The statistics are startling … over half of all American dogs are overweight or obese. That’s 35 million dogs! That goes right along with three out of every four Americans are overweight.
Unfortunately, if you’re in this group, you could be cutting your own life and your dog’s life short.
According to PetMd, obesity is common in dogs of all ages, but it usually occurs in middle-aged dogs, and generally in those that are between the ages of 5 and 10. Neutered and indoor dogs also tend to have a higher risk of becoming obese.
With October being Pet Obesity Awareness Month, we thought we would address this growing concern. Your dog’s extra weight (and those extra treats you sneak him) are adversely affecting his internal organs, joints and bones. Overweight dogs are more likely to suffer from arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and more.
According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs who maintain an ideal body weight live almost two years longer (and with significantly less disease) than their overweight counterparts.
That should be incentive enough to get that extra weight off your dog starting as soon as possible. No more excuses – he’s not just big-boned!
The answer is simple in theory, just not in practice.
Exercise more and eat less.
This applies to young dogs as well as old dogs. Remember that as your dog ages, his metabolism slows down and he probably doesn’t exercise as much, making the whole weight loss process even harder.
So what should you as a responsible dog owner do?
#1: Determine if your dog is overweight.
Examine your dog carefully. Particularly check around his midsection while he is standing. The ribs and spine should be easy to feel, and on most pets, there should be an indention for their waist. If you cannot easily feel your dog ribs or spine, and the tucked-in waist feels thick, talk to your veterinarian about a weight loss regimen for your pet.
#2 Know your dog’s ideal weight.
Your vet will conduct a physical examination of your dog as well as take his weight. He will then determine if your dog is too thin, at an ideal weight, or overweight. It is not good for your dog to be too thin either! Many veterinary practices use a body condition scoring system on a scale of either 1-5 (3 is normal) or 1-9 (4.5 is normal).
#3. A diet is a necessity.
Too often dog owners equate love with feeding. Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite – if you love your dog, you’ll help him lose weight. Your vet will probably recommend one of three things: 1) change dog foods (there are many dog foods specifically for older or overweight pets); 2) change the amount of dog food; or 3) change the frequency of the meals. There are many dog foods with lower overall calorie density that contain an appropriate nutrient balance. Diets that are rich in dietary protein and fiber, but low in fat, are typically recommended. In lieu of high calorie over the counter snacks? With your veterinarian’s approval, try carrots, green beans, broccoli or air popped popcorn.
#4 Exercise more. This is something you and your dog can do together. Most vets suggest a 15-minute walk twice a day plus a game of fetch. Swimming is also an excellent exercise for both dogs and humans.
Once your dog is at his ideal weight – you can’t slack off. It is important to maintain the ideal weight through proper portion control and exercise. Both you and your dog will be happier and healthier!