There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that a healthy dog of normal weight lives much longer than an overweight dog. As little as five pounds over the ideal body weight can put your dog at risk of developing some serious medical conditions. When a dog is overweight it is no longer a question of if, but rather when these conditions will start to manifest themselves and how serious they will be. Some of these conditions include:
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- osteoarthritis (arthritis)
- increased frequency of joint injuries
- high blood pressure
- some types of cance
Unfortunately, recent surveys found that 56% of dogs are overweight in the USA and 51% of dogs are overweight in the UK. Dog owners are literally loving their dogs to death. The first thing we have to ascertain is whether a dog is overweight and if so, how to get the dog to lose weight because weight loss can be as difficult for dogs as it is for people.
Is My Dog Overweight?
Your dogs correct weight obviously depends on its breed; Corgis, for example, have vastly different parameters to German Shepherds. There is a healthy weight range for each breed and if your dog falls within these parameters there should be no cause for concern. If there is any doubht your vet will be able to help.
Weight changes often go unnoticed, especially when the change is gradual and over a lengthly time period. When your life is busy your dogs physical activity often gets placed on the back burner, especially if you don’t have an energetic dog. It’s thought that the number-one cause of overweight dogs overfeeding and it’s easy to replace a walk with a dog treat which placates the dog and makes you feel better! Heavy dogs tend to physically interact less with their families, they are less energetic and less playful.
If you can barely see your dogs ribcage or if you are unable to see it at all this could indicate that your dog is overweight. There are some medical issues that might cause bloating, so if this may be the case, it’s best to book an appointment with your vet to rule these out. Your dog’s chest should also be wider than his or her abdomen, with a noticeable tuck-up from chest to stomach. An overweight dog will usually have no waist and no distinction between their chest and stomach.
How to get a dog to lose weight when it is overweight is something which needs to be planned. There may be an underlying medical condition that is causing or contributing to your dog’s excess weight which should be ruled out by a vet.
Some fairly common diseases associated with weight gain include hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and Cushing’s disease; where too much of the stress hormone cortisol is produced. Heavy dogs tend to physically interact less with their families, they are less energetic and less playful. It is easy to overlook early signs of illness because their lethargy is attributed to their natural laziness.
When it is established that your dog needs to lose weight weigh her on a weekly basis. Dogs which are overweight or obese should lose between 1% and 2% of their body weight every week until the ideal weight is reached. If the dog is not losing weight then the dogs calory intake must be reduced. All food must be considered which includes meals, treats and titbits. It is vitally important that every member of the family is on board and understands the critical importance of restricting your pets calory intake.
Changing The Diet
If you are introducing a new diet to your dog, you should make the transition over the course of a few days. If you are merely reducing portion sizes do so immediately. To minimize any digestive upsets mix the new diet in with the old diet in gradually increasing proportions. Start by feeding one quarter of the new diet mixed with three quarters of the old diet for two days, then increase to half-and-half for another two days, then three quarters new food to one quarter old food for two days before completely switching to the new diet.
Have set meal times and stick to these strictly, avoid treats and titbits. Your dog doesn’t think or feel that you love her any less because you feed her smaller meals or fewer treats so there is no need for you to feel guilty! Even if your dog does love food, you can substitute the fun you have sharing snacks with play and exercise.
Exercise Is Vital
One of the first things you can do to help your dog lose weight is to increase the intensity and length of your daily walk. Walk with purpose and aim for a daily brisk half hour walk where you should break into a slight sweat within a few minutes. During brisk walking time your dog should not be allowed to stop and sniff, ideally head for a park, fields or similar location where she can have a good sniff and mark her territory.
The use of toys such as balls, laser pointers, squeaky toys or sticks can encourage games of chase or fetchand add to the amount of exercise your dog gets. Aim to play with your dog for at least ten to fifteen minutes twice a day. There are toys that move randomly and make noises that may also be interesting to your dog. Dogs love variety and need to be mentally stimulated.
Persist With Love
Remember that you’re doing this because you love your dog dearly, you want her to have a long, healthy and happy life. She has perfected how to look at you longingly so you give her tasty snacks and titbits so it may seem horrible to deny her those treats which she is so used to recieving.
This is where the long term objectives must be considered and where it is important to stay true to the cause. Your dog will thank you for it by remaining healthier for longer and giving you more years together.