Pet obesity is on the rise, with 1 in 14 UK dogs now considered overweight or obese.
And while many of us want to show our love for our pups through treats and food, there is definitely too much of a good thing.
If you are unsure whether your dog is overweight, ideal, or underweight Tails.com has some advice as well as some tips on how to keep the weight down.
How to tell if a dog is overweight
While many owners use food to shower their dogs with love, it could do more harm than good. Overweight dogs are more susceptible to disease and do not live as long as ideal-weight dogs.
All breeds have standard weight guidelines. And while this is a good place to start, every single dog is different. Instead of the numbers on the scale, you should really pay attention to the extra coverage of your dog’s body.
To determine if your dog is under, ideal, or overweight, veterinarians often use the Body Condition Score (BCS) test.
The test is measured on a 9-point or 5-point scale and rates your dog’s fat content on the ribs, abdomen and waist. Your dog should have an hourglass figure when viewed from above, and even breeds such as bulldogs, which many people believe to be rounder, should have a waistline.
The ribs should be felt through a small layer of fat and even easily visible in places. And the belly should be pulled up from the rib cage instead of being a straight line.
If your dog is barrel-shaped and you can’t easily feel his ribs without applying a lot of pressure, then your dog is likely overweight. If you’re not sure, your vet or nurse can help and even show you what to look for in your dog.
Effects on the Health of Obese Dogs
Not only does the lifespan of an overweight dog decrease, but it can seriously affect your pup’s quality of life. The extra weight can put extra pressure on bones and joints, which can potentially lead to arthritis in later years.
However, it can also endanger your dog’s life by contributing to breathing difficulties, heart problems, and diabetes.
Top Tips To Lose Your Dog’s Weight
There are three important areas to consider if you are looking to manage your dog’s weight loss in a healthy way.
Diet food for dogs
Proper nutrition for your individual dog is the first important step. Balanced meals full of nutrients, slow-release carbohydrates, and beneficial fiber will help your dog feel full longer. It is also important to control portion sizes and feed the exact amount your dog needs to steadily lose weight.
Exercising your dog daily can help you burn excess calories and keep his body healthy. A regular exercise routine will help reduce your dog’s weight steadily and predictably. It also gives your dog something else to focus on during the day by providing mental stimulation.
We know it’s difficult, but limiting the number of treats and offering healthier options that aren’t high in fat, sugar, or calories will help their weight. Raw vegetables like carrots and cucumbers are great alternatives to human food or store-bought goodies.
However, your dog’s weight gain can also have a medical cause. Hormonal disorders like hypothyroidism slow a dog’s metabolism so that it doesn’t burn calories as quickly as it should.
Cushing’s disease and other metabolic diseases can also cause weight gain. If your dog is not losing weight or is still gaining weight despite a change in diet, always share your concerns with a veterinarian.
Breeds prone to weight gain
Some breeds tend to be more prone to obesity than others. About a quarter of Labradors have a mutation in a gene called pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) that controls appetite, which means they can still be hungry after a large meal.
Some other breeds prone to obesity are: Beagle, Shih Tzu, Cocker Spaniel, Yorkshire Terrier, Bulldog, Pug, Boxer, Dachshund, Rottweiler, Chihuahua, German Shepherd, Basset Hound.
Weight management in puppies
Puppies go through rapid growth spurts, which means their caloric needs can change over time. This is why regular weighing is so important at this stage.
For very young puppies, less than four months old, you should try to have them weighed every two weeks as they will grow so quickly. For older puppies, monthly weighing is a good rule of thumb.
Because they grow so quickly, it is important that we feed our puppies the right ingredients, in the right amounts, so that they can grow into a happy and healthy adult dog.
Carrying too much weight can affect its bones as a puppy grows. This can increase your pup’s risk of developing bone problems like hip dysplasia and arthritis in adulthood, especially in larger breeds like Newfoundland dogs, Great Danes, Dobermans, Rottweilers, St. Bernard dogs, and mastiffs.
Weight Management in Older Dogs
Sometimes older dogs can have a problem with obesity. They slow down, play and move less, so they tend to put on more weight. It is important to adjust your dog’s daily caloric intake to account for the decrease in exercise.
However, it is important to note that there are other reasons that your dog is slowing down. If it is pain that can be treated, your dog may be more active than usual.
The slower driving should not be dismissed as ‘he is getting old’. Always check to see if there is an underlying cause.
Obesity can put stress on an older dog’s joints, which can make stiffness and arthritic pain worse. Older dogs still need regular, gentle exercise and this can be of great help in loosening up stiff muscles and joints.
If you’re trying to help your older dog lose weight and they always seem hungry, try a high-fiber diet to keep them feeling full while controlling their caloric intake.
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