Knowing the best way to feed your dog is critical for owners of every new and old dog.
In this article we look at how to prevent your pet from succumbing to an epidemic that is affecting both dogs and people: obesity.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than one-third, or 78.6 million, of U.S. adults are obese. But, what is less known is that the human obesity epidemic is being mirrored equally among pets and many believe the pet problem is even worse.
More Than Half Of All Pets Are Obese
Research from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention shows an estimated 52.6 percent of dogs and 57.6 percent of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. These numbers are at an all-time high, according to experts, and 37 percent more dogs and 90 percent more cats are obese today than just five years ago. That’s more than a statistic: it has everything to do with the health and well-being of your pet, the one you promised to care for and that includes its nutrition.
Many people see their chubby dog as cute and cuddly. Guess what – it’s not. In their natural state dogs maintain their weight by getting plenty of exercise and eating what they should in reasonable amounts. It wasn’t until the dog was domesticated and dependent on humans for food and exercise that the notion of its becoming obese first arose.
If you don’t realize that your dog is obese – and any reasonable and thoughtful pet owner would know it when they see it – here are some telltale signs of dog (and cat) obesity.
1. There is an overabundance of fat covering your pet’s ribs. More precisely, when touching the side of your pet can you even feel the ribs? While the ribs shouldn’t be obvious to the point of the pet being undernourished, too much fat covering the pets’ sides is a sign of the animal being too heavy.
2. When looking at your pet from the front or rear can you see a waistline? Just like humans, a dog is supposed to trim down at the point where the ribs come to the rear legs. If all you see is a straight line, or a bulging area from the front legs to the rear, something is amiss.
3. If you see a lot of belly fat that waves or wobbles as the animal walks, it’s carrying too much weight.
Risks From Dog Obesity
The fact that a dog is overweight can cause the same kind of problems as it does in people. That includes increased risk for ligament ruptures, intervertebral disk disease, osteoarthritis, congestive heart failure, dermatological disorders, infections, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as complications during surgery and some types of cancer, according to most experts.
So, what do you do if your dog is obese? The first step, of course, is not letting it get that way in the first place. Dogs in particular need plenty of regular exercise and you are in charge of making sure its diet is exactly the amount it should have, depending on the size and weight of the dog. If you are not sure, consult your dog’s vet.
If your dog is overweight, consulting with your vet should be the first order of business. She or he can recommend a course of treatment that will include exercise and a revised feeding plan. That feeding plan should include determining the best range of caloric intake for a weight-loss program and how to create a feeding and monitoring plan that is simple for pet owners to follow. As an owner you should know that the less exercise your dog is given, the less food intake it should have. If you aren’t willing or able to commit to a good exercise plan find someone who can help you. Even when confined indoors a plethora of toys will keep the dog engaged. This is especially true as the dog gets older and its interests wane and it becomes more dependent on you insisting on the exercise.
Food Choices Are Important
The food you give your dog is important as well. Don’t pay too much attention to the claims of one dog food brand or another. They will all get the job done if the amount of food is maintained and the basic ingredients a dog needs for health is provided. Again, ask your vet if you are not sure. While there are some specialty dog foods that promise to be better for your dog’s “unique” metabolism, be skeptical. There is little in the way of government or industry regulation over what is claimed in animal food packaging and marketing.
Be careful of treats and table scraps. A treat should be just that, something a dog receives in return for successfully completing a task, such as during training. That’s ok, but don’t offer treats randomly and don’t make the treat some sweet, high caloric food item. As for table scraps – that’s usually a no-no. If the scrap is a plain piece of chicken, turkey or unseasoned beef you can add it to its usual meal bowl at mealtime, but don’t feed from the table. It will encourage bad habits and some foods from the table are just ill advised for dogs.
Dog owners should think of their pets’ health in the same way they view their own. Nutritious food and exercise as part of a daily routine is a must for your dog’s health.