As America's obesity epidemic grows - one in three Americans are classified as clinically obese according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Fido is tail wagging closely behind.

According to a 2012 National Pet Obesity Survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 53 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. However, the percentage of obese dogs went down by 5.8 percent while overweight dogs increased by 5.3 percent. The statistics suggest that those dogs, classified as obese in 2011, may have become newly classified as overweight due to healthier eating habits.

Dogs that maintain an ideal weight have an extra lifespan of two years than their overweight counterparts, says a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Forty eight Labrador Retrievers were examined in the study to evaluate the effects of a 25 percent food restriction on the life span of dogs. Food-restricted dogs were proven to weigh less and have lower body fat content, serum triglycerides, triiodothyronine, insulin, and glucose concentrations, increasing their longevity.

A healthy weight can prevent the onset of chronic illnesses, such as osteoarthritis, that are prevalent in dogs. Obesity in dogs is one of the main predisposing condition of osteoarthritis, due to the increase stress that excessive weight adds to the joints. Although obesity in dogs is common among all ages, middle-aged dogs and dogs that are within the age range of 5 to 10 are most susceptible to the disease, says PetMD.

A dog's breed can also play a role in its risk for obesity. Pet owners of greyhounds, german shepherds, and yorkshire terriers can worry less, as these breeds are known to be typically slim. However, even if your dog's breed falls in the category of slim or obese, you should still perform at-home physical monthly examinations on it.

Alecia Evans, Animal Wellness Consultant and Holistic Dog Trainer in practice in Aspen, Colo. told Medical Daily, "When you feed a carnivore a predominantly carbohydrate-based diet, obesity will result."

"Once you mix all the ingredients (even meat) and have put it into a kibble form, you are now feeding your dog or cat a carbohydrate type diet. Their digestive systems were not designed for that." Evans believes that limiting dry foods in a dog's diet is one of the best ways to combat canine obesity.

It's time to get your dog off the couch and slim him up with these five weight loss tips.

1. Access your dog's nutrition.

Dogs require different types and quantities of food throughout their lives to meet their individual needs. Younger dogs will require more energy, protein, and minerals as they help them to build strong joints and prevent arthritis over time. Older dogs who are prone to arthritis may benefit from a diet that consists of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which promote healthy joint cartilage and treat inflammation, says Mayo Clinic. A dog who is overweight should also have high fiber and low fat incorporated into their diet.

The fats and carbohydrate levels in many commercial dog foods are relatively high and can pose health risks to your pooch. In dog foods, the carbohydrates are usually refined, which means the fatty deposits will go straight to your canine's belly and ribs. Beware: the "Guaranteed Analysis" labels on the back of every dog food product only show the percentages of protein, fats, fiber, and moisture.

How do you determine if your dog's food is high in carbohydrates? suggest some simple math to help you unveil the carbohydrate levels that could be putting Fido's health at risk. For example, a particular dog food contains 26 percent protein, 14 percent fat, and 10 percent moisture (water). The ash content, a non-combustible mineral residue in dog food, usually comprises five to eight percent of each package, according to the authors of See Spot Live Longer. Now can subtract the protein, fat, moisture, and ash - estimate the ash to be 8 percent - from 100 percent to get a total of 42 percent, which represents the carbohydrate content level of Fido's food.

How do you lower carbohydrates in your dog's diet?

Increase your dog's amount of fiber and vegetables. Fiber can reduce and prevent obesity in dogs and improve their colon health as it increases bulk and water in the intestinal contents. Randy Kidd, DVM, Ph.D., from, suggests oats in the form of cooked oatmeal as an excellent source of fiber for dogs.

2. Increase your dog's exercise and walks.

The amount of exercise a dog needs varies, based on their size and breed.

Smaller Breeds

Twenty to 30 minutes of exercise and two to three walks per day are recommended for smaller breeds, says PetMD.

Although indoor exercises may seem like adequate fitness for small breed dogs, safe outdoor activities are encouraged. Pugs, for example, are compact dogs who are prone to obesity. Their petite stature, love for food, and inactivity indoors make them vulnerable to this disease. Remember, smaller size doesn't mean less exercise.

Larger Breeds

A minimum of 40 minutes of moderate to intensive cardio a day is recommended for larger breeds. Given their large size, these dogs require more alert activities such as playing frisbee or even running on a pet-certified treadmill. While walks are also essential for this breed size, highly interactive activities will be more beneficial for their health.

Exercise can even remove common behavioral problems found in dogs, such as digging, excessive barking, chewing, and hyperactivity, says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The health benefits of exercise include but are not limited to: sharpened agility and limberness, reduction in digestive problems and constipation, and controlled weight.

3. Access your dog's ideal weight.

There are basic at-home methods every dog owner can do to evaluate their dog's body condition score (BCS). BCS assesses your dog's weight based on a nine point system where 4/9 to 5/9 is classified as normal, 6/9 to 7/9 is classified as overweight, and 8/9 to 9/9 is classified as obese (obese dogs are often 30 percent over their ideal weight), says the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Medical Center.

Hands-on approach

Run your hands along your dog's ribcage; your inability to touch its ribs is a common indicator that your dog could be overweight or obese, says Labrador Education And Rescue Network (L.E.A.R.N.), an all-volunteer non-profit organization committed to finding homes for abandoned and unwanted Labrador Retrievers in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin.

Eyes-only approach

Look at your dog from the side and you should be able to see the upward tuck of the abdomen. Dogs that are overweight or obese will have little to no tuck.

Look at your dog from above and see if you can spot a narrow waistline past the ribcage. A strong indicator of an overweight canine is if you see a straight or building line from the ribcage to the hips.

4. You can teach your old dog new tricks.

Tricks such as fetching, rolling over, or retrieving items is a good way to keep your canine active and fit. The best thing about teaching your dog tricks is that you can do it within the comfort of your own home. A game of fetch with a soft ball or toy will have your dog prancing back and forth while you can sit back on the couch and watch television. Dr. Thomas Graves, an internist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, said, "If a dog, or a human being for that matter, just sits around all day--of course, it's going to get older faster."

Furthermore, just as intellectual activities can help sharpen human agility, the same is believed for dogs. In a pet column for the university, Graves encouraged dog owners to replace old toys with new ones regularly and try different games and activities. The introduction of different games and toys can help improve a dog's ability to learn new tasks.

5. Reward your dog through other forms of appraisal, not just treats.

The number of treats that you feed your dog could be detrimental its overall health. Minimize the number of treats you give each day and use other forms of appraisal such as a petting or playing. Popular dog treats like bully or pizzle sticks are a major source of excess calories for your dog. In a study, American and Canadian researchers from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and the University of Guelph examined the caloric density and bacterial contamination of bully, also known as pizzle sticks. The bully sticks ranged from nine to 22 calories per inch, which results in 88 calories in a six-inch bully stick. The 88 calories amount to nine percent of a 50-lb. dog's daily diet. "While calorie information isn't currently required on pet treats or most pet foods, these findings reinforce that veterinarians and pet owners need to be aware of pet treats like these bully sticks as a source of calories in a dog's diet," said first author of the study, Dr. Lisa M. Freeman, in a news release.

Small treats are appropriate as long as they're nutritional and not packed with too many calories, says ASPCA. Carrots, broccoli, celery, and asparagus, with a bowl of fresh water, can be the crunchy treat Fido needs.

Read more:

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