Is My Dog Overweight?
We all want lean and healthy dogs. Today, obesity affects up to 44 % of pets, which places them at risk for certain health conditions. Overweight dogs may be prone to a decreased lifespan and quality of life.
While many commercial dog foods can contribute to obesity in dogs, a lack of regular exercise together with a low-quality diet that is high in carbohydrates just may determine how much excess weight your pooch gains.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight?
Obesity is one of the most preventable diseases in dogs. It can cause many concerning health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and possibly cancer. Weight loss needs to be a gradual process as extreme weight loss can cause your dog to become ill.
If you’re wanting your furry best friend to lose some weight, it's important you consult with your veterinarian before starting a weight loss regimen. In the meantime, you’re probably wondering how to tell if your dog is overweight in the first place.
Here are some tips:
- A dog is at its proper weight when you can feel the ribs and spinal vertebra (backbone), and there is very little underlying fat and other body tissue.
- You can check by doing the Body Conditioning Score (BCS) each month until your dog reaches his ideal weight.
- You should not be able to see your dog’s ribs. Each rib needs to have a layer of fat surrounding it.
- If on the other hand, you cannot feel your dog’s ribs, he or she may be overweight.
- If looking at your dog from the side, you’ll need to see the waist “tucked’ behind the rib cage area. An easy way to check is to see if the waist area is the same size as the chest area. If it is, it’s time for a weight loss plan. This should be done together with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog loses weight slowly.
Exercise for Weight Loss
In addition to a healthy diet, exercise is extremely important in helping your dog los weight. Dogs need at least 30 minutes of physical activity every single day.
In many cases, weight loss can be as simple as cutting back the treats and opting for a regular exercise program that allows for plenty of off-leash runs. If your pooch is lethargic, you may need to encourage playtime and build up the amount of time your pet spends at the dog park. If your furry best friend is a couch potato and loves to hang out, he or she may just be depressed or stressed. Purchasing new dog toys like dog ball launchers can help to get your dog moving. Another idea to help encourage movement is to change your dog's environment. Sometimes a fun day at a dog-friendly beach can boost your dog's interest and happiness levels.
By increasing your dog's exercise routines gradually, you can also help reduce behavioral issues in the home. A tired dog is a happy dog. Plus, you'll be helping Odie burning off calories, and you’ll both be having fun!
How A Dog Becomes Overweight?
Secondly, improper diets and overfeeding can contribute in a major way to pet obesity. Proper nutrition that is made from high-quality ingredients, and backed by research is preferable for maintaining a healthy weight. Dry dog food is a better option than canned because it also promotes dental and gum health in dogs.
Dog food formulas are specially formulated for different life stages in your dog’s life. This will include puppyhood, adult, and senior. That said, opting for specialty or prescription diets from your vet for health conditions or allergies are good options for maintaining optimal health, as well as dealing with health issues like kidney disease if your pet is obese due to a health condition.
Could A Medical Condition Be Causing Excess Weight?
Keeping your dog a healthy weight keeps you ahead of the game. Understanding that pet obesity may happen gradually over a few months allows for you to consult with your veterinarian to discuss the correct feeding amounts, thus avoiding potential health issues which can be serious and end up with large veterinary bills.
Dogs may have certain health conditions that trigger obesity which may include the following:
- Cushing’s Disease
- Chronic inflammation
- Diabetes mellitus
Overweight and Obese Dog Health Issues
Avoiding those extra calories while maintaining a regular exercise routine will help your dog maintain muscle tone, weight control, temperature regulation and metabolism. That said, strenuous exercise is not beneficial to dogs, and may cause problems. If your dog is obese and out of shape, avoid long strenuous runs, most especially during the hot summer months.
Let’s look at what issues overweight and obese dog are faced with!
Weight loss can help improve your dog's quality of life.
When obese dogs lose weight, their quality of life improves compared to others that don’t. A study on canine obesity adds that “Obesity is a serious disease and can lead to many other health disorders including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis,” via Science Daily. In this study a quality of life questionnaire was answered. “A range of life quality factors were scored, including vitality, emotional disturbance and pain. The quality of life of dogs which succeeded with their weight loss program was also compared with those dogs that failed to lose weight successfully.”
The study goes on to add that “The results showed that the quality of life improved in the dogs that had successfully lost weight, in particular vitality scores increased and the score for emotional disturbance and pain decreased. Moreover, the more body fat that the dog lost, the greater the improvement in vitality. Dr. Penelope Morris, from the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, added: "Strategies for combating obesity and keeping dogs fit and healthy include portion control, increased exercise and diets specifically formulated for overweight pets."
It can also reduce their risk for metabolic abnormalities.
Another study demonstrates that obese dogs are also at risk for health conditions that are experienced by humans. This study says that “obese dogs can experience metabolic syndrome, a condition that describes multiple health issues that occur in the body at the same time.
The condition occurs when a number of health problems, such as increased blood glucose and increased cholesterol levels, develop together, with the potential to increase the risk of other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”
This study involved 35 obese dogs, of which 20% were found to have metabolic syndrome. Similar to humans with the condition, obese dogs had increased blood insulin, suggested that the pancreas is working harder than normal to control blood glucose. Blood adiponectin, a protein produced by fat cells that helps control sugars and fats, was also at lower levels than normal. It is yet to be determined, however, what the exact health impacts of these issues are on dogs, and if they are similar to the diseases that metabolic syndrome can cause in humans.
The study concludes that metabolic abnormalities identified in obese dogs, improved when they successfully lost weight.
Other Health Issues Resulting from Canine Obesity
Weight-loss for both humans and pets is a popular trend, but everywhere you turn today you’ll see obese pets and people. By adjusting the amount of food that you feed your pet, and feeding a high-protein low-carbohydrate diet, the diet may help to prevent loss of muscle mass while consuming a calorie restricted diet. You can also increase outdoor positive dog training sessions all the while incorporating off-leash runs. This helps with mental stimulation and training, and the team effort will keep you both bonded for life!
Opting for a high-fiber diet that is low in fat also provides less calories, and will help your dog lose weight but at the same time will keep him satisfied, preventing hunger.
By staying on top of preventable weight gain in pets, you may help to avoid the following health issues:
- Poor limited liver function
- Heart disease
- Digestive issues
- Hip dysplasia and other joint issues
- Weakened immune system
- Kidney failure
- High blood pressure
- Malignant tumors
Keeping your pet in optimal health, and at a good weight by preventing obesity and feeding a healthy diet, you’ll help to ensure longevity and good health. All dogs will respond differently to weight loss diets just like their pet parents.
Working together with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is on a balanced weight-loss diet with whole food ingredients together with regular daily exercise will help to determine how much weight he or she loses. Keep in mind that pet health insurance offers routine care coverage to help with costs related to healthy weight loss in dogs, and keeping your pooch healthy.
Claudia Bensimoun is a freelance journalist in W.P who specializes in veterinary & pharmaceutical digital content. She's also a longtime contributor to The United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA), Animal Wellness, and Fido Friendly magazine.