Studies have shown that over 50% of dogs are overweight in America and experts fear that this will soon be the case here in Ireland. Obesity is the response to the body storing excess energy as fat.
There are many reasons that can cause a dog to become overweight, the most common being an incorrect diet and lack of exercise. Feeding your dog human junk food and dog treats too often can contribute to extra weight. Even some “healthy” dog treats can be high in calories when eaten in excess. Many owners also allow their dog to free feed i.e. leaving a full bowl of food down for them all day. This is not a great idea for dogs that are prone to over eating. When it comes to exercise sometimes people that have large gardens tend not to engage in exercise with their dogs as often as they should, and this lack of activity can also be a major factor in contributing to obesity.
Other factors which can affect your dog’s weight include injury or illness and certain breeds of dogs. Injured or ill dogs are often instructed to be kept indoors while they recover and some breeds of dog are more likely to gain weight such as English Bulldogs, Beagles, Dachshunds, Pugs, Dalmatians, Labradors and Cocker Spaniels. Spayed or neutered dogs also easily gain weight and should be fed slightly less.
Canine obesity can lead to many different health problems, or can worsen an existing one. The most common illnesses associated with obesity are:
- Cardiac disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Various forms of cancer
- Orthopaedic injuries
- Respiratory problems, especially during exercise and hot weather
- Complications with anaesthesia and surgery
- Added stress on the lungs, liver, heart, kidneys and joints
These are to name but a few. Obesity can also greatly impact the quality and longevity of your pet’s life and can dramatically increase the cost of veterinary care.
Three steps to help determine if your dog is overweight:
- Run your hands along your dog’s ribcage. You should be able to feel the ribs but there should also be a thin layer of fat covering them. If you cannot feel the ribs it could be an early sign of obesity.
- Look at your dog from the side. You should be able to see the upward tuck of the abdomen. An overweight or obese dog will have little or no tuck.
- Look at your dog from above. There should be a moderate narrowing at the waist just past their ribcage. If there is a straight or bulging line from the ribcage to the hips, this indicates the dog is overweight.
If you are concerned about your canine’s weight, it is best to consult the vet to make sure there are no underlying health issues that caused the dog to gain weight. In extreme cases the dog may need to be put on medication but this is usually a last resort.
Before going down this route, there are a few tips that you can first follow in order to prevent or reduce weight gain –
Set your dog’s food bowl down with a measured amount of food and leave it there for 20 minutes. If they have not finished it by then chances are they don’t want it so take it away. Do this at each feeding time and monitor their food intake. If there are always leftovers, you may be feeding them too much.
Dog treats should be fed in moderation and shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily diet. Treats can be high in fat, even some marketed “healthy” ones, so check the packaging to keep an eye on how many calories are in each treat. It may sound silly counting calories for a dog but if it keeps them at a healthy weight then it’s not so silly after all.
You could also try pieces of fruit or veg like carrots and apples as many dogs enjoy them just as much.
It is recommended that dogs get between 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take them on a five mile run, as this exercise can include fun activities such as fetch or tug of war. If you are unable to commit to this regularly due to work or other reasons then consider hiring a dog walker that can walk and play with your dog so you can relax in the evenings knowing that your dog has been exercised. We offer 20 minute quick breaks to you can ease your dog into exercise, or you can book a 45min or 60min walk if your dog loves getting out!
Why not call our Freephone number 1800 30 30 10 to discuss which dog walking option would best suit your dog, or you can also fill out our online enquiry form here.