Obesity in dogs is an increasingly common problem. Vets are seeing more obese dogs than ever before.
Trying to lose weight is a terribly complex process for people because we have access to food in so many different ways. But when pets get fat it can always be easily fixed. Because at the end of the day, a dog has absolutely no control whatsoever over how much food he gets to eat. He does not have to worry about willpower, or to count calories. His owner is there to do that for him.
If you think your dog is a bit fat, he probably is. If you think he needs to lose weight, he probably does. People get terribly wrapped up in concerning themselves about exactly what their dog should weigh and in deciding upon different types of exercise and different types of food or supplements for their overweight dogs. However, it really isn’t necessary.
Dogs get fat because they are fed too much. More exercise is a great idea, but if for some reason your dog does not get much exercise at the moment, just feed him less food. In a nutshell, that’s all there is to it.
People often say ‘my dog is gaining weight because he is not getting so much exercise at the moment’.
No, he isn’t.
He is gaining weight because you are feeding him too much!
It goes without saying that he will need less food if he is getting less exercise, yet this seems to be a sticking point for many dog owners.
But he’s so hungry you say! And maybe he is. Some dogs are just plain hungry from dawn to dusk. They will simply keep eating until there is no more food in front of them. This was an effective strategy in wild dogs where the next meal could be a very long time coming. It is a recipe for ill-health in an environment where food is always available.
Fortunately, unlike adult humans, your dog has an owner, you, to protect him from the effects of an overactive appetite. You don’t need me to tell you what those effects are, but I am going to anyway!
An overweight dog is at risk from all the ailments associated with obesity, just like you and me. He may get diabetes, he will certainly risk crippling joint problems and may damage his internal organs including his heart. Obesity is also associated with an increased risk of some cancers. And it makes dogs miserable.
How much should he weigh?
No-one can tell you exactly how much your dog should weigh. There are wide variations in weight even between dogs of the same breed. What I can tell you is that you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs under his skin without seeing them, (though it is ok to see the last rib or two on a dog when he moves in a certain way or is eating fast).
If you look down on your dog from above he should have a waist. If you look at the dog from the side, his belly should slope up towards his loins. If you can’t feel his ribs, if you can’t see a waist, the dog is too fat and you need to cut down his food.
How to slim your dog
You don’t need to rush out and buy extract of dandelion, or any other pills and potions for your fat dog, on the contrary, you will be saving money not spending it. All you need to do is give him less quantity of good quality dog food. And forget the treats or snacks, he does not need them. If the dog is still not losing weight a week after cutting out snacks, then start feeding him two-thirds of what you were feeding before. Still, no weight loss after a week then cut down to two thirds again.
You may be astonished at just how little food your dog actually needs, especially if he or she has been neutered. Some of the better quality and more expensive kibbles have fewer ‘fillers’ and additives in them, and a dog requires a much smaller quantity of these foods than you might think.
Obviously, if you can bring yourself to spend an extra twenty minutes each day engaging in some kind of activity with your dog, whether it is walking, playing Frisbee, whatever he enjoys, the weight will melt off much faster. But food is the source of the problem, and less food is the key to solving it.
Remember that you are the one with the opposable thumbs. You are the one with the wallet. You have all the power. The trick is to resist those appealing eyes and to make sure you use them wisely!
What about you? Does your dog put pressure on you to feed him? Do you find it hard to resist those appealing puppy eyes?
Please note: This article is not a substitute for veterinary advice. If your dog is obese, or if you have any other concerns about his health, you should consult your vet without delay for advice and information.