Carrying excess weight can be a pain for your pup, literally. Being overweight can result in achy, painful joints and serious health issues including diabetes, liver problems and heart disease. Enrolling your overweight pooch in a weight-loss camp should help him shed extra pounds and also lay the foundation for a healthier lifestyle.
To Diet or Not to Diet
Examine your pooch from every angle to determine whether he's overweight. When looking down at your dog’s back you should be able to see a defined waist. Next, note his silhouette: When you look at your pup from the side, you should see the line of his tummy slope up from rib cage to the thighs. Now pat him down. If your pooch's natural padding won't let you feel his ribs or backbone and you don't see a waistline -- it should slope upward, even if only slightly, from chest to tummy -- it may be time to reach out to your vet to discuss weight management options like doggie fat camp.
At the gym, you use equipment, guidance and structured exercise programs to realize your weight-loss goals. Your pooch, similarly, can benefit from a structured workout program like a doggie day-camp program. These programs, which can last a half-day, a day, several days or even multiple weeks, usually include structured play and exercise session that may include walks outdoors or on a treadmill, swimming or underwater treadmill sessions, ball and Frisbee play, and even massage. Some facilities offer programs designed specifically to address canine fitness: Fido's Fit and Spaw Retreat, offered by the Morris Animal Inn pet resort in Morristown, New Jersey, comes complete with dog yoga and swimming.
Whether obesity develops as a result of overeating or of not getting enough exercise, the solution is to eat less and exercise more. That may sound simple enough, but diet and exercise habits can be hard to change on your own. Some so-called "fat camps" are designed as enrichment activities that stand alone or are incorporated into pet day-care or boarding. They focus on healthy lifestyle habits, including lots of exercise and, if your pup stays all day or overnight, a well-balanced diet with healthy snacks given in moderation. Other programs are specifically designed for canine weight loss and include consultative exams by veterinary professionals who tailor programs to dogs' dietary, nutritional and physical needs.
Choosing a Camp
When choosing a weight loss camp for your dog, partner with your veterinary professional, not only for recommended programs and facilities but also to ensure you have a clear understanding of your pet's specific needs. As with any pet service provider, visit the facility and meet the staff that will be working with your pooch and verify that the facility you choose is in compliance with licensing regulations and that the staff is trained and certified to administer the programs offered.
- ASPCA: Overweight Dogs
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Weight Reduction in Dogs
- VetStreet: Does Your Pet Need to Go to Fat Camp?
- Time: Fat Camps for Dogs Battle a Bulging Epidemic
- Wizard of Paws: Dr. Deb's Dog Blog: Fat Camp to Help Your Dog Lose Weight!
- DogChannel.com: Dog Weight-Loss Camps
- New York Times: Roll Over? Fat Chance
- Association for Pet Obesity Prevention: 2012 National Pet Obesity Survey Results
- Newsnet5Cleveland: Doggie Fat Camp? Veterinary Medicine School Has Spa Workouts to Help an Overweight Dog
- The Wall Street Journal: When Man's Best Friend Is Obese
- Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images