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Most owners are aware that obesity is a problem for many dogs. Unfortunately, many individuals seem to have a blind spot when it comes to their own pet. While the majority of owners believe their own dog to be of a healthy weight, UK vets report that 40-45% of all dogs they treat are overweight.
Obesity is the number one health issue affecting UK dogs and at least 40% are diagnosed with obesity in the UK. Not only can this condition result in poor quality of life in general, but it is a predecessor to other serious health issues, including arthritis, cancer, skin irritation and infection, and heart disease.
Fortunately, obesity is a relatively straightforward problem for most owners to correct. As with human beings, it often comes down to a healthy and sustainable balance between diet and exercise.
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When Is A Dog Overweight?
One of the reasons so many dogs are classified as obese without their owner realizing is because most dog breeds actually have a very narrow range for what is classified as their ideal weight. Just a few kilograms under or above this delicate range is enough to increase the chances of health problems.
James Wellbeloved is helping to improve dog owner awareness of dog obesity and have compiled this helpful dog weight chart. If your dog falls outside the recommended range, you should book an appointment to see your vet to get a more accurate indicator of whether your dog is at a healthy weight.
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How to Avoid Obesity in Dogs
While obesity in dogs is dangerous, it also relatively easy to correct: select healthy dog food; be strict about meal sizes; and get regular exercise.
#1. Feed Your Dog Breed & Age-Appropriate Food
It can be tempting simply to choose food for your dog based on price and what they enjoy. However, every breed has different dietary requirements. For instance, some dogs, like Retrievers and Dachshunds, are more prone to weight gain, so owners need to take this into account when selecting their diet or feeding table scraps. Furthermore, age plays a factor, as dogs require different vitamins and minerals at different stages of life. Puppies require more protein for their rapid growth, but this can be damaging to older dogs, especially large dogs more vulnerable to arthritis and calcium deposits.
Generally, commercial dog food is sold according to the size or weight of a dog. However, some breeds and some individual dogs have unique requirements, so it is always worth consulting your vet before settling on a specific food.
#2. Feed Your Dog Their Recommended Daily Amount
Fortunately, 88% of owners feed their dogs commercially prepared dog food, which often contains all the nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy. Consequently, the problem of obesity likely lies in how much food owners are feeding their dogs.
Once you have chosen the right food for your dog, follow the guidelines on the packaging to ensure your dog is eating the right amount. Most packaging tells you either how much to serve per day or per meal (assuming two meals a day for an adult dog).
#3. Give Treats Sparingly
Treats are an excellent way to encourage good behavior in your dog and to reward them while training them. However, they are usually very high in fat and salt, so can be disruptive to the diet. This can lead to obesity if they eat treats in excess, or malnutrition if they eat treats in place of their normal food.
As a general rule, dog treats should not make up more than 15% of your dog’s daily calorie intake.
Similarly, avoid giving your dog table scraps to avoid human foods which are toxic to dogs and the encouragement of bad dinnertime habits.
#4. Play & Exercise
Finally, while a healthy diet is crucial to preventing obesity, it is only half the solution; the other half being regular exercise. Again, this is breed dependent, so it is easy for some owners to assume they are walking they dog enough, when, in fact, they are not.
For instance, pastoral and gun dog breeds, including German Shepherds, Border Collies, and Labradors, were all originally bred to run all day long, so require a minimum of 2 hours of exercise every day. Meanwhile, other breeds can remain healthy with 2 walks of 30 minutes each day, so make sure you know what your dog needs.
Additional Read: Diabetes In Dogs: Causes, Treatments & Everything in Between
Obesity in dogs is an epidemic in the UK, but the majority of cases only exist because owners are unaware their own dog is outside their ideal weight range. By regularly monitoring your dog’s weight, maintaining a consistent and healthy diet, and enjoying regular exercise together, you can feel assured your pet is in their best shape.
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