The holiday season usually means lots of big, festive meals with family and friends, both two-legged and four-legged. With all that delicious extra food around, you can’t blame your dog for wanting to eat more! But it’s important to be careful how much you give them. According to recent research, more than half of the dogs in the U.S. weigh above their ideal weight, which can increase their risks of heart disease, kidney disease, joint problems, and much more. Here are some tips and tricks for managing your pet’s weight and keeping them healthy (hint: it all starts with a well-balanced meal)!

 

Understand your dog’s body weight

Are they overweight? Underweight? Just fine? There’s an easy way to tell! If you can see their rib cage and spine without any soft tissue covering them, then they are underweight. Check with your vet on the best course for adding pounds (which may include a few dropped pieces of turkey!). If you can feel their ribs but not see them, and the stomach is tucked in, then they are generally in a safe weight range. However, if you have to press to find their ribs, and the waistline isn’t visible, your dog is what some people call, “chonky.” They should ideally start losing a few pounds. Click here for additional information, as well as a helpful chart, to help you figure out whether or not your dog is overweight. 

 

Know how many calories your dog needs

Those guides on the side of pet food bags are there for a reason. Your dog needs a certain number of calories each day based on weight, age, health needs, and other factors. This includes those bonus treats. Take this into consideration when portioning out their meals.

 

Exercise

It’s always harder in the winter time, but the importance of exercise cannot be overstated in its role in helping maintain their desired target weight. Keep them moving and playing daily. If it’s too cold to stay out for long, try playing tug-of-war, or a small game of fetch inside. Of course, always consider your pet’s health conditions and speak with your vet about appropriate levels of play.

 

Watch those treats

Treats play an important role in bonding with your pets, but most are usually fatty and high in calories, which can turn treats into an extra meal. Treats should make up no more than 10% of their total daily caloric intake. If you’re giving lots of treats already, try breaking the treats into smaller pieces so they last longer, or put them in a ball or other toy so they have to work to earn their treats!

 

Change your reward system

Along the lines of watching how many treats you give, you can consider changing how you reward your dog for good behavior. Instead of giving a treat for sitting, giving paw, or just generally looking cute, give lots of praise instead. It’s always great to say, “Good boy (or girl)!” 

 

Start a high-quality diet

Make sure your dog’s daily meals meet the Association of the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards by using Stay, the fresh dog nutrition brand. Stay’s unique recipes are formulated by board-certified veterinarians and expert pet nutritionists to meet your dog’s needs at every stage of their life. Stay uses fresh, gently-cooked, human-grade ingredients that ensure your dog has a complete and balanced meal to reach and maintain an ideal weight. They also include simple, easy-to-use gut microbiome tests that help monitor your dog’s gut health and response to their new diet!

 

Follow these tips to keep them happy and healthy for many more holiday seasons! As a special gift to our DOGTV readers, Stay is offering 66% off your first fresh dog food order. Just make sure you use this link, and the offer will automatically be applied at checkout. Offer expires 12/31/21.