All Things Dog Blog
Canine obesity: Does my dog look fat in this harness?
dog obesity

obese dog

I just read a good article on canine obesity. Veterinarian Dr. Sophia Yin is very concerned about the canine obesity epidemic facing our dogs. Here’s an amusing excerpt:

I glanced toward the lone dog in the room and made the diagnosis. She was a beagle. A very large beagle. She looked at me from her station next to her owner’s chair, her front legs barely propping her up. It was hard to tell, but the head and coat color were a giveaway. She had the typical beagle head, only it sort of melted into the rest of her body, a non-distinct black-and-tan blob.

“She’s good,” said Mrs. Peabody, “except sometimes she has trouble getting around. She seems stiff in the morning.”

“Does she get much exercise?”

“Oh, yes. During the day, she’s outside, and she has the whole backyard to herself. She can run as much as she wants.”

Knowing how little I work out when I have an exercise area available to me all day, I asked, “Do you actually see her run around much in the yard on her own?”

“No. She must run around when we’re not home. We take her swimming sometimes, though.”

Sure she’s being funny, but Dr. Yin is deadly serious. In her view people just don’t seem to notice that their dogs are overweight and I’m inclined to agree. Even if we consider our dog a bit pudgy we may not be take it as seriously as we ought. I think people adjust to their dog’s growing size and are not considering the serious health implications of carrying that extra weight.

Do we know what a healthy dog looks like size wise? Here are some indications in case you’re wondering:

  1. Running your hands along your dog’s ribcage, you should be able to palpate the ribs covered by a thin layer of fat. Inability to feel the ribs is a sign of an overweight dog.
  2. Looking at your dog from the side, you should be able to see the upward tuck of the abdomen. An overweight dog will have very little or no tuck.
  3. Viewing your dog from above, there should be a moderate narrowing at the waist just past the ribcage. A straight or bulging line from the ribcage to the hips indicates an overweight dog.

According to Dr. Yin it should be fairly easy to get our dogs’ weight back on track. After all, they don’t have access to the fridge like we do. (But has she seen the way they look at us when we go in the fridge?) Theoretically we should be their only source of food.

Feeding: The dog food producers recommend one size serving to fit all dogs and this really shouldn’t be the case. They have to recommend the highest caloric intake so that it will cover times when a dog will require more energy, such a pregnancy and when lactating. I certainly wouldn’t eat as much now as I did when I was pregnant or I’d probably have to get a larger house!  Even ‘low calorie’ foods can be too high in calories for your dog, depending on your dog’s health situation. In the case of overweight dogs Dr Lin recommends reducing your dog’s serving size a bit below what’s on the package.

What about exercise? Overweight dogs should be seriously encouraged to exercise. And that means more than just a vacant yard to run in. Exercise is such a great time for us to bond with canine buddies as they just love interactive play and face it: they’re not the only ones who could use a good walk.

Working for food. This bit is interesting. Dr. Lin also contrasts how dogs in the wild would have to work for their food while our dogs just wait for their food to be plopped down in front of them.  She suggests most of our dogs would be better off working for their food. A great way to do this is to feed your dog in an interactive treat toy. If your dog’s a gulper you might want to have a look at our Nina Ottoson toys. With these toys you can stash a whole meal inside and give your dog an appetising challenge at meal time. This slows down the eating process and gives your dog time to appreciate the food more.

Those are some tips, but of course it’s always good to talk to your vet about your specific dog’s needs. If you’ve had any success at slimming down your pooch we’d love to hear what worked for you.

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