Today is National Dog Day, a celebration of our four-legged family members and another excuse to shower them with love, affection…and gifts. With colder weather around the corner we love the coats and tummy warmers by Voyagers K9 Apparel. 

But on a serious note, it’s also a good time to make sure you are committed to making your pooch’s life healthier. 

According to new research from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 53 percent of dogs in the United States were overweight in 2014. The study also found a significant “fat pet gap,” in which 95 percent of owners of overweight dogs incorrectly identified their pet as a normal weight. Some of the diseases that accompany excess fat are Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, and many forms of cancer.

So what’s a dog lover to do to combat pet obesity? 

Make healthy treats

Since APOP says that the amount of calories in treats is a significant factor in the rise in pet obesity, try making your own healthy dog treat biscuits. Friends of Animals just published For the Love of Dog Biscuits, plant-based recipes for healthy, all natural, nutritional and delicious dog treats that won’t break the bank. Each purchase also directly benefits our low-cost spay and neuter program! Visit our online store to order a copy.

Walk the (brisk) walk

If you are concerned your pooch is overweight, consult a veterinarian examine before undertaking a weight loss exercise program. Then pick up the pace! Based on observations of people walking with their dogs, the average pace is 20 to 25 minutes per mile, according to the APOP. That is a slow troll with frequent pauses (on average every one to two minutes!) to allow their dog to smell an interesting object or mark territory. Make your objective to walk briskly and focused on the “out” leg of your walk and then you can smell the roses on the “back” leg. Dogs are built to go from 0-100 miles per hour with very little risk of injury. A brisk walk should be about a 12-15 minute per mile pace.

Tackle boredom & laziness

Move the food bowl as far away from your dog’s favorite haunts as possible. Overweight dogs will sleep and lay near the food bowl so they don’t have to go far when hunger hits. Use toys, balls, laser pointers, squeaky toys, anything that your dog finds interesting to chase. Try to engage your dog for at least 10 to 15 minutes twice a day. There are numerous toys that move and squeak that may also be interesting to your dog. Experiment and understand that what is exciting today may be boring tomorrow.