Puppy New Year! Fitness Goals for Your Furry Friend!
Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions? How about for your dog? Here at Paws for Purple Hearts, we take special care in ensuring our Service Dogs-In-Training maintain a healthy weight in order to best serve our Warriors. If your husky is looking a little too husky or your pup’s lookin a little plump, we have some tips to get them back into tip-top shape!
Your veterinarian is the best person to ask about your dog’s ideal weight, as there are many differences between breeds, but there are some visual cues to look for in between vet visits. There is a simple assessment you can use called the “Body Condition Score” Where 1 is severely underweight, and 9 is very overweight. Your dog’s score should be between a 4 and a 5 their entire lives. Based on the scale your dog’s tummy should be noticeably tucked but not exaggerated, and there should be a clear waistline. You may not be able to see their ribs, but you should be able to feel them and your dog’s spine.
If your dog falls on the higher end of the score, the first thing you should take note of is how they’re eating. Your dog should be eating a high-protein, low-carb diet. Use a measuring cup to portion out their food rather than an unmarked scoop so you know exactly what amount you are feeding. Dogs are often unable to “self-regulate” what they eat. Here at PPH, our dogs are Labradors and Golden Retrievers and they love, love, love to eat! Rather than leaving food out all day, give dedicated meal times, but keep water out all day. Try feeding your dog out of a slow-feeder or treatball. Not only does feeding this way engage your dog mentally, but taking longer to eat makes your dog feel fuller. When reducing portions, it’s important to do so gradually. Keep track of their weight every few weeks. A quick weight-loss is very unhealthy, and hard dieting is not comfortable for anyone, your dog included!
With those adorable puppy-dog eyes, it’s tempting to overdo it on treats, especially over the holidays, but those calories add up. Consider trading out those snacks for veterinarian-approved, healthy alternatives, such as peas, green beans, and carrots! Canned, steamed, or raw are all safe for your dogs, so long as they are plain, with no salt, oil, or spices. Not only are they low-calorie, they are chocked full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Plus dogs tend to love them! Here at Paws for Purple Hearts we like to use pumpkin puree on licky pads as an extra fun way for our Service Dogs-In-Training to enjoy a treat.
The other key component to your dog’s health is exercise. It cannot be overemphasized how important exercise is for your dog’s physical health and mental well-being. When it’s too chilly to safely take your dog outside for an extended period of time, it takes some creativity to burn off that pent-up energy indoors. If you have access to stairs, make use of them! Take your dog for a walk up and down. Play some indoor games such as fetch with soft toys or tug of war. Some of our Paws for Purple Hearts Program Instructors like to set up indoor agility courses. You can do the same at home with whatever you have at hand, such as pillows and chairs. Best of all, you can switch up the course whenever your dog gets bored. Your dog might like chasing laser pointers. Keep the light out of your dog’s eyes and let the dog “catch” the dot every so often to avoid frustration. You can do that by dropping a healthy treat (such as a green bean!) when your dog’s not looking, and drag the laser pointer over to it so your dog can find it.
Your dog is adorable at any size and shape, but extra weight can cause a multitude of health issues, such as joint problems, heart disease, and diabetes. Here at Paws For Purple Hearts we take great care in monitoring the health and fitness of our dogs to ensure they will have long, long, happy lives with their Warriors. Here’s to the New Year and to achieving the ideal fitness goals for your canine best friend!
Ruther Glen, Virginia
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