Sadly, obesity isn’t just a problem that increasingly affects people in the Western World, it applies to our pets too.
Obesity is defined as an excess of body fat. It can happen if the dog receives too much food, especially if he is getting regular treats or human food, he doesn’t get enough exercise or he’s one breed that gains weight easily. Neutered dogs are more likely to be overweight, as sex hormones affect an animal’s metabolism – the lack of them slowing it down.
While it can be difficult to resist showing our dogs love through giving them extra food, an obese dog will not have the same life expectancy as a normal weight dog. Excess body weight affects multiple areas of the body, such as the bones and joints, the digestive organs and the respiratory system. An overweight or obese dog is also at risk of developing arthritis or diabetes, which may need managing through expensive medication.
Obesity is diagnosed by measuring your dog’s weight or scoring its body condition (composition) and comparing this to the breed standard. If a dog is about 10 to 15 percent heavier than it should be, this is counted as obese.
Roughly, you can tell if your dog is overweight or obese by looking at them from above. The dog’s waist should be clearly visible – i.e. you should be able to see the indent where the waist comes in. There’s a handy guide to what different dog breeds should weigh here but remember before you embark on a weight loss programme for your dog, you should have this plan approved by a vet. Just as is the case with humans, for a dog to lose weight he must eat less and exercise more, so that the energy equation going in is less than that going out.
Have your dog weighed regularly
Your vet probably offers this service for free. It’s easier to weigh a dog on custom-made scales.
Consider ‘diet’ dog food
There are special makes of food that are calorie controlled and they can help your dog lose weight.
Ensure proper portion control
Unlike humans who put themselves on a diet, a dog has little or no control over the amount of food he receives – this is up to you. Weigh and measure all food to ensure he doesn’t get too much.
Stop the treats
Bits of cheese, cake, sausages etc can seem like tiny amounts to you, but proportionally they are high in calories for dogs. And they may not provide the nutrition your pet needs. It can take a while to resist puppy dog eyes, but it’s the best solution in the long run.
Get everyone on board
If your dog is a family pet, your children might be feeding him, or he could take advantage of the kids’ messy eating. Tell everyone that the diet is the best way to love and care for your dog.
Make sure your dog is exercised regularly
For most breeds, a minimum of twenty minutes two times a day is great. If your dog is up for it, try to squeeze in longer walks and runs at the weekend too.