Today, October 11th, is Pet Obesity Awareness Day. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, approximately 59% of cats and 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. These numbers are climbing every year, creating a very preventable epidemic. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about overweight pets that could help!
“My dog is fat and happy! Are you sure he needs to lose weight?”
Yes! If your dog is overweight, he needs to slim down whether he seems happy or not. Though your dog would happily wolf down a cheeseburger for every meal, it is our responsibility as pet owners to keep them at a healthy weight for their breed. Complications from obesity can shorten pets’ lives and dramatically increase their odds of developing very serious conditions like diabetes, heart and kidney disease, arthritis, some cancers, and more.
“Why is my dog overweight?”
Your dog’s obesity can be attributed to a variety of things. Overfeeding, poor quality or incorrect dog food, treats, table scraps, and lack of exercise can all be the cause.
Just because your dog will eat, does not mean he is hungry; and just because he is hungry, does not mean he should eat! Many dog owners simply feed their dog too much quantity each day. Be sure you are using a measuring cup to ensure you are feeding the correct and same amount each day.
Not all dog foods are the same. With dog food, you often get what you pay for to some extent. Lower quality dog foods are generally full of fillers which are just added calories with very little nutritional value. You could be feeding a quality dog food, but if it is not the right food for the stage of life your dog is currently in, weight problems may arise. Your dog may need a fish or lamb-based food rather than chicken or beef. Just like humans, every dog requires a special balanced diet to stay healthy!
Treats and table scraps are often the sneaky culprit for overweight dogs. All those little bites from the dinner table or kitchen counter add up—especially when multiple people in your family are contributing! (Especially those little ones!) “People food” is also often not good for your dog either. Something that is good for you may not be good for your dog.
Even dog treats should be used sparingly and only for a special reward. Choose small bite, healthy dog treat options available at pet stores when rewarding your pet. You can also choose healthy home-made options like green beans or carrots. Believe it or not, most dogs love carrots! When feeding them, make sure they are the right size for your dog so they chew them and not swallow and choke.
Lack of exercise is an obvious cause of excess weight gain in dogs just like in people. Dogs of all ages, breeds, sizes and fitness levels need some sort of exercise. Adequate exercise is going to be key in not only keeping your dog fit and trim but happy and healthy as well.
“So, what is an ideal weight for my dog?”
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Every breed of dog has its own general guidelines for ideal look and physique. Obviously, a healthy weight and appearance of a healthy Greyhound is going to different than that of a Bulldog! It’s best to stay keep up with your annual wellness exams so your veterinarian can determine a healthy weight for your dog. Any dramatic increase (or decrease) in your dog’s weight should prompt a visit to the vet. In addition, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) provides helpful information to determine if your dog is at a healthy weight.
“How can I help my dog lose the extra weight?”
As with all health issues, start with your veterinarian. Putting your dog on a diet should be monitored by a professional to pinpoint the underlying cause of your dog’s weight gain. Before cutting back on feedings or switching foods, consult your veterinarian to ensure that a medical condition is not the cause of your pets’ obesity. Diseases like Cushing’s Disease and hypothyroidism can lead to obesity in dogs. Correcting these metabolic imbalances with medication or diet can be the solution to your weight problem. Once medical conditions are ruled out, your veterinarian can make specific diet and exercise recommendations that are right for your dog’s age, breed and weight.
Diet alone won’t slim down your pup. Exercise is going to be key in helping your pet get healthy and feel better! Start slowly, increasing the length of your walks and gauging your dog’s energy level throughout. Playing in the house with balls, toys, and indoor trick training or obedience skill sessions will keep your dog active and happy between daily walks. Rewarding your dog with pats, toys and play rather than treats is a two-for-one method! Cut out fattening snacks and teach your dog that a game of fetch or a carrot stick is just as good. Check out some of our favorite recipes!
In terms of pet health, the best defense is a good offense. Get ahead of the game and get your dog a customizable pet health insurance plan before he or she needs it!
The information provided in this blog is intended for educational purposes only and should not serve as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your veterinarian. Always consult your veterinarian with questions about your pet’s health and before initiating any treatment regimes