Your dog doesn’t know or even care if they're overweight. Let's face it, if they can play fetch in the backyard and enjoy their daily walks, they'll be perfectly happy! But as a responsible and loving pet owner, it’s up to you to notice the changes. Is your four-legged friend becoming a little chubby? Then it's time to do something about it.
Unfortunately, obesity in dogs has become the new normal. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), a whopping 55.8% of dogs in the US are either overweight or obese. This equates to around 50 million dogs that are carrying too many pounds.
Now for the good news. Once you identify that your dog is overweight, you can get them back on track with a few simple measures. Keep reading to discover how to tell if your dog is overweight, and what steps you can take to help them lose the weight so they can live a healthy, happy life.
Health Issues Associated with Overweight Dogs
Being overweight or obese can lead to a wide range of health issues in pets. These include everything from diabetes and kidney disease to cancer and early death. Helping your dog maintain a healthy weight is a great way to improve their quality of life and longevity.
How Can I Tell if My Dog Is Overweight?
Many pet owners find it difficult to tell if their four-legged friend is overweight or obese. But luckily, it's fairly simple to get a good idea of your dog's overall body condition.
The Body Condition Score (BCS) is a system used to assess an animal's body weight. The system lets you gauge if your dog is underweight, overweight, or at a healthy weight. To determine your dog's BCS, examine your dog visually and physically. Rate their condition on a one-to-nine scale, with one being severely underweight and nine being morbidly obese.
These guidelines from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) show you how to determine your dog's BCS. If in doubt, take your dog to the vet for a consultation. They'll be able to let you know if your furry friend is overweight or obese.
Reasons for Weight Gain and Obesity in Dogs
Dogs can become overweight or obese for a variety of reasons. Let's take a look at a few of the most common.
Some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to obesity. These include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Dachshunds, and Basset Hounds. Other breeds can become overweight or obese because of health conditions that affect their weight.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Underlying illnesses like hypothyroidism, Cushing's disease, and diabetes can cause dogs to pack on the pounds. Conditions like arthritis that affect mobility can also lead to weight gain in dogs.
Neutering or Spaying
Neutered or spayed dogs are more susceptible to obesity, as these surgeries affect hormones that help regulate weight. This means you'll need to be especially vigilant about your pet's weight if they've undergone one of these procedures.
As your pet gets older, they may start to gain a little extra weight as muscle tone decreases and their metabolism starts to slow down. This is normal, but you'll need to help them stay at a healthy weight by adjusting their diet and exercise regime.
Overfeeding is a major cause of weight gain and obesity in dogs. Calorie-dense commercial dog food and treats can cause dogs to gain weight very quickly, as can table scraps.
Dogs that don't get enough physical activity will have a much harder time maintaining a healthy weight. Letting your pup out in the backyard isn't enough to keep them fit! Daily walks and playtime are mandatory.
5 Simple Steps to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
Now that you know how to identify if your dog is overweight and some of the primary causes, let's take a look at the best way to help your furry friend lose weight. Follow this step-by-step guide and you'll be able to help them slim down in no time.
1. Consult With Your Vet
Before you make any changes to your dog's diet or exercise regimen, please consult with your veterinarian. They can assess your dog's overall health and let you know their ideal weight. They can also help develop a diet and exercise plan to help your pup shed the pounds safely.
2. Adjust Your Dog's Diet
Making some simple changes to your dog's diet can help them slim down quickly. Start by reducing your pup's portion sizes and make sure that they consume fewer calories than they burn. This guide from the APOP will help you calculate your dog's daily caloric needs.
3. Make Sure to Feed a Well-Balanced Diet
While reducing your dog's calorie intake is an important step, you also need to make sure they're getting all the nutrients they need. A healthy, well-balanced diet should contain lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, and essential vitamins and minerals. Speak to your veterinarian about feeding your dog a well-balanced diet that will help them lose weight.
4. Increase Your Dog's Activity
Exercise is key for helping your pup stay in shape. Daily walks are a great way to help your dog lose weight, but they also need mental stimulation. Playing games like fetch or providing puzzle toys will help keep your dog's mind active. Make sure you're engaging your dog in fun activities that are appropriate for their age and physical limitations.
5. Monitor Your Dog's Weight Regularly
It's important to monitor your dog's weight every week while they're losing weight. This will allow you to notice any changes in their BCS and adjust their diet or activity accordingly. If you're not seeing results, make sure to consult with your veterinarian so they can help you adjust your dog's weight loss plan.
The Right Way to Lose Weight
Canine obesity is a major problem in the United States, so it's vital to understand how to help your pet slim down. Whether you have a puppy that needs to lose a few pounds or an overweight older dog, the steps outlined in this article will help you on your way. Just remember to consult with your veterinarian at every step of the process to ensure your dog stays safe and healthy as they lose weight.