Obesity in Dogs
Oh, how we love our puppies! We shower them with kisses and dog toys, take them to the park, and even treat our fur babies to a spa day. Much like we use candy to reward our children, we reward our puppies with treats and it makes them wag their little tails and sit on their bottoms. However, all these snacks can add unwanted pounds to your pet and obese dogs can have serious health problems. Damage, sometimes permanent, is being done to your pet’s health.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Overweight
If you are wondering, “Is my dog fat?” or if you are concerned about your dog’s weight, of course, you should consult a vet. But you can use this rib test at home to answer the question “Is my dog overweight?”:
If you can see your dog’s ribs from several feet away, your dog is underweight. Ideally, you should be able to feel the ribs under the skin without much effort.
If you cannot feel the ribs without applying pressure, your dog is overweight and might be headed toward obesity.
Lastly, if you cannot find the rib cage, your dog is obese and it is time to take action. The Pet Obesity Prevention Website offers additional dog obesity charts.
Risks of Obesity in Dogs
Obesity in dogs is the number one preventable disease in pets. Those extra pounds are not just a physical trait, they are subtracting years from the life expectancy of your furry pal. Obesity can lead to:
- Respiratory disease
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Skin diseases
- Some forms of cancer
Obesity may affect your dog’s overall demeanor and can steal that spunky, playful zeal for life that made you fall for your pooch. You may also notice fatigue and a reluctance to go for walks and play before you even notice that your dog’s size is beyond that of a healthy canine.
Causes of Obesity in Dogs
Although some health risks of obesity are irreversible (such as diabetes), as with humans, obesity can be cured, and you can take steps right now to turn your dog’s weight problem around before it gets too serious. Often obesity is easily prevented with healthy diets and activity.
However, some cases are not attributed to overeating alone, but can be traced to other factors, such as recent surgeries, medications, or your dog’s age and breed.
As we age, our energy levels and metabolisms slow down, and dogs are no different. Also, after spaying and neutering, the absence of certain hormones can play a role in weight gain. Be aware of all these factors when making decisions about your pet’s diet.
Dog Breeds Prone to Obesity
Is your dog’s breed a factor? Many dog breeds evolved for a certain purpose that typically included hunting, working, or endurance. However, as dog owners, we tend to choose our family pet based on temperament and appearance. Once we get our pooches home, hunting and herding are not on the daily list of activities, and dogs can easily become stagnant and uninspired. Here is the list of dog breeds that are most prone to obesity.
- Basset Hound
- Cocker Spaniel
- English Bulldog
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador retriever
Breeds such as Dachshunds were bred to hunt and chasing speedy prey such as rabbits and badgers is an excellent exercise. The lovable Labrador was bred to be an expert swimmer, retrieving ducks and other waterfowl. All dogs, but especially labs and Weiner dogs need to run, chase, and play to avoid the common fate of obesity.
Other breeds prone to obesity include Rottweilers, Bulldogs, Pitbulls and Pugs. Because of their rotund body type, owners dismiss excess weight as part of their overall persona, but fat dogs are not bred intentionally.
Treatment: How to Help My Dog Lose Weight
Also, like humans, weight loss starts with healthy choices and physical activity. Healthy eating is crucial in any weight loss program including that of a canine. As much as we love spoiling our puppies with table scraps, that habit needs to be the first one broken.
Choosing the Best Weight Management Dog Food
Aside from the fact that there are many human foods and spices that can make your dog sick or can even be deadly, your dog does not need the extra calories. It is best to stick with foods and treats formulated specifically for dogs. With the enormous variety of options available today, you should have no problem finding diet dog food and treats that your pet loves. Remember, puppies are easy to please. They love you just for being you, likewise, they will love most dog treats, provided they are not accustomed to steak and ice cream as a treat.
Each dog is different when it comes to eating habits. Some can scarf down a bowl of kibble within seconds, others take all day to finish their meal. Keep track of feeding times and use a measuring cup to ensure each feeding is consistent. If your dog is a “grazer,” keep the bowl of food available for a certain amount of time, then put it away until the next feeding time.
Consistency with food amounts and feeding times are key when it comes to avoiding over-feeding. Also, most brands of dog food offer a chart with recommendations for the amount of food needed for various dog sizes. For example: a 20-pound dog may require 1 and 1/4 cups of food per day, depending on the brand and type.
How to Choose the Best Dog Diet Food
Dieting is never a fun word and requires discipline and label reading. If your dog is a member of a family with kiddos, make sure that your little ones know the diet rules too. Encourage them to be a part of the solution. Everyone in the household should be onboard and commit to ending the excessive snacking.
Next, choose a high protein diet that will satiate your dog’s hunger and lead to less begging. Be sure that your dog’s food does not contain fillers, sugars or unneeded carbohydrates that offer temporary fullness and superfluous calories. Just as humans are healthiest with a natural diet, so are dogs. According to the PetMeds website, when choosing the best dog food for weight loss, a good rule is to choose a calorie count of 265 and 350 per 8-ounce cup or 13-ounce can. Canned food is often recommended when weight loss is the goal, due to its higher protein content.