It is estimated that between a third and half of all dogs in the UK are overweight or obese. Our dogs tend to share our lifestyles, eating too much food and taking too little exercise, and so they end up with the same weight problems.
But how can you tell if your dog is overweight, what does that mean for his health and wellbeing, and what can you do to get him back into shape?
Is my dog overweight?
Many of us turn a blind eye to our dog’s weight, in the same way we do to our own. Yet canine obesity is really easy to spot if you know what to look for. From the top, your dog should have an obvious waist, tapering in from the end of the ribs, and from the side your dog’s belly should tuck in and not hang down. When you stroke your dog, you should be able to feel their ribs and their hip bones.
If you are unsure about your dog’s weight, visit your vet. Most practices will have a set of scales in their waiting area, which you are free to use without making, or paying for, an appointment.
But he’s just happy…
At the end of the day, all we want is for our faithful companions to be happy and it’s easy to see a chubby dog as contented, but this is a fallacy. Overweight dogs will lack energy, be uncomfortable moving about, and will struggle to maintain a comfortable body temperature, especially in warm weather. You may think your dog is just a lazy lump, but he doesn’t enjoy being that way.
More importantly, just like in humans, obesity is a significant risk factor in a number of diseases. Being overweight puts your dog at risk of heart disease, respiratory issues, musculoskeletal problems, along with hormonal imbalance, cancers, diabetes and many other conditions. In short, an overweight dog will probably end up a sick dog, suffering illness and costing you a fortune at the vets. Ultimately, obesity will shorten the lifespan of your dog, which is already sadly shorter than yours.
How to tackle canine obesity
Just like our own weight, there is nothing complicated about the causes, or the treatment, of obesity in dogs. If your dog eats too much and exercises too little, then they will gain weight. If you reverse this, then they will lose weight. It really is as simple as that.
Take a look at what you feed your dog and you’ll quickly see where you are going wrong. Too many snacks between meals or scraps from the table, and oversized meal portion, are the most common problems, but also the easiest to correct. You need to limit their treats and measure out their food, reducing the size of their meal if they have had other snacks.
Increasing their exercise can be a little harder, and this will take effort on your part to get them out for a walk or a run, even when it is cold and wet outside. It can be demanding, but it will also be rewarding too. Chances are you will not only see your pet’s weight drop, but your own weight too.
If you avoid taking them for walks because of behavioural problems, then sign up to dog training classes. Fully trained dogs are a pleasure to walk and you will feel much more inclined to take them out if you know you can trust them. Fully trained dogs can also enjoy much more exercise, as you can let them off the lead, confident that they will come back to you.
Get help if you need it
As well as getting help to turn couch potatoes into fully trained dogs, you can also get help with canine weight control from your vet. They have access to special diets that can help with reducing your dog’s weight, and they can support you with professional help and advice. Many vets have special clinics for canine obesity where you can meet other owners and support each other.
At the end of the day, your dog does not feed itself or walk itself. Which means that its weight is entirely your responsibility. We can help and support your with dog behavioural therapy and expert dog training to create the perfect fully trained dog that will live a long and happy life.