Just like us, it’s not hard for dogs to put on a few extra pounds, especially as they get older and exercise less. We are all guilty of succumbing to those puppy dog eyes, their head rested on your lap as we sneak them a little bit extra. But are we in danger of killing our dogs with kindness?
The effects of your dog becoming overweight may not be noticeable straightaway but can have a huge impact on their lives and lead to a host of health problems and worst of all a shorter lifespan.
By making sure your pet eats appropriate portions, has a balanced diet, and gets enough exercise, you can help them live a long, healthy and happy life.
How Do I tell if my dog is overweight?
Your dogs body condition is a great way to easily check whether your dog is in good shape and although a dog’s ideal weight will vary between different breeds, a healthy shape will be similar for most types of dogs.
You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs without a thick layer of fat over them. If you look at your dog from above when they are in a standing position, you should be able to clearly see his / her waist. Your dog’s chest should also be wider than his / her abdomen, with a noticeable tuck-up from chest to stomach. An overweight dog will generally have no waist and no distinction between chest and stomach.
Other signs include a lack of interest in physical activities or difficulty moving around, excessive panting or losing breath during physical activity quickly, frequently being tired or sleeping a lot, a thick fatty neck or rounder face.
If you are concerned or unsure make an appointment to see your vet. They can advise you whether your dog is the correct weight for their breed and size and will be able to advise the best course of action and provide support during any weight loss or exercise programme.
The Impact of Weight Gain
Overweight dogs can suffer from the same health problems that overweight humans do including heart and kidney disease, diabetes and skin conditions. Carrying extra weight can also put a strain on your dog’s joints and back, which can be painful and even lead to arthritis.
In addition to being uncomfortable in their daily lives, your dog’s lifespan may be shortened.
While there may be some breed, medical or other factors, being overweight is most commonly caused when dogs eat too many calories and don’t exercise enough to burn these calories off.
Helping Your Dog to keep Healthy
Although the effects of being overweight on your dog are very serious, the good news is that reducing your dog’s weight can reverse most of these risks. As with humans, the obvious answers are diet and exercise and simple changes may be all that is needed. And better still we as owners might benefit too!
Diet – Choose a balanced and nutritionally high-quality complete dog food that is high in lean proteins and lower in fats and carbohydrates. A good quality dog food will provide your dog with all the nutrients they require and keep their tails wagging contentedly.
Measure Food – Portion size, so often our downfall, can also be damaging for your dog. Feed your dog according to the feeding guidelines on the bag. You should feed your dog at set times and don’t leave dog food out all day for them to graze.
Avoid feeding Leftovers – Dogs are not designed to eat human foods and as well as giving them an upset stomach it can make them put on weight very quickly.
Treats – Tempting as it may be, treats should be exactly that, a treat. Dog treats should be included in your dogs daily allowance, not as an added extra. You should also opt for healthy treats which are low in fat and carbohydrates.
Regular Exercise – Exercise improves muscle tone, increases metabolism and helps reduce weight. Inactive dogs are often bored and eating may be one of the things that they do to relieve boredom. Longer walks and more play-time will benefit both you and your best friend!
Weight loss should always be done gradually. Don’t put your dog on a crash diet or starve them as this could prevent from getting essential nutrients.
Managing your dogs weight and reaching the physical activity level for their breed and size is important to their overall health and wellbeing. Being aware of what signs indicate your dog could be overweight can go a long way in helping your four-legged friend live a long and healthy life.
As with humans, the best weight management strategy is to follow healthy habits consistently. There should be no quick fix solution, instead its about a long-term life-style change. The small decisions we make every day will ensure our dog stays happy, fit and well in the long-term.
And who knows, with all this extra exercise, we may even find ourselves adjusting the belts a notch or two!