The Complete Guide To Canine Weight Management

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Canine obesity is a huge problem these days. According to a study by the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association, nearly half of all pets in the UK are classed as obese. When you head down to your local dog park you will probably come across quite a few dogs that are seriously overweight.

Many owners are living in denial, refusing to accept that their dog is overweight. Lots of people don’t even recognise that their dog is overweight in the first place. ‘Many people with overweight or obese companions do not recognize that this is the case.’ ( Peter Sandøe, Dilemmas In Animal Welfare). In a study by the University of Nottingham, ‘40% of owners with an overweight dog according to a veterinarian described the dog as normal.’

Dog owners want to spoil and treat their dogs, and they think the best way to do this is give them lots of food. They don’t realise that overfeeding can cause serious health issues and reduce their dog’s lifespan. Being obese can take up to two years off a dog’s life.

How to check if your dog is overweight

In order to keep an eye on your dog’s weight you need to know how to do a visual check. You should be able to feel but not see your dog’s ribs and they should have a clear waist.

The correct body weight will depend on your dog’s age, breed and size. Generally, dogs that are over 20% above their normal body weight are classed as obese. However, the best way to find out if your dog is the correct weight is to go for a checkup at the vet. Your vet should be able to determine whether they are at the right weight.

Once you know what weight they are supposed to be you should weigh them regularly to keep an eye on how they are doing. Owners see their dogs every single day and therefore they sometimes don’t notice weight changes, that’s why it’s best to go by the scales. Keep a record of your dog’s weight so you can monitor any big fluctuations. 

Here is a helpful tool from Purina that helps you identify your dog’s body condition.

Health risks

Being overweight can cause all sorts of health issues for dogs. They can develop diabetes, heart disease, increased blood pressure, have an increased risk of cancer and damage their joints. Obese dogs will often have great difficulty breathing, which is extremely debilitating. They may also be more likely to suffer heat intolerance and have very poor stamina. These are just a few of the many health issues that are caused by obesity.

According to the RSPCA, obesity ‘is increasingly considered a significant animal welfare issue, such that overfeeding can be characterised as being as cruel as underfeeding.’ Dogs that are seriously overweight can get extremely uncomfortable. Being overweight can cause them suffering and pain. Owners think they are being kind by overfeeding their dogs when in reality they are being cruel. Don’t let your dog suffer, get their weight problem sorted before it’s too late.

Common causes of weight gain

There are lots of reasons as to why dogs put on weight, and usually it’s a combination of things. Here are some common causes of weight gain in dogs:

Portion control – not giving your dog the correct amount of food. Lots of owners ignore portion advice on the labels of dog food brands and simply guess how much food their dog should have. This leads to a lack of control over their diet and overfeeding, resulting in weight gain.

Lack of exercise – An obvious one but something many owners fail to give their dogs. If your dog is not doing enough exercise they will put on weight. Make sure they are getting the right amount of exercise for their breed, age and size.

Secret feeders – Do you have a secret feeder in your family? A secret feeder is someone that gives dogs treats on a regular basis without the rest of the family knowing. If your dog is on a special diet make sure everyone in the family knows the rules and follows them.

Health issues – If your dog suddenly puts on weight and you can’t seem to figure out why then take them to the vet. Before embarking on any strict diets you need to check to see whether their weight gain is due to a health issue.

Poor quality dog food – Sometimes the food you are feeding can contribute to your dog’s weight gain. Some cheaper pet food brands use lots of filler ingredients rather than high quality, healthy stuff. Have a look at the ingredients on your dog’s food to see exactly what they are eating. If their food has a large amount of cereals then your dog will probably struggle to lose weight. Instead, go for a dog food with a decent amount of quality protein. If your dog keeps putting on weight the best place to start is by reviewing their diet.

Leftovers – Many owners make the mistake of giving their dog all their leftovers. Dogs are not designed to eat some human foods and as well as giving them an upset tummy it can make them put on weight very quickly. Avoid giving your dog too many leftovers on top of their daily meals.

Treats – We all adore our dogs and love nothing more than to give them nice tasty treats. However, treats should be included in your dog’s daily food allowance, not as an added extra. You also need to look at the type of treats you are giving them. For example, many dog owners use cheese, which is very appealing to dogs but it must be given in moderation as it is high in fat.

Forms of exercise

You don’t have to rely on dog walks to provide exercise for your dog. There are plenty of other ways to keep them fit and active. Here are some of the main forms of exercise available for your dog:

  • Going on longer dog walks
  • Dog sports such as Agility and Flyball
  • Playing with your dog or allowing them to play with other dogs
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Playing with their toys
  • Going running with your dog

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