Dieting is a long established phenomenon, with obesity a widespread problem in the modern world. But it sadly doesn’t stop with us humans, our dogs are getting fat too! This is no longer an isolated problem, reports put the proportion of overweight dogs in the United States alone at over half the canine population! The time has long passed for this issue to be tackled. But the question is, do people realise that their dog is overweight, and what should they do about it?

What is making our dogs fat?

I don’t want to play the blame game, but sadly the answer is, WE ARE! Historically, in the wild, there is little evidence of dog obesity, so sadly it is a modern, domestic issue. Dogs are simply consuming too many calories, and not getting enough exercise. This is the route of the problem. Our lifestyle has, to a certain extent, been adopted by dogs. We have to carry the can for this, after all we feed our dogs and we should be the ones exercising them. To tackle obesity in dogs you have to know when you are facing it! It’s a sad fact that a large proportion of dog owners don’t realise their canine is a holding a few extra pounds. Luckily there is a technique, used by vets worldwide, that is a simple way of determining this. You can try it yourself!

The Body Condition Score

To find your out if your dog is on the podgy side, the first and most important part of this technique, is to feel the dog’s ribs. This works with any breed. If your furry friend is in a normal weight range you should be able to feel their ribs easily. There should be a little fat around them, but each rib should be distinct. If you cannot feel the ribs, or there is a lot of fat around them, it is a clear sign your canine companion is in need of a diet! Still not sure? Try another step. Look at your dog from above. You should be able to see a definite waist behind the ribs. If the area between the ribs and hips is wider than the hips then your dog is very overweight! You should also be especially aware of your dog’s weight as it ages. As your dog enters its senior years, activity levels will of course decrease. But you have to make sure that the number of calories taken in by your older canine also goes down.

Not to be Taken Lightly!

Overweight canines can suffer from many serious ailments:
  •          At least one quarter of overweight dogs develop serious joint problems. Carrying the extra weight causes them to become damaged. Arthritis can develop, and the pain and joint changes associated with hip dysplasia become far, far worse.
  •         Diabetes is very common in overweight pooches. This is because there is an increase in insulin secretion to handle the increased blood glucose level in the chubby canine.
  •         High Blood Pressure – the heart has an increased workload, pumping blood to excess tissue. Which can ultimately lead to congestive heart failure.
  •         The additional fat in the chest can restrict the expansion of the lungs, leading to poor respiration. Meanwhile there is a greater demand to supply oxygen to the larger body.

Breed Matters

shutterstock_150210119 ANY dog can be overweight, but there are some breeds that are prone to gaining an extra kilo or more. So if you have one of the following breeds you need to be extra, extra careful: [one_half_first]
  •                     Labrador Retriever
  •                     Pug
  •                     Dachshund
  •                     English Bulldog
  •                     Cairn Terrier
  •                     Beagle
  •                     Cocker Spaniel
  •                     Rottweiler
[/one_half_first][one_half_last]
  •                     Golden Retriever
  •                     Chihuahua
  •                     Scottish Terrier
  •                     Pit Bull
  •                     Boxer
  •                     St. Bernard
  •                     Cavalier King Charles
  •                     Basset Hound
[/one_half_last]

Fight the Fat

You know how to find out if your dog is overweight, and you know the consequences. So what should you do? Well before getting started, a visit to our local neighbourhood vet is in order. This is important for several reasons. Firstly your dog might have an underlying medical reason for why it gains weight, and this would of course affect your vet’s advice. Secondly your vet can advise on your canine’s individual dietary and exercise requirements. The two most simple and obvious ways for your dog to lose weight is of course, portion control and exercise! It is up to the owner to enforce this. After all a dog is a big responsibility, and a dog is relying on its owner to take the lead and help fight the fat! It is the owner that decides the food the dog gets and the amount of exercise it has. Steps to take: Firstly there will need to be a gradual increase in the amount of walks and other exercise for an overweight dog. But most important of all is what to feed a portly pooch! AVOID - Big portions. Lots of treats. Table tip bits. These can all be factors that lead to dogs getting podgy. The local vet can advise on how many calories should be consumed by your dog. Luckily most commercial dog food provides details on the calorie content, helping you to adjust their daily intake.

Cut back on the treats!

We love our dogs, I know, and they love to have treats. And when they are good they deserve to be spoilt. But those tiny treats are often hiding a significant amount of calories, and they can seriously add up. shutterstock_113928748 But don’t worry, I am not advising you to stop giving your dog their treats. But consider some alternatives. Most dogs are not picky creatures and would enjoy a healthy vegetable snack as much as a calorie packed biscuit! We all love our dogs and we all want to see them happy and healthy. But our modern lifestyle and our tendency to overindulge our furry friends has fueled the growth in overweight dogs. But we have the means at our fingertips to turn this around. Our dogs can’t do it themselves. It is up to us! Use the simple test mentioned earlier to find out if your dog is packing some extra weight and get confirmation from your local vet. Then it's down to your hard work to get that dog, up, out and active, and eating healthy and in moderation. In the end you will have a happier dog, in better health, and by your side for longer!