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The Obesity Problem in Dogs and Puppies

Dr. Jan Bellows

When human beings gain weight, that weight gain is obvious. Our skin starts to sag and grow, our pants get too tight while our bodies start to jiggle as we run. There is almost no one in the world that does not notice that they have gained several pounds, and even fewer that do not notice that they have gone from fit to “obese.”

But when it comes to your dog, obesity becomes far less obvious. In fact, what defines obesity is not well known in the general pet owner population, despite obesity being one of the main health concerns of dogs and puppies across the nation.

What is an Obese Dog?

Obesity amongst dogs is a serious problem. But unlike with human beings, where you are not “obese” until you are more than 20 or 30 pounds overweight, with dogs a few extra pounds can be the difference between healthy and dangerously overweight.

Dog obesity is defined as any time that you cannot feel your dog’s ribs, your dog is overweight, and if the ribs are especially hard to touch, the difference in weight is considerable.

What amounts to a few extra pounds is actually quite a bit of weight gain. A dog that should weigh 30 pounds but weights 35 pounds is 16% larger than it should be. It is the same as a human that should weight 150 that weighs 175.

What Health Concerns Stem From Obesity?

When your dog is overweight, a number of health problems may occur. Some of these issues include:

·         Diabetes

·         Heart Disease

·         Increased Cancer Risk

·         Hip Dysplasia

·         Joint Problems

Among many others – and all of these are linked to simply a few added pounds over your dog’s ideal weight. It is important to remember that a dog’s body was not designed to handle weight gain. Many breed, especially, have increased levels of weakness on their body (the dachshund and its spine, for example) which are simply not able to handle any increased pressure, as they are barely able to handle their “ideal” weight. A few extra pounds can be dangerous.

What to Do to Limit Obesity

Part of the reason that pet owners do not often realize that their dogs are gaining weight is because that weight gain is hard to see. When you see your dog every day and the difference in weight gain is just one or two pounds, it can be hard to notice that your dog has changed inside at all. If your dog has a great deal of air, too, this can also make it very hard to notice.

There are several things you can do to reduce this weight gain. The first, of course, is to exercise your dog daily – giving it at minimum its daily recommended requirement, and more if possible. Dogs need to exercise for their own health.

The next thing you can do is give your dog only its recommended diet and adhere to effective feeding practices, including limiting its food and feeding it at very specific intervals every day. Dogs that can overeat will overeat, and the dogs that do not know when they are going to be fed may try hard to find unhealthy food elsewhere.

Finally, start rewarding with affection instead of treats. Treats are usually fattening foods and not ideal for your dog’s diet. Affection, on the other hand, causes no weight gain and for most dogs is just as much of a reward as a treat. If you are worried that your dog may be gaining too much weight, exercising and monitoring your dog’s diet should be all you need to do to make sure that your dog stays healthy for longer.