Is your dog overweight? Here's how to tell
Statistics indicate that one out of every four dogs seen by veterinarians is overweight, some even clinically obese. Just like the portion sizes in American culture have grown monstrously huge leading to obesity in humans, so too has the problem with feeding our pets too many calories and not enough of the right types of foods. Not surprisingly, obese pet owners tend to be more likely to have obese pets than do average size pet owners.
Dogs get fat for the same reasons that people get fat: too much food and too little exercise. And just like humans, dogs can lose weight the same way that people can lose weight: eat less and exercise more. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
Being overweight isn’t just an aesthetics issue for dogs. Our pets too are more likely to suffer from diseases including hypertension and congestive heart failure when they are overweight. Carrying too much weight can lead to hip, back, knee and joint problems, which is often what causes the owner to bring to the dog to the veterinarian, when mobility becomes an issue. Obesity can also complicate other conditions, such as arthritis and cardiopulmonary disease. Diabetes is a growing problem with the increase in overweight dogs. Just like in humans, obesity causes an increase in insulin production in the dog, which can lead to diabetes.
Do you need to put your dog on a diet? Actually, a good weight-loss program formula is pretty simple: calories burned must exceed calories eaten. You can accomplish this in several ways:
- Reduce calories
- Increase exercise
- All of the above
The first step in reducing your dog’s caloric intake is to eliminate all extra calories such as treats and table scraps. Step two is to reduce the calories of your dog’s primary diet by switching to a lower-calorie dog food or providing your dog with smaller portions of food when you feed him. It’s better to feed your dog two or three small meals each day rather than one large meal.
Now let’s talk about increasing your dog’s exercise level. Dogs need brisk walking, jogging and running. If you don’t have a back yard where your dog can play or if you’re not physically able to walk your dog briskly, they do make treadmills for dogs. But there are other simple back-yard games that increase your dog’s exercise activity, such as:
- Place a broom across two plastic buckets. Hold a treat on one side, and encourage your dog to jump over.
- Place a piece of carpeted plywood on four cement blocks. Teach your dog to jump up onto the wood, sit for a few seconds, and then jump down. This is cardio exercise for your dog.
- Get a nylon pipe tunnel and sit at the other end to persuade your dog to run through it, and then reward him with a toy at the end.
- Throw a flying disc for your dog to catch and bring back.
- Show your dog a toy, then hide it and have your dog play hide-and-seek by trying to find the hidden object.
- Bounce a ball off the side of the house so that the dog has to watch the ball to see where it is going and chase and retrieve it.
Not sure if your dog is fat? Take your hands and run them along the sides of your dog. Can you feel the ribs? Can you detect a “waist?” If your answer to either of these questions was no, your dog might be one of the 40% of all dogs suffering from being overweight or obese.