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10 tips for tackling your dog's extra weight

New figures from the ISPCA have shown that a quarter of family pets in Ireland are overweight.

Image: Dog on scales image via Shutterstock

THE IRISH SOCIETY for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has encouraged dog owners to get fit with their pooches as figures show that a quarter of family dogs are overweight.

The ISPCA is asking owners to train with their dogs and participate in the Flora Women’s Mini-Marathon to raise funds for the charity’s dog welfare programme.

Recent reports have shown that Irish adults are also overweight and vet Pete Wedderburn said “people and their pets are eating too much food and not doing enough exercise”.

“Just like people, dogs can suffer from ill health from being overweight and it can shorten their life span from illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease,” he said.

To help dog owners in their mission, the ISPCA has ten recommendations for trimming those bulging canine tummies:

  1. Walking or running is great cardiovascular exercise for both you and your dog. It not only improves the physical health of you and your dog, but provides essential mental stimulation for dogs.
  2. Exercising together is also good for the relationship between humans and dogs as it reinforces the bond between owner and pet.
  3. The amount of exercise that your dog needs depends on a number of important factors, including the breed of dog you have, age of your dog and general health status of your dog.
  4. The breed of a dog is one of the biggest variables. Sight hounds (like lurchers, greyhounds etc) are sprinters: a few dashes up and down a local field suits them well. Other breeds (like Huskies or Dalmations) are endurance animals, happily running for 10km or more. And some dogs (like Pekes) are lap dogs so a brisk daily walk is plenty.
  5. The age of a dog is also important. Animals should not be over-exercised when they are young: this can lead to serious health issues such as damage to growing joints, especially in breeds like Labradors and German Shepherds. And elderly dogs, like older people, aren’t as fit and flexible as young adults.
  6. Before starting a new exercise programme with your dog, have a brief chat with your vet.
  7. A typical starter exercise routine could be three times a week for 15 or 20 minutes, and building up from there, adding five minutes each week.
  8. Ideally, dogs should be exercised every day (half an hour twice daily is a good average) but they need to have sniffing/rooting/play time as well as pure exercise sessions. Dogs, like humans, get bored if brisk walking or running is their only activity outdoors.
  9. As you start to do more exercise with your dog, you need to pay attention to different aspects of their physical care. Dogs have tough enough feet, but from time to time, check the pads of your dogs’ feet to make sure that they look comfortable.
  10. You do need to be continually conscious of your dog’s welfare when out exercising. If running, your dog should move freely, happily and comfortably beside you or in front of you at all times. If this is not happening, it’s time to stop. Never use a check lead. Ideally use a body harness, although a collar may be acceptable when you’re starting out as long as you’re not pulling on it unduly. Use an elasticated bungee-type leash to avoid harsh jolts as you stop and start.

The ISPCA today reports a sharp rise in calls to their animal cruelty helpline, resulting in the ISPCA responding to 32 per cent more animal cruelty cases in 2012 compared to the previous year. In February this year, the organisation was involved in the largest canine rescue in the history of the state with more than 140 dogs recovered from one single owner.

Read: 140 dogs saved in biggest canine rescue in State history>
Read: Four ponies rescued as ISPCA gets record no of equine distress calls>

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