Are you guilty of spoiling your pooch with one too many treats? If it’s cold, rainy, and miserable outside, would you skip your dog’s daily walk in favour of a snuggle on the couch?
While there’s no harm in pampering your pet from time to time, a lax approach to diet and exercise could quickly see your dog gain weight. And if your pooch is carrying a few extra pounds, that additional weight can have much more serious consequences than merely affecting the way he looks.
To help your pet stay happy and healthy, let’s take a closer look at how dogs gain weight and how you can help your furry friend get back into shape.
Signs Your Dog Has Gained Weight
You often don’t need any expert veterinary knowledge to realise when your dog has gained weight. A quick glance at your dog’s sagging stomach, or maybe even noticing that your pooch is heavier than normal when she jumps into your lap for a hug, is sometimes all it takes.
However, there are plenty of
other telltale signs that can indicate a plump pooch. If you can't see an obvious waist when you look down from above, or if you’re
unable to easily feel your dog’s ribs when you run your hand along their side, there's a good chance Rover is getting a little too robust. A plump,
round face and a thick neck are also obvious giveaways.
If you notice any of these weight gain signs and symptoms, it’s time to book your dog in for a check-up with your veterinarian.
- Ears drop
- Breathing difficulties, for example easily getting out of breath
- Reluctance to exercise
- Limited stamina
History of Weight Gain in Dogs
We all know just how big a problem obesity is for the two-legged population of the United States. Unfortunately, it’s a health concern we’ve also passed on to our canine companions.
The statistics from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s 2016 clinical survey make for disturbing reading:
* 53.9% of dogs — or 41.9 million of our four-legged friends — were classified as clinically overweight (either overweight or obese) by their veterinary healthcare professional.
* 19.8% of dogs were classified as obese.
* 87% of pet owners and 98% of veterinary professionals think that pet obesity is a significant problem in the US.
When did canine obesity become such a big problem? It seems that as we’ve welcomed dogs into our lives and into our homes, we and our pets have both seen our waistlines expand.
Multiple studies have shown that the increasing prevalence of obesity in humans and dogs seems to be linked — if you’re carrying a few extra pounds, there’s a good chance your dog might be in the same boat.
Science of Weight Gain in Dogs
What’s the big deal about dogs gaining weight? Sure, your dog might be a little embarrassed when he hops on the scales, but it’s nothing to stress about, is it?
Yes, it is. Being overweight or obese can have a wide range of serious implications for your dog’s health and wellbeing — and we’re talking about issues much more important than not being able to fit into his favorite outfit anymore!
Obesity in dogs is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and an increased risk of certain cancers, while the additional pressure that extra weight puts on canine joints can also lead to arthritis later in life.
However, the most alarming fact of all for dog lovers is that overweight pets have shorter lifespans. A 2013 study by the WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition examined the effects of obesity on a range of popular dog breeds. It found that dogs that are overweight in middle age live for up to 10 months less than dogs who maintain an ideal weight. This lifespan reduction was particularly pronounced in the Labrador, Shih Tzu, American Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, and Beagle.
Of course, it’s also important to be aware that weight gain in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors. While poor diet and/or a lack of exercise are the most common contributors, weight gain can also be caused by a number of diseases. For example, your dog could suffer from hypothyroidism, Cushing’s Disease or diabetes, or his weight gain could be associated with a certain medication he’s taking.
Unlike weight gain caused by poor diet or exercise, which can slowly sneak up on owners and their dogs over time, medical problems can often cause rapid weight gain. Of course, whatever you think the cause of your pooch’s extra pounds may be, it’s essential to get him checked out by a veterinarian.
How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
The first thing you should do if you think your dog has gained weight is book an appointment with your pet’s regular veterinarian. He or she will give your pet a thorough physical and be able to determine whether your dog is within a healthy weight range. If your furry friend has gained weight, your veterinarian will not only help you determine the cause but will also help you develop a weight-loss plan to help get your pooch back into shape.
If Fido’s weight gain is due to a medical condition, the first course of action will be to treat or manage that condition. For example, a management plan for canine diabetes will usually include insulin injections as well as a diet and exercise regime designed to control blood-glucose levels.
If the weight gain has been caused by the wrong diet or insufficient exercise, your veterinarian may recommend a range of options, including:
* Switching to a lower-calorie, diet food, or maybe even switching to a higher-quality pet food designed for your dog’s breed and life stage
* Cutting down on how much and/or how often you feed your dog
* Cutting back on fatty treats and giving healthy alternatives
* Developing an exercise plan that suits your dog’s needs and physical capacity
By following your vet’s advice and sticking to the program developed for your pooch — and making sure every member of the family sticks to the program and doesn’t give in to those pleading “puppy dog eyes” begging for a treat — you can help your dog lose weight and enjoy a long, healthy life!
Safety Tips When Helping Your Dog Lose Weight
Ask your veterinarian. Never start your dog on a new diet or exercise regime without first consulting your veterinarian.
Take it slowly. Ease your dog into their new weight-loss regime and be careful of pushing them too hard. If your dog is struggling to keep up, take a break.
Cut back on treats. Limit the number of fatty treats you give to your dog, and make sure every member of the family is on the same page about what your dog can and can't eat.