Is your dog overweight? You may be surprised to find out the truth. Close to half of all dogs in the United States are actually overweight yet the majority of their owners don't think so.
How do I know if my dog is overweight?
You can do a quick test to check if your dog is overweight or not. Slowly run your fingers down your dog's side. If you cannot easily feel their ribs then your dog is overweight. You should also be able to easily feel their shoulder blades and see a slight tuck-up on their underside just behind the ribs. If this is not discernable then your dog could stand to lose a few pounds.
Why overweight dogs are at risk
Just like in people carrying around that extra weight can make your dog unhealthy and prone to certain health conditions. Many studies have shown that leaner dogs live longer, healthier lives. Overweight dogs are also more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, pancreatitis, hip dysplasia and other joint and bone issues as well as cancer.
How can I help my overweight dog?
You will need to start closely monitoring your dog's weight. If you have a small dog, buy yourself a good postage scale. If your dog is too big for that you may have to make frequent trips to the vet to weight them. Just like human diets drastically cutting down on the amount of food you are feeding and trying to lose weight too quickly is not healthy either. A good number to shoot for is about 1% of your dog's body weight per week.
There are many kinds of diet food for your dog out there though many are not really that great for your dog. Typically to help your dog lose weight their diet should be higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. You also need to be sure your dog is getting enough fat. Fat is what makes the dog feel full. Typically you should shoot for 25% or more protein, 12 to 16% fat, and less than 6% fiber.
If you are already using a good quality food, begin by cutting the amount by about 5%. Weigh your dog in a week and see if they have lost any weight from their initial weighing. If you are in the 1% range great. If your dog has not lost any weight cut the amount you are feeding them by 5% again and repeat. If you decide to switch foods start with the recommended amount for your dog's current weight and cut that by about 3% and follow the above guidelines.
Increasing the amount of exercise your dog gets daily can have a drastic effect on their weight. Proper exercise will help your dog burn calories and convert fat into muscle. If your dog is not used to much physical activity daily, start slowly. Start by taking them on short walks and gradually increase the distance as your dog builds up their endurance. Off-leash play in a safe, fenced-in area is also a great way for your dog to get exercise. Remember to take it slowly and consult your veterinarian if your dog has health issues.
How many Calories should my dog have?
If you are part of the growing trend of people that prepare home-cooked meals for their dogs, then how do you know how much to feed your dog? There are several formulas out there that allow you to compute the amount of calories that your dog should have each day based on their age, exercise level, etc. Unfortunately, things like breed, climate, coat type, etc also affect how many calories your dog should have so there is no steadfast rule. We have come up with a Calorie Calculator for Dogs that will give you an estimate of how much your dog should be eating but remember this is just an estimate and you should always monitor your dog's weight and adjust the amount you are feeding them accordingly.
Remember that treats also contribute to the amount of calories your dog is getting each day. If you train your dog quite often using treats you should first of all make sure you are using a good quality treat and also decrease their meals accordingly or use their meal as a training reward.
Sources: Counting Calories, The Whole Dog Journal, Sept 2009
The article is excellent. The advice is admirable. The problem of obesity in dogs is not restricted to the United States. I love the photo, it is so like my Boo, the Pug-Zu, but with all due respect, I think it might just be a possibly slightly unfortunate one to choose. May I take the liberty of suggesting that perhaps a photo f of say a labrador. might have been more appropriate. Labradors and their crosses must be about the most common types of dogs to be overweight, as they are such enthusiastic devourers of anything edible. I have always thought that the only fault of these gorgeous dogs was their tendency to become fat. Why I am suggesting puglike dogs are not perhaps the best to illustrate obesity is that they are I think amongst the most difficult to judge for excess weight. They have such a sturdy construction with an integral thick body covering, including rolls of muscles or fat(?), which seems to be innate. My Boo for instance looks particulary well-built. She is certainly solid and heavy, but she hardly eats anything (my vet told me spayed bitches often require very little food). She never clears her dish of the appropriate amount of food for her weight. Her lurcher companion invariably fulfils this task on her behalf, and every rib can be seen on Millie. Both dogs enjoy lots of exercise, two walks daily in hilly country of a minimum an hour to two hours each, usually more and two shorter "convenience" strolls about half an hour each. Boo also spends much of her time at home playing with a ball. I often wonder how she gets so much energy from so little food.
on 10/4/2010 at 5:19 AM