Ensuring your dog a long, healthy life

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My dog Yankee, a 6-1/2-year-old Golden Retriever, is my joy. He’s been an integral part of my family since he came to live with my husband and me at 12 weeks old. When my husband passed away almost eight months ago, it became just the two of us, and the bond grew stronger. I want him to live a long, healthy life so I’m working diligently to give him what he needs to stay healthy.

If your dog is a member of your family, I know you want the same – to keep him or her healthy and happy for as long as possible. Most people have great intentions, but when I see so many overweight dogs, I have to wonder what’s going on. Excess weight often happens slowly, so I suspect people may not realize their dog has become overweight. Yet being overweight shortens a dog’s lifespan by an average of two years, and can cost a bunch of money due to related health problems.

Current statistics show that 54 percent of dogs are overweight, and that number continues to climb. How can you tell if your dog is overweight? One way is to feel the ribs. If you can’t easily feel ribs, your dog is fat.

If you find your dog is overweight, what can you do to correct it?

• First, look at what your feeding and how much. As dogs age, they require less food. Look at the bag and feed based on the weight your dog should be, not what he is.

• Get rid of treats. Most are high in calories. Substitute with vegetables, such as green beans, celery or carrots.

• Exercise. Most dogs don’t get enough. At the very least, they require cardiovascular exercise several times a week to keep them in shape. A walk alone doesn’t do it. Depending on your dog, 30 minutes of jogging with you or playing fetch will give them a good cardio workout.

I don’t know how long Yankee will live, but I’m giving him the best odds I can. I hope you do the same. And if you need help, please contact us.

Sherri Cappabianca, an expert in the field of canine health and fitness, is the author of two books on canine health, and the co-owner of Rocky’s Retreat Canine Health & Fitness Center, and Barking Dog Fitness, a Gym for Dogs, both located in Orlando. For more information, visit rockysretreat.com or barkingdogfitness.com