When your dog puts his or her head on your lap and gives you those wide, begging eyes, it can be hard to resist sneaking them that extra serving of food.
Unfortunately, we dog owners have a tendency to do this too often, and vets estimate that up to 40% of the world’s pet dogs are overweight or obese. While many owners realize it is unhealthy for their dog to be overweight, few realize when their own dog has become obese. That is because it can sometimes be hard to notice. According to pet nutrition experts, James Wellbeloved, the difference between a dog with a healthy weight and being overweight can be just a few pounds.
With so many dogs at an unhealthy weight, it is important owners not only know how to recognize if and when their dog has become overweight, but how to help them return to and maintain a normal, healthy size.
The dangers of being overweight
Just like in humans, being overweight can lead to short and long-term health problems in dogs. Hypertension and respiratory problems create more pressure on the heart and can lead to cardiac issues, while diabetes and liver disease can also impact quality and length of life. There is also an increased risk of cancer with obesity, while some problems, like osteoarthritis, can confound the problem by restricting movement, making it harder for your dog to exercise and return to their ideal weight.
Ways to check your dog’s weight
Before you can know if your dog is at their ideal weight, you need to know what that weight should be. There are a number of online weight charts which give estimates for how much a dog should weigh as an adult according to their breed and sex. However, for a more accurate weight range for your own dog, you should speak to your vet.
Once you know how heavy your dog should be, weigh them on scales once a month to keep track. Ensure you stay up to date on your dog’s health by scheduling a full health check with your vet twice a year.
Finally, if you don’t have any scales at home to weigh your dog, you can do a basic check just by looking and feeling. Generally, you should not be able to see your dog’s spine or ribs just by looking at them, but you should be able to easily feel them below a thin layer of muscle and fat. Equally, your dog’s waist should taper inwards slightly at the hips; if it doesn’t, they might be overweight.
How to maintain your dog’s ideal weight
The best way to maintain your dog’s weight and, therefore, their good health, is to balance the right amount of exercise with a consistent and suitable diet. Most dog food that can be purchased in a supermarket is purpose-made according to the size and age of the dog for which it is intended, and comes with recommended daily servings. Following these guidelines is the best way to ensure your dog gets all the food they need without eating to excess.
Balance the diet with at least two walks a day and plenty of play. Different breeds need different amounts of exercise to burn off their energy and food, so speak with your vet about what is right for your dog.
Once your dog has reached their ideal weight, weigh them regularly and keep a diary to keep from straying outside their perfect range. We understand it can be difficult to resist feeding your dog some occasional treats, but it is what is best for your dog’s health, and if you substitute snacks for play, we guarantee your dog will still show you lots of love.