Obesity In Dogs
In the United States it’s estimated that between 25 and 40 percent of the country’s dogs are overweight or obese. The figures are similar in countries such as the UK and Australia. Obesity in dogs has become a serious health problem. It can interfere with a dog’s quality of life and shorten his lifespan.
Obesity in dogs is primarily caused by overfeeding and a lack of exercise. It is almost entirely preventable. There are some cases where dog may become overweight or obese due to other health issues, but the leading cause is too much food from the owner. This food can come in the form of a lack of portion control; too many dog snacks; and too many table scraps. Second to overfeeding, and often accompanying it, is a lack of exercise for dogs. Many dogs wait at home all day for their owners and never get any exercise. Even dogs with their own yards don’t usually self-exercise enough to keep themselves fit.
Dogs that are overweight are at higher risk of a number of serious health problems including: diabetes mellitus; joint damage and damage to bones and ligaments; heart disease and high blood pressure; difficulty breathing; decreased stamina; decreased liver function; increased surgical and anesthetic risk; reproductive problems; digestive disorders (including flatulence); decreased immune function; skin and coat problems; increased risk of cancer; and decreased quality and length of life. Obesity can shorten your dog’s life and lead to many health problems during your time together.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptoms of obesity in dogs are easy to detect. However, many owners are not very good judges of their own dogs’ condition. They may think their dogs are in proper weight when, actually, their dogs are overweight.
To find out if your dog is the proper weight you should consult a weight guide for your dog’s breed. Most dog breeds have guidelines for weight included in the breed’s standard.
You should also be able to tell if your dog is overweight or obese by putting your hands on your dog or looking at him. A fit dog should look lean but not skinny. You should be able to find his ribs with your hands and feel them, but you should not be able to see them. If you feel rolls of fat when you put your hands on your dog, your dog is definitely overweight.
Viewed from the side, dogs of most breeds should have a moderate tuck-up behind their ribs. This is the dog’s waist and they are supposed to have one. A dog should not have a straight line from his elbows to his back legs. Look for the tuck-up.
Viewed from above, your dog should have a good physique. He should not look like a squared table top. If your dog’s back looks like you could set a tray on him, then your dog is too broad and too fat.
A fit dog should be able to walk and trot without huffing and puffing. If your dog huffs and puffs when he moves, or if he waddles when he walks (unless he is a very small dog), your dog is probably obese.
If you have any doubts about whether your dog is overweight or obese, you can ask your veterinarian. Most vets also have charts in their offices with pictures and drawings of how to tell if your dog is fit or overweight.
Obesity in dogs is a serious health condition and it does need to be treated. If your dog is overweight or obese you should definitely try to help your dog lose weight. Dogs gain weight because their owners overfeed them so it will be up to you to change your dog’s eating habits.
You should start by making sure that your dog’s portions are controlled. Use a scoop to measure how much you are feeding your dog. If your dog eats with another dog and steals their food, begin feeding your dog by himself. Feed your dog in a crate or another room if necessary, but you must control how much your dog is eating in order for him to lose weight.
Cut out the snacks. This includes doggy snacks and the extras you are feeding your dog at the table. You will need to make sure that everyone in your family follows this rule. If your kids are giving your dog extra food to eat you will need to get them to stop.
Once you begin cutting out some of your dog’s extra calories he may begin acting like he’s starving. If he gives you the starving dog routine, staring at you and making you feel guilty, you can add some canned green beans or some carrots to his meals. These vegetables are healthy and have few calories but they will help your dog feel full so he won’t be so hungry.
You can also give your dog healthy snacks such as carrots, popcorn, and apple slices. But no cookies or food with sugar and fattening calories. As a rule, snacks should not make up any more than 10 percent of your dog’s total calorie intake for the day.
Increase your dog’s exercise. Begin taking him for walks. You can start out with short walks and begin increasing them. They are good for both of you and they will help your dog lose weight. Even some moderate exercise is healthy for your dog and can help him live longer. As your dog becomes fitter you can find other ways to let him exercise such as taking him for a good run. Swimming is also great exercise for dogs.
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