An overweight dog is a relatively common sight these days. Too many dogs weigh far too much for their age, size and breed, which can have a terrible impact on their health and quality of life. Although feeding Fido all his favourite treats might seem like kindness, feeding your dog too much is actually cruel. It can lead to respiratory issues, heart conditions and joint pain, as well as generally making them feel uncomfortable and short of breath.
However, realising your dog is overweight, and deciding to take action is the first important step. A lot of owners can’t actually see that their dog is far too heavy. It’s often hard to pick up on changes in weight when you see your dog every day. In a study by the University of Nottingham, ‘40% of owners with an overweight dog according to a veterinarian described the dog as normal.’
The best person to judge whether or not your dog is a healthy weight is your vet. If they claim your dog is under or overweight and you strongly disagree, you might want to get the opinion of another vet. There’s rough guidelines for how much a bitch or dog of each breed type should weight, but even dogs within the same breed can vary significantly in size.
If your dog does genuinely put on a lot of weight very rapidly, before you send them to a fitness boot camp for dogs, you might want to rule out any health problems. Dogs can put on weight due to a number of health issues, so check with your vet first to see if there may be any underlying conditions.
So, are you ready to transform Fido into a super healthy pooch? We’ve got some top tips, including diet and fitness suggestions to try and get your dog’s weight back into the healthy zone.
How to check your dog’s weight
It’s obviously a good idea to weigh your dog regularly, that way you can easily pick up on any big changes in weight. You can also tell whether your dog is overweight by looking at them, and doing your own checks. You should be able to feel but not see your dog’s ribs. Plus, when you look at them, they should have a clear waste and no excess fat around the abdomen. Here is a helpful tool from Purina that helps you identify your dog’s body condition.
If your dog is overweight, they are going to have to step up their levels of exercise. It’s important to be aware that for obese dogs, it’s not always possible (and it can be dangerous) to launch them into an extreme fitness routine. If your dog can’t manage much exercise due to their weight, you will have to gradually increase the amount of exercise they do and be patient.
Consult with your vet about how much to exercise your dog, as this will vary a lot depending on their age, weight, breed and lifestyle. However, if your dog is ready to increase their exercise levels, here’s some ways you can do it.
Slowly increase your dog’s walks by a few minutes each day, and build up to doing much longer walks. A twenty minute stroll around your local dog park simply won’t be enough.
Try taking your dog to a dog sport each week, such as flyball or agility. Both of these sports are excellent for helping your dog to shift those pesky pounds.
Hydrotherapy is a wonderful form of exercise for your pooch. It’s low impact, which means it’s kind and gentle on your dog’s joints, which is particularly handy for overweight dogs.
Play with your dog throughout the day to keep them active and moving about. If they are friendly with other dogs, try and meet up with some buddies once a week so that they can have a play. Dogs can burn a lot of calories when they play with each other, and it’s great for their social skills too.
If your dog is rapidly putting on weight, then you will need to review their diet. Never change their food right away, instead, introduce a new food slowly. Often owners claim they don’t feed their dog that much, but then they forget all the sneaky snacks, and can be unaware how many treats other family members are giving their dog. Here’s some tips on putting together a new diet plan for your overweight pooch:
Switch to a better quality, weight management dog food
A lot of dog foods are packed with filler ingredients, which are used to bulk out the food. Often these ingredients, such as cereals and grains, can cause your dog to put on weight easily. Look for dog food brands with a high percentage of protein (between 20 and 60%) and avoid brands that contain a high amount of cereals. Many dog food brands offer specialist weight loss dog food, which is low in fat and made specifically for pooches who need to shed the pounds.
Make sure you are feeding your dog the correct amount
Surprisingly, a lot of dog owners don’t measure out dog food, they just estimate how much they think their dog needs. By doing it this way, you could easily get things wrong. The best thing to do is to read the manufacturer’s guidelines and measure out your dog’s food properly. If you do this and your dog is putting on weight, you might want to reduce how much you give them every so slightly. If you aren’t sure, speak to your vet.
Include treats and snacks in their daily allowance
There’s no point sticking to giving your dog a set amount of dog food each day, but then giving them as many treats as you like. Your dog’s treats, bones and snacks should all be counted in their daily amount. Make sure all family and household members know how much Fido is allowed each day, and they don’t get tempted to break the rules. If you want your dog to lose weight, it has to be a team effort, the whole pack has to be involved. Watch out for those sneaky feeders who will try and spoil your pup behind your back, as they could be the main cause of their weight gain.