One of the most common health concerns for dogs is obesity. Excess weight can cause a number of serious health issues. However, many pet owners do not even realize that their dog may be heavier than normal. Obesity doesn't arrive overnight, and it may even occur so gradually that some families do not even realize it is occurring.
However, when you keep you dog at a healthy weight, you're giving your dog the gift of comfort, energy, and longevity. Here's what every dog owner should know about preventing and recognizing the early signs of obesity in pet dogs.
An Ounce of Prevention
The best way to approach healthy weight management is to keep it from occurring the in the first place. Generally, eating and exercise habits begin in puppyhood.
Many people are indulgent with puppies because they're so cute and full of energy. However, the indulgence of extra treats and samples from the table will catch up to a dog in just a few years. Puppies experience explosive growth and energy output, but adult dogs do not. Extra calories in the diet will turn into extra pounds instead.
To prevent weight gain, make it a priority to:
- Exercise your dog daily. Dogs should not spend their time locked in a crate, kennel, or small apartment without significant exercise later. Some dogs are working breeds and need even more exercise. Before getting a dog, research the activity needs of certain breeds to make sure you are able to provide a healthy amount daily.
- Feed your dog at specific times of day. One of the main causes of obesity is unlimited access to food. Some dogs do not self-regulate well, and they will eat whatever is available. Put a portion of food out in the morning and in the evening. Allow access to water at all times.
- Save treats for training. Don't just feed your dog treats as dessert, a bribe, or as a snack. Never give treats out of love or to make a dog happy. Instead, save tasty snacks for training purposes only, and use them in conjunction with other rewards, such as positive praise and touch.
- Keep your dog well groomed. Long-haired dogs can hide extra pounds very easily. If you brush your dog regularly, you'll be able to notice better when lean areas are starting to become fleshy instead.
Another danger is that people get so used to seeing overweight dogs that they think a healthy dog is underweight, so they feed the dog more. Don't increase recommended food intake without speaking to a vet.
Signs of Trouble
When it comes to dogs, there's no magic number on the scale that indicates a healthy weight. For example, a small female corgi may weigh ten of fifteen pounds less than a larger, male corgi. Both might be at a healthy weight even though they are the same breed.
With all dog breeds, though, there are some basic things that should remain true. For example, you should be able to easily feel your dog's ribs as you run your hand over their side. Being able to feel a dog's ribs is not necessarily a sign of starvation — an underweight dog will appear very bony in other places, including the rump and shoulders.
Fat begins to collect at the base of the tail. You should be able to feel your dog's tailbones with very little effort.
Finally, if your dog no longer has an abdominal tuck (the waist area after the ribs end), this is a sign of obesity. Some breeds have very narrow waists, but all dogs should have at least a small indentation in this area.
Getting Back on Track
It's easier to get your dog back to a healthy weight when there's only a little to lose. Your vet may recommend increasing exercise and choosing a different dog food to help gradually return your dog to health.
For more information, contact us at Riverview Veterinary Hospital.