Pet Obesity in Dogs

As many of 40% of dogs in the Canada are thought to be obese, and the problem comes about in pets in pretty much the same way as humans, with the only difference being that it should be easier to control, as they need us to feed them. Also as with humans, obesity is dangerous to health of a pet, making them more likely to suffer from health issues and a shorter lifespan. Most obesity is simply caused by a basic fact; for that animal the calorie consumption is greater than the energy consumption on a day to day basis.

Is your pet overweight?
The image shows the different shapes of dogs at different body conditions. Underweight and overweight are both problems as you should strive for your pet to fall in the middle. Although breed shapes differ, many of the indicators, such as being able to feel the ribs, can still be tailored to suit any breed.

What is causing your pet to be overweight?
While there are some medical conditions which could be an underlying cause, in most cases there is medical problem causing the obesity, although many can arise from it. Usually the cause can be attributed to one or a few of these points:

Exercise: Think about your pet’s lifestyle. Is it getting the exercise it needs? This is something that does vary between breeds, but for some extreme breeds this can be several hours a day. If your dog is only walking around the block or hardly getting out at all then it is likely that they are not getting the chance to expend the energy given to them by their food. More walkies, playtime in the house, or adding a game of fetch can all help. As with any new exercise regime, if your dog is already overweight you should always remember to increase exercise slowly to prevent damage, joint problems or muscle injuries in the early stages. Asking an overweight dog to go full speed around an agility course without build up is just asking for trouble. Hydrotherapy is a great way to help exercise overweight dogs and more and more locations are popping up across the country.

Main Diet: Feeding your dog a high quality dog diet suitable to his lifestyle in the right amount is crucial. The quality of dry dog foods can differ so much that it is vital you check the bag for a starting point as to how much you should feed. If you feed wet food too then the amount of dry should be reduced to compensate. It is also important to emphasis that these are only guidelines, it is then your job as your dog’s owner to measure out each meal and monitor your dogs weight. If they start to gain weight more than they should, then the food needs to be reduced.

Tidbits: Many owners will feed their dog treats. These could be good necessary treats (such as training treats as part of a training program), healthy treats (a bit of raw carrot or chicken breast for example) or unnecessary treats and table scraps. Whilst we would advise against the use of table scraps / junk / human food for your dog, even the training and healthy treats will contribute to your dogs annual calorie intake. This means they should be limited, and then once again the main diet amount should be adjusted.

How can you help your pet loose weight?
If your dog is obese and you honestly think it is not related to any of the above then you need to see your vet. If your dog is becoming slightly overweight, and you can see how the factors above could be causing it then here are a few tips to get that weight down:

  1. Get into a routine of at least two walks a day, and where possible and safe to do so, some off lead time with a game of fetch is excellent. If you cannot let your dog off the lead then a training line (long leads of about 10 meters) or flexi lead combined with a harness can also work to give your dog that bit more freedom. This has to be done carefully so your dog does not injure himself, but (speaking from experience) this can be an amazing help if you have a flight-risk dog.
  2. Feed the desired amount of high quality dog food in at least two meals a day and a good quality treat. Just one meal will leave your dog feeling hungry and more likely to beg for food. Two or meals will also balance the dogs energy throughout the day, leaving them more likely to wander around and play.
  3. Get your dog a dog friend. If your dog is alone but you have friends with dogs then why not get them together often? If they play together then the play will act as exercise.
  4. Feed from a treat ball or other device that will encourage movement. Making your dog work for his food will help to slow down feeding and increase activity.
  5. Zero tidbits. Even if you just try this for a fortnight you should see some difference. If you use treats to train your dog then consider using part of his dinner kibble rations, or make sure you use healthy low calorie treats such as the coachies lick treat. And consider reducing the amount of kibble to compensate.
  6. Weigh your dog regularly to ensure you know what his weight is doing and can act quickly when a problem starts to resolve it faster.

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