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Beware Obesity in Dogs!
Sure, we love our furry friends in all shapes and sizes. And while a chubby dog might give us more to love, we don’t love the ill effects of obesity on our dog’s health and longevity.
Obesity is a pretty common problem in dogs and causes a multitude of unnecessary health risks. Extra weight on a dog carries very similar risks as it does for humans — the risk of developing diabetes, joint pain, liver problems and more.
The major causes of obesity in dogs are pretty simple and probably not shocking — overfeeding and under exercising. Some breeds of dogs are more susceptible to weight gain than others. Pugs and labs fall into that category, along with many others. Dogs are also more prone to gain weight as they age.
How can you tell if your dog is overweight? As a general guideline, you should be able to feel your dog’s backbone and ribs without pressing. If you have to press, your dog is likely overweight. You should also see a waist, or a space where your dog’s abdomen curves in, between the back of his or her ribcage and hips when you look at your dog from above. When you look at your dog from the side, your dog’s abdomen should curve up (not hang down). If you suspect your dog may be overweight, a vet can confirm for you.
You will need a vet’s advice before starting your dog on any kind of weight loss program to ensure it is safe for your dog’s health. Always follow doctor’s orders, but a weight loss program for dogs will probably include correcting your dog’s diet, giving treats in moderation, giving the right amount of exercise and modifying your behaviors as well as your dog’s.
Your vet can help you determine what and when to feed your dog. Your dog will need the right food that will likely have a fat to keep his or her skin from deteriorating during weight loss. Diets diluted with high fiber can lead to larger stool volume, frequency in defecation and decreased nutrient digestibility, so the correct kind of food is a must.
We love to give our dogs treats as much as they love receiving them, but too many treats do more harm than good. Treats should make up less than 5 percent of your dog’s daily caloric intake. If you’re training your dog on a modified diet, you can break treats into very small pieces and use the smallest amount possible as a reward.
Diet change alone will help, but to have a healthy, strong pup you really need to add more exercise. This will help your dog achieve and maintain weight loss over time by adding muscle, which in turn burns more calories. Regularly exercise your dog to reduce appetite and burn more calories, with the added benefit of reducing anxiety, helping with behavior issues and giving you an overall happier and healthier dog. There are many dog sports you can try to engage your dog in some fun exercise activity.
Finally, you have to modify your behavior along with your dog’s lifestyle changes. Your dog didn’t become overweight on his or her own and needs your help to get back to and maintain a healthy weight. Form new habits like taking longer walks together and not giving table scraps to help your dog be happier and healthier.
If you need more tips on how to keep your dog at a healthy weight, contact Head of the Class Dog Training. We’d be happy to point you and your pup in the right direction.
Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.
Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.
She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.