Obesity in dogs

Just like many people in the developed world, the rate of obesity in their dogs is also climbing. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), they estimate that about 45% of dogs in the USA are overweight and that the rate is climbing by about 2% each year. Although these figures are for the USA, the results for most other developed countries including Australia would be expected to be similar. Regardless of the actual figures, the general trend of dogs becoming overweight is being seen by many veterinarians.

What are the dangers of being overweight to my dog?

Just like in their human owners, being overweight will add many stresses to their body and joints in particular especially during the growth phase of their life. Dogs with extra weight will also have an increased risk of diabetes, liver problems and cardiovascular issues.

How do I know if my dog is overweight?

Many dog owners do not recognise the signs of an overweight dog until they would be classified as obese. A general rule of thumb is to feel around your dog’s ribs and spine. You should be able to feel the ribs and spine and a thin layer of fat between the skin and these bones. If you cannot feel the ribs through the skin without pressing, then you may have an overweight dog on your hands! You should also notice a waist between the ribcage and the hips of your dog where the tummy tucks in.

Are some breeds prone to being overweight?

Dogs of particular breeds do seem to have a propensity to become overweight and it is believed to be a result of both genetics and lifestyle which is similar to the weight of most people. Some of the traditional breeds that are in this catergory are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Beagles, Pugs, Dachshunds and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Designer breeds such as Labradoodles, Groodles, Puggles, Beagliers and Pugaliers are also known to pile on the extra weight a little easier than other designer breeds such as Cavoodles, Spoodles, Moodles or Poochons.

Am I making my dog fat?

Dogs only eat what we allow them to eat, so if your dog is on the heavy side it is probably due to what and how much you are feeding her. Try to stick to their regular diet and reduce the number of treats they are given. If you are using treats as rewards for training, try to move to praise as a reward or reduce the amount of regular food feed that evening if they have received quite a few treats that day. Avoid feeding your dog people food (especially snacks and fried food) that are high in fats and/or sugar.

How can I get my dog down to a healthy weight?

  • The first step is to take your dog to your vet to rule out any medical issues that may be causing your dog to be overweight and to allow your vet to supervise your dog’s weight loss program.
  • Next is to weigh your dog on the vet scales or on the home scales and write this figure down so you can monitor their progress.
  • Feed your dog a low calorie or kilojoule diet in the correct amount for your dog’s size and stage of life. This should be done in consultation with your vet to ensure that they are receiving correct nutrition while still losing the extra weight.
  • Cut out the extra treats and snacks. You can use part of their next meal to reward them for good behaviour if you find that treats work well during training.
  • Increase the amount of exercise your dog gets by increasing the length of the walk time for example or by increasing the number of times per week that they go for walks. This will not only benefit your dog but will usually be a benefit to your health also. Increasing the amount of exercise will also help to increase the mental stimulation for your dog and will make them less bored at home.
  • Lastly, remove the dog from the room when the rest of the family are eating to avoid giving in to those hungry looking eyes whenever you are feeling guilty while eating your meals.

Always remember to consult your veterinarian before and during reducing your dog’s weight and write down your dog’s weight on a regular basis to track their progress.

 

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