Reducing Dog Obesity

It is estimated that up to 40% of dogs are overweight, and yet the majority of dog owners are either unaware or in a state of denial that their beloved pet has a problem. Overweight dogs suffer from a number of health issues both daily and long term – if you’re concerned, you should always consult your vet. They’ll be able to examine your dog and tell you the correct course of action. For information, below are a few examples of potential health problems relating to obesity:

1. Back problems, dangerous with long back breeds
2. Heart attacks and strokes
3. Kidney problems
4. Liver problems
5. Joint problems
6. Urinary track problems and infections
7. Behavioural problems
8. Diabetes
9. Arthritis

There are number of ways to both prevent and treat excess weight. The answer is pretty much the same as what you usually hear about human weight problems: what is eaten, exercise, and genetic disposition. First lets talk about preventive measures.

Prevention

At the earliest puppy stage, food is often used as a training mechanism. Many dogs are food driven and this becomes a very effective tool. The mistake that people often make is overdoing the reward as well as using treats as a sign of affection. At this point the dog learns he can get a treat simply by begging for it, any time of the day as often as it wishes. The behaviour of the dog changes too, losing interest in play and physical activity. The dog becomes lethargic and its appetite grows as fast as its belly. Managing the dogs diet properly from day one to maturity and having a regular exercise program is the best way to prevent dog obesity. Here are some tips:

  • Use training treats only long enough to establish the routine in the dog’s memory, reducing the frequency of awarding the treat as the desired behaviour is learnt and repeated.
  • If you use a large amount of training treats, cut down the meal portion to compensate.
  • Resist the temptation to feed your dog “affection” treats through out the day. At the very most limit it to once or twice a day.
  • Feed your dog the proper daily portion size according to the breed and the breed’s ideal weight.
  • Do not feed the dog table scraps. “People food” is often very high in fat and calories and in some cases may cause health problems and allergies.
  • Exercise your dog daily and find other regular activities where the dog may learn to socialise with other dogs and people.

Treatment

It is not always obvious when a dog is overweight. Large dogs and long-haired breeds in particular may hide it well. One way to tell is to look and feel for the dogs ribs. If the ribs are protruding then the dog may be underweight while if you cannot feel the individual ribs, then your dog is most likely overweight. If in doubt, check with your vet who will be only too happy to tell you what your dogs ideal weight should be based on the breed and height.

Treating an overweight dog comes down to the same basic factors as prevention – diet and exercise. Feed the proper portion size. Try to stay away from people food and excessive snacks…..and exercise, exercise, exercise! Be diligent, consistent and in control – your dog will definitely feel the benefits.

Health

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