Getting Your Overweight Dog In Shape

According to the latest study from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), some 53 percent of dogs in the U.S. are considered overweight or obese. It’s hard for most owners to recognize that their dog is overweight. We’re so used to seeing overweight dogs that they look normal to us. Here are some ways to tell if your dog is overweight:

• You should be able feel but not see your dog’s ribs. Run your hands over his sides. Can you find his ribs? In a dog of healthy weight you can feel the ribs. If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs, he’s overweight.

• In most breeds and mixes, it’s normal for a dog to have a “tuck up” behind the ribs. The tuck up is the dog’s waist. It’s a slight rise and narrowing in the flank area. Does your dog have a tuck up or waist? Or is he tubular in shape?

• When you look at your dog from above, does he look like a four-legged table? He’s probably overweight.

• Does your dog waddle when he walks? Most active dogs who are not overweight don’t waddle. If your dog waddles, he might be overweight.

• Check the weight charts in your vet’s office or online. They will show you what a normal, healthy silhouette of a dog should look like. You can compare it to your dog.

Let’s say that you look at your dog, feel his sides, and check the weight charts. Your dog is definitely overweight. What’s your next step? How do you get your overweight dog in shape? Well, there are a number of things you can do to help your dog.

The first thing you can do is talk to your vet. It’s often a good idea to have your vet examine your dog, especially if your dog is obese and not just a couple of pounds overweight. Your vet can determine if there is an underlying health problem that might be causing your dog to gain weight, especially if your dog has had rapid weight gain.

If your dog is healthy and doesn’t have any underlying problems, you can look at your feeding practices. This is one of the biggest reasons why dogs gain weight. First of all, do you free feed your dog? This means putting down food and leaving it for your dog to munch on all the time. Many dogs gain weight when people do this. It’s much better to have set meal times and to control the amount you feed your dog at each meal. Feed your dog as much as he will eat in about 15 minutes and then put the food away. You’ll be surprised at how much this will help your dog slim down. If you leave food in front of your dog all day he’s going to nibble and snack all the time, even when he’s not hungry, and it will make him put on weight.

Next, consider how many and what kind of treats you give your dog. Treats have calories, too! And some treats are quite high in calories. Even dental chews and bones have calories. If you give your dog lots of treats, you need to reduce his food portion a little to subtract calories from it. Otherwise you are simply adding calories to his diet.

However, you can give your dog low calories treats like small carrot pieces, unbuttered popcorn, apple pieces, and other fruit and vegetables. These treats are filling and they don’t have many calories. They’re also quite healthy.

You should also consider the food you’re feeding. If your dog is definitely obese you should probably consider changing his food to a weight management dog food which has fewer calories. However, if your dog is overweight by a few pounds you might be able to cut down the portions you feed or change to an adult maintenance or all life stages food with slightly fewer calories. You can check how many calories kibbles have here: http://www.dodgecountycanine.com/files/Dry_Dog_Food_Calorie_content.pdf

Don’t forget to try to help your dog get a little more exercise, too. It doesn’t have to be a drastic increase in exercise. Even if you just start taking your dog for a short daily walk it will help.

All of these changes will help get your overweight dog in shape and improve his health. And that’s the reason why we care how much our dogs weigh. Obese dogs are more likely to have health problems like arthritis, diabetes, heart and lung problems, compromised immune functions, and they can even have a shorter lifespan. So, help your overweight or obese dog lose a few pounds and you’ll both be happier.