Your dog spent all winter lounging around, and now he’s packed on a few pounds. Obesity in animals, dogs and cats alike, is a growing problem in the United States. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 45% of U.S. pets are overweight or obese. Your animal isn’t just cute and round; there could be serious health problems beneath that extra weight. Fortunately, it’s springtime, and that means exercising your pooch.

Obesity in animals is a simple formula. Too many calories + too little exercise = excessive weight. Unfortunately, this simple formula can lead to serious health risks, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and arthritis. If you want to find out how much your dog weighs, then don’t place him on a scale. Since different breeds have different builds, poundage is not a good indicator of obesity. Instead, take a quick check of your pet’s ribs. Your pet’s ribs should not be visible, but you should be able to feel a rib without applying pressure. The best thing to do is to take your animal to the veterinarian, and have a professional decide if your pet is at risk for obesity-related problems.

Do your research before putting your pooch on a diet. Depending on his eating habits, there are a variety of options used to shed the pounds. Always consult with your veterinarian before starting any sort of weight-loss program. When exercising with your pet outdoors, always remember to keep plenty of water on hand for both of you! The suggestions below are not meant to overwork or exhaust your pet. They are just fun ways that you and your animal can be active together!

1 Take a walk: It sounds so simple, but it’s a great way to start an exercise program. If your pet has been cooped up all winter, then it’s safe to say that he won’t be able to run a marathon. This is also a good calorie-burner for you! Take you pet around the block or around the dog park. He’ll be happy for the attention, while both of you get a workout.

2 Throw a Frisbee: This is an oldie, but it hasn’t lost its magic! Frisbees are cheap and replaceable. You don’t have to put much effort into this exercise, because of your dog’s natural instinct to fetch and return. This also doesn’t need all of your attention, so you can multitask (plant flowers, water the lawn, wash your car) while throwing the Frisbee.

3 Have a play date: Is there another dog in the neighborhood that gets along well with your dog? If so, then grab a couple of tennis balls, and let them play together! Like humans, dogs love companionship. If you give them an incentive to play (i.e. some type of ball), then they will keep themselves amused. If you have time, then throw the ball and let them compete. They will enjoy the competition and friendship, while exercising.

4 Go swimming: Depending on where you live, this may not be an option. But, if you live near a body of water or vacation near one, then take your dog! Dogs are natural swimmers and love to play in the water. Swimming is a great workout, too. If you are going to the lake or the river, then make sure that you take a toy that floats. If your dog is timid about getting in the water, then throw the toy in first. More than likely, your pet will be too distracted by the toy to pay attention to his fears of the water.

Winter is over, and it’s time for spring. If you think your pet may be overweight, then take him to the veterinarian. The vet can get your dog started on a diet and suggest additional ways to burn off extra calories. Your pet is a part of the family and deserves a long life, free of health problems. Always remember that dogs are naturally active. If they remain inactive for a long period of time, then laziness can set in. It’s your job to get your pooch back into shape. Next time you go shopping, grab a Frisbee and a can of tennis balls. Find a safe and healthy way for both of you to exercise together.

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