A few years ago Australia earned the unenviable title of “the world’s fattest nation” with 26% of our adult population considered obese. Sadly, this problem may also be affecting our dogs with a huge 40% of Aussie dogs now classified as overweight or obese by the Australian Veterinary Association.
This alarming figure could be related to two main factors, a) the sedentary lifestyle we tend to lead – which means not enough exercise (for us or the dog), and b) food – we simply are feeding our dogs too much, and much about feeding is emotional – for example offering treats, a little bit extra or left overs from the family dinner. More and more we see our pets as members of the family and start feeding them as though they were people! But of course, they are not people and they have very different nutritional needs to humans.
The serious side of obesity in dogs
Many of the problems caused by obesity are under-estimated by owners. The obvious problems are the same that we find in humans, for example diabetes. But heart, respiratory and skin disease can also result and the extra weight obviously puts strain on muscles and joints, which in turn means problems with arthritis and mobility can develop. Major organs like the pancreas, liver and kidneys can also be affected.
Is your dog overweight?
You should be able to see a waist line behind the ribs and you should also be able to feel the ribs like corrugated iron, but not see them. If you can’t feel the ribs, your pooch is carrying excess weight! But before you start a weight loss plan, it is suggested that you check with your vet to make sure there are no underlying issues such as hormonal problems that can cause weight gain. Also important to bear in mind that there is no “one size fits all solution”, you need to feed your dog according to it’s life stage, it’s ideal weight and lifestyle. It’s important to apply some tough love too – imagine a pellet of food being the equivalent of a piece of steak and feeding extra can make a huge difference, especially with a small dog. It has also been suggested that splitting the food into portions which are fed over the course of the day can be beneficial as the food will be better absorbed and less likely to turn to fat. As with us humans, exercise is vital, and your dog should get at least 30 minutes every day as a minimum. Not only will this help with the weight, but also tone muscles, assist with digestion and improve the cardiovascular system.
Remember most dogs don’t have any self control when it comes to food and they rely on us. Breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Beagles and Spaniels will never say no to food! Our job as owners is to provide the solution by being tough with diet and ensuring exercise. So whilst it may be hard to say no, making the hard decisions is the kindest decision in the long run – and looking after our pet’s health is the least we can do.
Maintaining your dog at a healthy weight also makes sense financially. A healthy weight means better health and less trips to the vet and fewer expensive vet bills!