We all love our dogs, and being a dog parent means showing that love all the time. For many people with a dog at home, showing love often translates to belly rubs and of course, treats. But what if all of those treats are having some unintended effects? Dog obesity is…

rampant and growing in the United States–and the only solution may be showing some tough love. In this case, tough love means limiting some bad practices when it comes to food, and increasing your dog’s activity level. It can mean the difference between a happy, healthy dog, and one that struggles with poor health later in life. Keep reading to learn what you can do for your dog  to help prevent weight related issues such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.

How do I know if my dog is obese?
Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to check your dog’s weight and verify that they are in a healthy weight range. Performing these checks regularly is a great first step towards maintaining a healthy weight. The most common check is the “rib check,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Place your hands on either side of your dog’s spine, and feel where their ribs should be. You should not have to press down hard to feel ribs. If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs with this method, they are probably overweight. Conversely, if you can see your dog’s ribs, they are most likely underweight. A common eye test is also useful for evaluating your dog’s figure. Stand right above her, and look down at her back. Look for an abdominal “tuck” such as the one seen in this guide. This means your dog should taper slightly between their ribs and hips. No taper? Maybe lay off the treats tonight.

What practices should you avoid as a dog parent to make sure your pooch stays healthy?
Whether your dog is currently at a healthy weight or could afford to lose a few pounds, there are some practices you as a pet owner should avoid to prevent obesity. So-called “free-feeding” is the practice of leaving a bowl of food out for a dog all day long, refilling it when it looks low. This kibble buffet leads to bad food habits, all-day grazing, and a diet that is much harder to measure. Eliminate this practice by creating mealtimes for your dog. Our article on table manners can also help you with this as well. Second, monitor all treats and snacks more carefully, especially if you have children or guests who might easily succumb to your dog’s begging. Little snacks can add up to a big problem later in life, and it’s up to you to keep track.

What should I encourage to make sure my dog stays at a healthy weight?
Just as harmful as overfeeding and snacking is a lack of adequate exercise in your dog’s life. Most dog breeds need between 30 minutes to an hour of activity a day. For larger dogs that were bred for work, this time should be closer to an hour. Keep the activity slow and easy at first if you are starting a new exercise routine for your dog. Always ask a veterinarian if you are unsure whether or not your dog is healthy enough for vigorous exercise. At Fur Heart, we know it can be tough to make sure your dog is getting enough playtime and walks, especially if you have a challenging and busy schedule. Our servicescan help your dog maintain a healthy weight, and we know they’ll have a great time hanging out with us too.

If you’re at all concerned about your pet’s weight, it’s best to consult vet. They have a much more accurate system for measuring any pet’s weight range, and they can give recommendations on diet, activity, and other healthy practices.