Have you checked your dog’s waistline lately? Well, probably not but maybe we should be looking a little closer to notice changes in our pet’s weight. Like humans, dog obesity has become a major concern in the U.S. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 20% of our dogs are obese, not just a little overweight, OBESE! They also estimate that 45 percent of dogs can be classified as overweight.
Many breeds are prone to obesity while others are simply being overindulged by their people. We love our dogs so much that we want to give them as much happiness as they give us. Unfortunately, those large portions, extra treats and table scraps are packing on the pounds and opening the door to many health risks including osteoarthritis, cruciate ligament rupture, heart failure, respiratory disease, skin disorders, many types of cancer, Cushing’s disease, infections, liver disease, lowered immune system function, diabetes, urinary problems, and heat exhaustion.
According to Somerset Veterinary Group, if a 20 pound dog eats 1 ounce of cheddar cheese, it’s the equivalent of a human eating 2 ½ hamburgers!
How can you tell if your dog is over-weight? The best way is to take a look at his/her midsection while your pet is standing. The ribs and spine should be easy to feel and there should be a slight hour-glass shape from chest to hips, with the waist being more tucked-in than the chest and hips. You should be able to grab ¼ inch of skin in the rib area according to Somerset Veterinary Group. If your dog has a more tubular shape, it’s time to think about a diet.
The best way to start managing the problem is to have a conversation with your Veterinarian. He or she can help you determine the ideal weight for your dog and rule out any health-related reasons for a weight gain. Once you’ve identified the ideal weight, you can discuss a change in diet such as a reduced-calorie food or smaller portion size and exercise plan that is appropriate for your dog’s age, breed, and weight-loss needs. Also, check your food scoop to make sure what you think is 1 cup really is 1 cup and begin feeding a level scoop instead of a heaping scoop.
Popular exercise options include a doggy treadmill, playing fetch, playing with other dogs, swimming, and long walks with their best friends. Excellent treat alternatives are carrots and apples. String beans are wonderful fillers with meals. My own Golden Receiver lost 10% of her body weight in a fairly short period of time using these methods. She barely noticed the change in diet and loved the additional attention!
Reducing your dog’s weight and giving him or her enough exercise is essential to a long and healthy life. My Veterinarian once told me that canine obesity can cut up to two years off of your companion’s life expectancy. So let’s get busy making sure our canine companions are with us a long, long time by taking a look at those waistlines after all!