Tzu, or Bulldog then this is not true. They cannot walk as far nor as long as the breeds with normal anatomy. If your dog looks up at you and asks to go for more, you will lose more weight.
How Much Weight Can I Lose by Walking My Dog?
The Missouri participants lost an average of 14 pounds over the year they walked. This is not a fad diet plan or a miracle weight loss product, but all dog owners can do that well or better. The most important thing to remember is consistency.
If you walk your dog twice a day, your body will get into the routine of burning calories. Your dog will come to you for that walk every morning and every evening, and it can become an essential part of your life. If you want to lose more you can add ankle weights, hike on trails that require a lot of effort, or walk more often.
Are There Alternatives ro Walking?
If you really want to give your dog a workout, there are even more alternatives for burning calories. Jogging will not use up a lot more than brisk walking, but healthy dogs love it. An even better alternative seems to be biking. Biking burns up more calories, about 300 an hour, and dogs really enjoy the workout. Be careful with brachycephalic breeds. They can't really handle the running.
Can I Start My Walking Program Today?
Before the University of Missouri program started, the participants were all examined fully by a physician. If you are in poor shape and have not been walking your dog regularly that would be a good place to go before beginning your walking.
If your dog has been kept up in the house and gained weight, you should also take him in for a physical exam from your veterinarian before beginning a weight loss program.
Will Walking Help Keep My Dog Healthy Too?
What is the great difference between you and your dog? Your dog can not open the refrigerator door. When she gets hungry all she can do is whine and beg to be fed. When you get hungry you can open the refrigerator and find what you want. It is understandable why so many people are overweight. It is not easy to understand why so many dogs are overweight. Really, do it now! Take your dog on a long walk every day and burn up some of those calories, for both of your sakes.
I am no weight loss or fitness fanatic, but I take my dog for a walk three times a day. If you cannot walk your dog in the morning because of work, get up a little earlier. Take a few minutes in the evening when you get home and relax by walking. At night, after you turn off that computer or finish watching your favorite TV show, dedicate a half hour to your health.
A walk is going to help you both sleep better. You´ll also go to bed knowing that you lost a little more of your excess weight that day!
© 2012 Dr Mark
Tori Leumas on July 22, 2015:
Great hub! I love walking my dogs! It is so relaxing and invigorating! Voted up.
Kassi on February 22, 2015:
That's a cracekrjack answer to an interesting question
DoItForHer on July 12, 2012:
*imitates Jim Carrey* "Like a glove!"
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 11, 2012:
DoItForBothOfYou : what do you think of the new moniker? Does it fit?
DoItForHer on July 11, 2012:
Waffy and I do a lot more together than we would do individually. We both get comments on how young we seem despite our graying faces!
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 10, 2012:
yes! Thanks for asking.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 10, 2012:
Hi Rebecca do you use the ankle weights?
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 10, 2012:
After a while, it seems I need to add weights or I don't really loose anymore, I sort of hit a plateau. I suppose everyone is different. Great Hub, what cool photos!
What should an owner do when a senior dog won’t eat?
It’s common for older dogs to have reduced appetite, Nunez says. Causes vary. For example, some dogs have gastrointestinal problems that bring on nausea, while others lose their appetite because of cancer.
“When a dog won’t eat,” Metzger says, “make sure your veterinarian rules out any underlying health problems, such as dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer.” He also says that when dogs lose interest in dry food, adding warm water, chicken broth, or a small amount of canned food can make it more appealing.
Home-cooked meals can be enticing, too. “That extra smell and that extra TLC can get the dog to eat,” Nunez says. Some owners feed their dogs combinations of foods, such as cooked chicken and barley or cooked lamb and rice.
Pet stores also sell bottles of flavor enhancers that owners can add to food. “Also, as a last resort, there are medications -- appetite stimulants -- that can help dogs eat," Nunez says.
But these treatments should be used only after veterinarians have ruled out serious diseases, Metzger says.
Fred Metzger, DVM, Diplomate ABVP, owner, Metzger Animal Hospital, State College, Pa., and adjunct professor, Penn State University.
Mark Nunez, DVM, president, California Veterinary Medical Association.
Dog Obesity: Why It’s Important To Manage Your Dog’s Weight
Plump puppies may be cute, but when it comes to canine health, lean is better.
Still, as is true with humans, too many dogs are overweight, according to the Association For Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). In its eighth annual survey of the girth of American pets, released in March 2015, the organization found that 53 percent of the nation’s dogs are overweight.
International research suggests that this is a global problem, with surveys from various parts of the world showing that the incidence of canine obesity around 40 percent or more. Most investigators say that this health issue gets worse each year. Another part of the APOP survey showed that in 2014, 17.6 percent of dogs were clinically obese (30 percent or more overweight). That was up a full point from just one year before.
Even worse, 95 percent of owners don’t realize that their plump dogs need to drop a few pounds. The APOP calls this a “fat pet gap,” in which a chubby dog is identified as normal.
Dr. Ernie Ward, veterinarian and founder of APOP says, “Pet owners think their obese dog or cat is a normal weight, making confronting obesity difficult. No one wants to think their pet is overweight, and overcoming denial is our first battle.”
Health Problems Caused By Dog Obesity
There are many diseases and conditions that come along with extra pounds. These include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Osteoarthritis, especially in the hip
- High blood pressure
- Orthopedic problems, cranial cruciate ligament injuries
- Skin disease
- Heart and Respiratory Disease
- Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)
How To Tell If Your Dog is Obese
The rules range for people, but for pets, figuring out whether your dog is overweight or obese is a matter of both appearance and touch. You should, for example, be able to feel your dog’s ribs when you press her sides. Several dog-food manufacturers have canine body-condition charts that can help you determine if your dog needs to drop a few pounds. Here’s an example:
What to Do If Your Dog Needs a Diet?
As with humans, there are a few tried-and-true methods for slimming down. First, you should check with your vet to make sure that the excess weight is not the result of an underlying health problem or disease. Also, before you change food or reduce calories, you’ll want to get your dog a checkup and talk to your vet about the best options. After taking these steps, check out these helpful tips:
Measure Meals: Keeping a diary is one of the most important steps in any human weight-loss program. Since dogs can’t write, you’ll have to do it for him. Keep track of how much kibble you are feeding by using a measuring cup.
Establish a Schedule: If you free-feed, leaving food down all day, offer meals on a set schedule. Put the food down for a certain time, perhaps 15 minutes, and take up any food that the dog does not eat.
Limit Between-Meal Snacks: Dogs get a lot of calories in addition to their regular kibble. These can include anything from training treats to a biscuit slipped over the fence by a friendly neighbor. Those calories add up. Find out where the extras are coming from and manage how many extra goodies the dog is getting.
Choose Low-Calorie Treats: Many store-bought treats, especially biscuits, can be fattening. The same goes for chews. Some dogs will be just as happy with fruits or vegetables, like bananas, carrots, green beans, and apple slices, for example.
Certain chews, such as the popular bully sticks, are higher in calories than most people believe. A recent study from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University examined the nutrients found in 26 different kinds of bully sticks. Each inch contained between 9 and 26 calories. “While calorie information isn’t currently required on pet treats or most pet foods, these findings reinforce that veterinarians and pet owners need to be aware of pet treats like these bully sticks as a source of calories in a dog’s diet,” Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, Ph.D., DACVN, professor of nutrition at TCSVM, said in a news release describing the study results. Several companies have developed low-calorie commercial treats, such as the one-calorie heart-shaped Quickies treats from Honest Kitchen. When you try any new treat, offer just a small portion to make sure it agrees with your dog’s digestion.
Get Moving! This may be the best thing you can do to help your heavy hound. B efore starting any exercise regime, have your dog checked by your veterinarian to make sure it is an appropriate and reasonable activity. Start slow and work up as directed by your vet to prevent possible injury. There are so many activities you and your dog can do together that it’s impossible to mention them all. Here are some of the best to start a weight-reducing program:
- Swimming is low-impact and can build muscles and burn calories without hurting joints.
- Walking, also low-impact, has the added benefit of getting both of you out of the house and into the fresh air.
- Fetch is fun, and its quick sprints will do a lot to raise fitness levels.
How to Manage Your Dog's Calorie Reduction
Dealing With a 'Hangry' Dog
There are prescription diets your veterinarian can recommend to help you pet feel more full on less food, so they don’t feel as hangry and beg. Remember, never suddenly change your dog’s diet. Gradually over a 7–day period switch from the old diet to the new diet. Read more about how to switch your dog's food here.
If your pet is on a specialty diet, you can add some Psyllium husks. For dogs, add about a ½ tsp per 10–pounds twice a day to their meal. Do not go over 2 TBSP in a day. Monitor their stool closely. Also, when adding fiber to your pet’s diet, you MUST be sure they have access to plenty of water. One easy way to do this is adding some water to their dry food when mixing in the fiber. This has two benefits — it causes them to eat slower (allowing the body to recognize feeling full), and it helps increase their water intake.
How Quickly Should I Cut Back My Dog's Food
I don’t know about you, but I can never survive a diet when I have to suddenly and drastically cut back. Your dog can’t either! I recommend gradually cutting back small amounts of food per feeding until the ideal portion size is reached. For example, if you have a small breed dog, cut back a ¼ to a ½ tsp per meal. For medium to large breeds, you can start with a ½ to 1 TBSP per meal. Slow and steady!
What Rate of Weight Loss is Ideal for Dogs
Your dog can safely lose 3–5% of their body weight per month. Generally, you can expect your pet to reach their ideal body weight in 6 to 8 months. If they are not progressing as they should, changes are needed. Your veterinarian can help you determine the number of pounds per month they can and should lose.
Remember — we are all in this together! Your veterinarian is a valuable resource who can answer questions and guide you through this process of your dog's weight loss and control. Patience and consistency are the keys to success.
How to Put Your Dog on a Diet
Last Updated: February 26, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.
There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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If you've noticed your dog is packing on the pounds, don't be surprised. Many dogs slowly gain weight over a long period of time. While this might seem like a simple cosmetic problem, obesity, or carrying extra weight, can mean health problems for your pet including strain on the joints, heart, lungs, and shorter life expectancy.  X Research source To help your dog lose weight, reduce his caloric intake and increase his exercise level.