New Year, New Dog
Ah, New Year’s Resolutions… (Yes I am talking about New Year’s Resolutions in February). People (including me) say this is the year that they’re going to lose weight. Let’s talk about your animals getting into shape too!
Animal obesity is more common and definitely more harmful than you’re probably thinking. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says an estimated 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. How can we fix this? I have asked Dr. Jennifer Catalina of Goodison Veterinary Center some questions that might help this epidemic.
How do you know your dog is obese? Can you check for signs yourself (Body Condition Score)
Using body condition score (BCS) guidelines is the best way to monitor your companion’s weight. There are 3 components to this: being able to feel the ribs but not see them, making sure when looking from the top the ribs and hips are wider than the waist (think “hour-glass figure”), and from the side the chest should be lower than the abdomen. Look up body condition score on the web or ask your veterinarian for a copy of the chart.
How does a dog get to be obese, how much should I be feeding them and can you really go off of what the dog food bag says?
Unfortunately, weight control is 100% dictated by the hand that feeds them: the owner mainly. But any participants – children, neighbors, guests, etc. can contribute. Innocently, many owners do this without knowing by feeding the required amount on the back of the dry bag of food. The requirements on these bags overestimate the amount to be fed. A good guide when following the bag is to feed the weight range below our pet’s weight, and the low end of this range.
How can you help them lose weight? How much exercise should my dog be receiving?
Most clients will state that they take their dog for a walk daily, and do not understand why their pet is overweight. To lose weight, just like in us, we need the combination of diet and exercise. Feeding the appropriate amount for the pet’s IDEAL weight not actual weight is the main
part. The exercise is not just walking your pet, but exerting enough effort that your pet is panting. This does not have to be a 5K. This can easily be done by taking your pet for a quick jog 2 houses long and back, or if your pet cannot do this for any medical reasons either focus on diet alone, or give him/her drills such as standing/lying/sitting/repeat 10 times in a row 4 times daily.
Are there certain foods that are better for weight loss?
Not necessarily. The main focus is feeding IDEAL body weight. If this has been done with no improvement, make sure your veterinarian has ruled out any medical conditions that could prohibit weight loss. If this has been done, there are prescription diet and diet plans that can be formulated specifically for your pet with your veterinarian.
Why do dog owners “over-treat” their dogs?
Those “puppy-dog eyes” is why. The first assumption is that when a pet is looking, following, approaching their owner (who is eating or not), that they are hungry. 9 times out of 10 the reason your dog is doing this is for attention. Instead of giving a treat, give a pat on the head, a command, go for 2-house jog, throw their favorite toy.
What health risks are involved with this?
A dog that is overweight may be predisposed to difficulty with early arthritis. For every pound overweight is 5 extra pounds on the joints. This is extremely hard with large breed dogs. For smaller breeds, especially those with heart or lung/trachea conditions, the extra weight is taxing on these organs. However, make sure that the reason for obesity is not Hypothyroidism.
How much weight is too much to lose and does it depend on the weight/breed?
The best way to make sure weight is not lost too fast is to schedule routine checks with your veterinarian; they will be your best guide. A pet should not lose more than 3% of its body weight monthly.
Do you have other questions you’d like answered from a veterinary expert? Comment below and I’ll be sure to include the answers in a blog! For some other tips, you can read a blog from Your Dog Advisor here. Thanks for reading!