The obesity epidemic is not only affecting human beings but extending its reach to our furry family members as well. Veterinarians report an alarming increase in pet obesity. Some reports indicate that up to 45% of dogs between the ages of 5-11 years of age are overweight.
You can determine if your dog is obese by simply observing your dog. If you are unable to feel your dog's ribs without pushing, your dog is probably overweight. You should also be able to see your dog's "waist" by looking at your dog from above, and see his "tuck," the area between his rib cage and hind legs, when viewing him from the side.
The first thing you should do when you find out your dog is overweight is to talk with your veterinarian about a weight loss plan. Simply cutting back on your dog's food may not give him the right amount of nutrients to fuel his body properly.
Talk to your vet about the amount of food your dog needs based on size and activity level. While most dogs need to be fed twice a day, your vet may recommend spreading that same amount of food over several smaller meals throughout the day. Stick with the recommended amount and try to avoid leaving the bowl out with food all day. Some dogs will eat just to eat and don't know when to stop when they feel "full." Portion control helps. (Just like it does with humans, it's good to say "no" to that second serving of stuffing.)
When choosing a brand of dog food, don't necessarily fall for marketing gimmicks on foods that use the words "lite", "natural" or "gourmet" and don't shop based on price alone. Your vet will be able to recommend a good, nutritionally sound dog food for your pet.
One easy way to avoid obesity with your dog is to remove your pet from the room where the family eats. You'll be less likely to feed him table scraps (a big no-no), and your kids will be less likely to "share" their liver and onions.
Serve all of your dog's meals and treats in his bowl and try to reduce the amount of snacks and treats your dog enjoys altogether. Treats should only make up 5% or less of a dog's daily food intake.
Consider treating your dog with non-food related attention. Tummy rubs and "Who's a good boy?"s are a great way to show your dog how much you love him, and they are 100% calorie free.
Of course, cutting calories and eating nutritionally are only one part of the picture when talking about obesity in dogs. It's important to get enough exercise.
A dog doesn't care about fitting into a pair of jeans or wearing a bikini on the beach, but canine obesity can cause some serious health issues; diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and of course, CCL tears and other leg injuries. While we make braces to help your dog recover from injuries like this, we can would much rather have a world of dogs who live a full and healthy life. Play, Hero. Play.