It’s natural to want to treat your dog with love, affection, and attention. Sometimes, though, that love can spill over into giving them extra food and too many treats. Before you know it, you’ve noticed your pooch is looking rounder than usual, or the vet tells you they’re overweight.
A dog is classed as ‘overweight’ if they are 10-20% above their ideal weight. Anything heavier than this puts them in the obese category. But even a little bit of extra weight can affect their health. FirstVet vet Dr Jessica May is here to talk about obesity in dogs and how you can help your pup lose weight.
First things first – how do you know the ideal weight for your pooch? This differs between breeds, but using a standardised ideal dog weight chart doesn’t take into account your dog’s individual build and size. This is why you want to look at your dog’s shape, known as ‘body condition scoring’. It is very easy and takes only a few seconds to check! If you’re not quite sure, ask your vet for guidance.
To check your dog’s shape, look at:
Do this at least once a month to keep an eye on your dog’s body condition, as their weight may fluctuate just like humans. Build this into your routine as a quick check, for example before walking or feeding.
Using the body conditioning process, you can tell if your dog is starting to get overweight if:
The causes of obesity in dogs include:
If your dog becomes obese, they could develop diseases such as pancreatitis, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis. Obesity worsens the pain and stiffness caused by arthritis, and may also cause their arthritis to progress faster. Your pup’s blood pressure could increase and their immune system weaken, as well as having a lower life expectancy.
Other risks include:
Start by speaking with your vet to see if you need an appointment. They will check if the weight gain is due to a medical condition and needs treatment.
If not, they can help advise you on creating a unique weight loss plan for your pooch. It comes down to:
If you have a Petsure policy, you can video chat with a FirstVet vet for free to talk about individual recommendations for your pup.
Your vet may put your dog on special diet food for a set amount of time (such as a couple of months), then check to see how they’re getting along with reaching their ideal weight. They can also recommend brands and food types that will help with weight loss.
Be mindful of snacks, choosing low-calorie options like raw, dog-safe vegetables (such as carrot) where possible. Stay away from high fat treats and foods. Your dog will always, unsurprisingly ask for more, but you are the one who knows what is best for them. Show them your love by taking them for a walk, playing games or having cuddles, rather than giving them more food.
If your pup is eating specific diet food, follow your vet’s guidance on how much to give them for each meal.
If not on a calorie-controlled diet, weigh out your dog’s food rather than eyeballing the quantities. Any treats should be taken out of their daily food allowance. Try swapping out treats for other forms of reward, such as playtime with their favourite toy.
Increasing exercise is a good place to start. If your pup is a senior or has a health condition that limits their exercise, speak to your vet first to find a safe exercise option.
Begin with taking them out twice a day, slowly building up the length of each walk. After a while, you could try more adventurous exercises such as swimming, runs, and agility courses. The aim is to make exercise fun and active, so see what your dog enjoys doing most, and don’t push them past their limits.
Avoid over-exercising puppies. A good rule of thumb is five minutes of exercise per month of age, up to twice a day, until your puppy is fully grown.
For example, a four-month old puppy should have a 20 minute walk, twice a day. We would also recommend trying to avoid stairs until your puppy is three months of age.
Always speak to your vet first before trying to help your arthritic or elderly dog lose weight. Some of the recommendations they may make are:
The time it takes for dogs to lose weight differs between each individual pooch. A safe weight loss is one percent per week.
It’s important not to rush weight loss, but rather stick to vet recommendations with food types and amounts, as well as keeping your pup active. Use the body conditioning guide to measure your dog’s shape, and you’ll hopefully soon start seeing a difference.
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