Too Fat To Fetch?
Canine obesity is on the rise in America but you can prevent your dog from packing on the pounds.
It’s not just American humans who are struggling with rampant weight gain. Unfortunately, our dogs are also getting unhealthily heavy.
Canine obesity is a rising problem in our country and can mean serious health implications for our beloved pets. The fourth annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention study released this February found approximately 55 percent of dogs in America are overweight or obese.
The most common causes of obesity in dogs are the same as humans — overfeeding and lack of exercise. These might seem like obvious reasons but you’d be surprised at how little people pay attention to their dog’s diet and exercise habits. If dogs consume more calories than they need without burning off that energy, they will gain weight (just like us). Overweight dogs put more stress on their hearts, joints, livers and kidneys and are at a higher risk of injury and illness.
There are plenty of things you can do to prevent your dog from becoming overweight or to help your dog lose some extra pounds. It is best to be proactive — just because your dog is not overweight now doesn’t mean you should ignore his daily exercise and food intake! Here are some things to consider about your dog’s health and well-being.
1. Exercise is extremely important for a dog’s mental and physical health. It is recommended that dogs get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, but this amount may vary depending on the dog’s breed. The more exercise a dog gets, the less likely he will be to get bored and turn to destructive behaviors to keep himself occupied. Regular exercise will also help a dog burn off those extra calories he gains from treats.
One of the mottos I live by is “a tired dog is a happy dog!” Taking your dog walking, running or even swimming is a fun way for you both to get in shape and spend quality time together. You might also consider bringing your dog to a fenced-in dog park. It is a good way to run around and burn some calories while socializing with other dogs.
2. Overfeeding is a common way for dogs to gain extra weight quickly. Owners must be diligent about their dogs’ meals. Do you measure out each of your dog’s meals? If not, you probably don’t realize how much food you are putting in your dog’s bowl, which could mean you are feeding him too much.
If you have multiple dogs and don’t supervise their eating, you might want to separate them during meal times to make sure they are not eating from each other’s bowls. Giving a dog too many treats and feeding him table scraps can also lead to unnecessary weight gain (see No. 4 and No.5).
3. Research what you are feeding your dog. The American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals recommends that you work with your vet to determine your dog’s daily calorie requirements, to select a suitable food and to determine how much to feed. The diet should contain a normal level of a moderately fermentable fiber. It is also a good idea to look for recognizable ingredients in your dog’s food. The more ingredients that you actually recognize the better.
4. If you tend to give your dog lots of treats, try breaking the treats up into smaller pieces to minimize his calorie intake without reducing the number of rewards he gets. You might also consider switching to lower-grain treats or using fresh vegetables as treats. Believe it or not there are many dogs that enjoy veggies such as broccoli, string beans, carrots or peas! Check with your vet to see what veggies are suitable to give your dog.
5. Resist the “puppy-dog eyes!” Although a begging dog can be cute, feeding him extra treats or table scraps can do more harm than good. If your dog has eaten his entire meal, he is not starving and it is not necessary to give him more food.
If you are just a sucker for puppy dog eyes (don’t be afraid to admit it … there are plenty of us who can’t resist that look) consider using non food-related items to reward your dog such as toys, rawhides (which last much longer than regular treats) and good old-fashioned praise and petting. If you notice your dog is constantly begging, try dividing his food into smaller meals throughout the day. Maybe instead of feeding him twice a day, break up his portions evenly into three smaller meals.
6. Other factors that can contribute to weight gain are age and breed. As dogs get older their metabolism slows down. Certain breeds such as labs, golden retrievers and pugs, are more prone to obesity. If your dog is overweight and you are not sure why, consider having your vet check him for heart, thyroid or metabolic disorders.
So how do you know if your dog is overweight? You should be able to feel your dog’s ribcage without pressing too hard on his side. There should be a little bit of fat over the ribs, but if you simply can’t find the ribs you have a problem! When looking at him from above you should see a noticeable dent in his silhouette where his waist is. If you don’t notice either of these traits your dog might be overweight. You can also take a BARC quiz (Body Assessment Rating for Canines) to see if your dog might be overweight.
Before changing your dog’s feeding routine be sure to consult your vet.