The modern dog has access to the best nutrition and health services in history. But he relies on his human to provide them for him because let’s face it – if given a choice between a dumpster behind a KFC and a premium dog food, he’s probably going with the dumpster.
But, despite our many options in healthy dog food today and the increase in options in the pet health industry, obesity is a major problem in dogs.
The old stand-by for quickly determining your dog’s weight is to see if you can feel your dog’s ribs. If so, then he’s fit. If not, it’s time to break out the carrots for treats. For a more complete visual check, look for these factors in an obese dog – no waist, a rounded stomach, thick fat covering the ribs which is soft and movable, and prominent folds of skin which sway when he walks. You can also follow the guidelines below:
Obesity is the response of the body to too much energy saved as fat. Obesity in dogs is affected by the correlation between genetic factors, exercise, food management and stress. What does this mean? Well, to break it down, obesity is affected by:
Food: Leaving a bowl of food out for your dog all the time is a sure way to obesity. So is giving him a caloric treat whenever he asks for it.
Activity Level: Our society has moved away from plowing fields to plowing through potato chips while sitting on the sofa. If we do exercise, it is often at a gym. And too often the daily mile dog walk turns into a quick run around the block just so Fido can do his business.
Illness: Certain conditions exacerbate canine obesity such as hypothyrodism, Cushings Disease, Pancreatic Cancer, and pituitary problems.
Reproductive: Feeding a neutered or spayed dog an average amount can cause obesity. They need about 1/4 less than average.
Obese dogs are more at risk for complications in surgery and for injury. Their lungs, liver, heart, kidneys, and joints are also more stressed. Obesity in pets can also cause stroke, respiratory problems in the heat and during exercise, lead to diabetes, and in general shorten and lessen the quality of a dog’s life.
You can conquer canine obesity using some of the information below. However, before any changes in diet or lifestyle, you should consult with your veterinarian.
Food: Feed your dog two to three times a day. Ask your vet for advice on amount but, in general, a dog needs 35 calories per pound per day to stay at her ideal weight. Avoid weight management foods as they tend to be high in carbs and low in protein. Remember that treat calories are included in that daily calorie intake. Try small pieces of microwaved chicken, carrots, celery, a dab of peanut butter or a small piece of low-fat cheese.
Activity Level: On average, a dog needs between 30 minutes and an hour of exercise a day. This doesn’t mean you have to run five miles with him. In addition to walks, dog parks provide good exercise, as does throwing a ball in the backyard. Remember to start slowly and build up gradually.
Health: Your vet can determine if an illness is causing or contributing to your dog’s obesity. He can also prescribe a medication that suppresses a dog’s appetite and blocks fat absorption if appropriate.
Though obesity is a major problem in dogs, the good news is that canine obesity can be treated. It should be done slowly (pet weight loss should not exceed 1 to 1-1/2 pounds per week) and with the supervision of your vet. It’s also an opportunity to spend more time lavishing attention and kisses on your dog to keep him from thinking about that dumpster around the corner.