Obesity can predispose your furry friend to a number of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Additionally, overweight dogs are at an increased risk of developing cancer, osteoarthritis and bladder stones, over the course of their often-shortened lives. Learn how to determine if your dog is overweight so that you can make the necessary changes to give your dog the best chance at a long, healthy life.
Observations of Obesity
Your dog’s body proportions should resemble those of healthy individuals of the same, or similar, breed. If you cannot see your dog’s waist, she is overweight; when viewed from above and the side, her body should taper strongly after the ribs. However, veterinarians investigate several different body areas to determine if a dog is overweight, healthy or thin. The ribs should not be visible, but it should be easy to feel each one with your fingers. Dogs with health body weights should have palpable, but not visible, bones at the base of their tail, spine, shoulders and hips.
If you suspect that your dog is obese, visit your veterinarian to ensure that the excess weight gain is not the result of a metabolic disorder or other health problem. Healthy dogs gain weight when they consume more calories than they burn. These excess calories are stored as fat, and if this imbalance persists, obesity can result. PetEducation.com explains that dogs who are spayed or neutered burn fewer calories than those who are unaltered, so be sure to feed such dogs slightly less food than normal to prevent a surplus of calories. Even if your dog eats an appropriate amount of food and gets regular exercise, an abundance of table scraps, which are often packed with calories, can quickly turn your svelte schnauzer into a portly pup.
Trimming the Fat
Reducing your dog’s daily caloric intake is the first step to help your dog lose weight. While this can be accomplished by simply offering your pet slightly less food at each meal, it is preferable to switch to a commercial food that is designed for weight-loss. However, continue to use your dog’s current food if she is on a special diet for a health problem. PetEducation.com advises dog owners to avoid drastic calorie reductions. Ideally, your dog’s diet should cause her to lose approximately 0.5 to 2.0 percent of her body weight per week. In other words, if your dog weighs 50 pounds, she should lose up to 1 pound each week.
While modifying your dog’s diet helps to reduce the number of calories she ingests, it is important to increase the number of calories she burns as well. Take your dog on more frequent walks, play more games of fetch or let her spend some time playing with other dogs, to help fire up her metabolism and shrink her waistline. Always take your pup to the vet before beginning an exercise program and avoid pushing your dog too hard – if your dog is a canine couch potato, you must let her ease into an exercise regimen.