Why Weight Matters
Like humans, dogs are healthier when they maintain a healthy weight. When a dog is overweight, it is usually an indicator that he is not eating properly and may not be getting the exercise he needs, two things that are very important to a dog’s health and happiness. Additionally, there are a wide variety of health complications related to canine obesity. Not only does obesity hinder a dog’s ability to exercise due to reduced energy and respiratory problems, it can greatly increase the risk of cardiac disease. The additional weight puts stress on a dog’s body, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis and ruptured spine cartilage, and generally increasing the chance of injury. Even if your dog is only a little bit overweight, it’s much easier to address the problem in its early stages before it results in obesity. Additionally, weight gain can be a sign of a hormonal disorder or other illness in your dog, so dealing with weight gain as soon as you see its signs is very important.
There are several ways you can help your dog maintain his target weight. Obviously every dog needs to get exercise, and you can consult your veterinarian how much exercise your dog needs to offset the calories he takes in and stay healthy. Feeding habits are equally as important. Not only should you feed your dog high-quality food made with natural ingredients, you should be careful not to feed him too much in addition to his regular meals. The amount of dog food the bag recommends is usually per day, not per feeding. So if it recommends 1 cup per day for your dog, and you feed twice a day, your dog should get 1/2 cup at each feeding. If you’re trying to reduce your dog’s weight, feed them based upon what you want them to weigh, not what they currently weigh (that will just maintain the current weight). Avoid getting in the habit of feeding table scraps since doing so makes it easy to lose track of how much your dog eats.
While treats are great for training your dog and even maintaining his dental health, be sure to choose a treat that isn’t high in sugar and doesn’t contain a lot of artificial ingredients, and use them sparingly. They should be a reward, not a regular component of his diet. Factors beyond your control, such as genetics, and a metabolism that slows with age, can play a role too, which is why it’s important to consult your veterinarian on how to best maintain your dog’s weight.
Is My Dog Overweight?
It’s not always easy to determine whether your dog is over the healthy target weight for his size and breed. Of course, you can consult with your veterinarian during your dog’s regularly scheduld check-up, but in between check-ups there are a few signs of obesity that you can looks for. When you look at your dog from above, you should be able to see a visible waistline in front of his hips, and when looking from the side you should be able to see a slight tuck up in the tummy area. In smaller dogs that you can hold, you should be able to feel the ribcage. If your dog is considerably overweight he is likely to be breathless from even minimal exercise. In general, experts say that a dog can be considered overweight if he is 15% over the ideal breed weight, and he can be considered obese if he is 25% over the ideal breed weight.
If you think your dog is overweight, you can take steps to get him back in shape by paying closer attention to his diet. Cut out excessive treats or snacks and make sure he is getting frequent exercise. Just don’t make any drastic or sudden changes, and don’t let your dog go hungry! You should continue feeding him regular meals; your dog needs a full, well balanced diet to stay healthy. If you’re unsure of how to change your dog’s diet and exercise routine, or if you are concerned for his health, consult your veterinarian. Many brands dog food have a weight control formula; ask us for a suggestion!
Your vet can help you come up with a safe, healthy and gradual path to your dog’s weight loss that will include both a well-managed diet and an exercise regimen. Crash diets are never the answer. In general, the safest rate of weight loss for any dog is between one and two percent of total body weight per week, which prevents your dog from losing muscle in the process and reduces the chance of a weight gain rebound. It’s never too late to help your dog lead a happier, healthier lifestyle; it just requires patience and dedication on your part.