An increasingly common but quite serious health problem in dogs nowadays is being overweight. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, about 54% of dogs are either obese or overweight (though we’d venture to guess that this figure is much higher!). Dogs that have excess fat in their body are at risk of developing a wide range of life-threatening canine health issues like skin problems, hormonal disorders, musculoskeletal diseases, heart complications, and cancer. Unfortunately, overweight dogs often have a reduced quality of life, and usually die at a younger age as compared to pooches that keep up their ideal, healthy weight.
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How Can You Tell if your Pooch is Overweight?
Many pet parents don’t realize when a dog is even overweight. For many, a healthy weight may look too thin.
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Try feeling around Fido’s ribs and spine. You should be able to locate both as you notice that only a thin layer of fat is separating his skin from the bones. If you are not able to gently hit upon his ribcage, then you can say that you have an overweight dog. Of course, you don’t want to see all of the ribs or protruding hip bones, but you might be surprised at how thin your dog really should be.
Another sign to help you know that your pooch is overweight is when you see a widening abdomen instead of a moderate narrowing at his waist past the ribcage when you view him from above.
Also, a bulging line from Fido’s ribcage to his hips can be an indication that your pet has gained considerable weight. Consult your vet to assess your dog’s size whenever you bring him in for his regular check-up. Once your dog has reached maturity, ask for his optimal weight so you’ll know the cut-off point. As a basic rule, 0-15% over optimal weight is overweight, while 15% higher is considered to be obese.
How Can this Condition be Treated?
Before starting on a weight loss program, take your dog first to the vet to confirm he is in good health. Even if your pooch is otherwise healthy, your veterinarian can still help in various ways. These include being able to identify the healthiest possible rate of weight loss for Fido and designing a plan for what and how much exactly he should eat. Aside from that, your vet can also prescribe a diet that is much more fat-and-calorie-restricted than those found over the counter. In serious cases, medications may be prescribed to help Fido feel full even when dieting or to help him get relief from pain in order to get more exercise.
If your pooch only requires losing a few pounds, reducing his current food intake by 15% or switching to a low calorie food might just do the trick. Bear in mind that dogs that have to lose weight generally also need to get their exercise levels stepped up. Owners also need to replace their pets’ table scraps and calorie-rich treats with healthier snacks.
One of the most common mistakes dog owners make is not measuring their pets’ food intake. Because all dog foods are different, read the feeding guidelines on the label and measure your pet’s food using a measuring cup or scoop to ensure you’re feeding the proper amount.
By the time you notice that a pet is overweight, some of the damage to his joints, heart health, and overall well-being has already been done.