The obese dog isn’t a bit big and chubby – it carries so much extra weight that its quality and length of life is seriously affected. Being obese prevents your pet being the dog it was meant to be. Unfortunately, owners are often the last people who recognize the problem and take action.
Realize that your dog is obese
More than half the dogs and cats in the US are overweight, according to a 2016 clinical survey done by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). Many of them are obese, i.e. weighing 15% more than their optimal weight. Unfortunately one of the biggest obstacles in tackling the problem of dog and pet obesity is the people who should be most concerned about it – the owners. There is silence and denial where there should be action. Many owners simply wouldn’t recognize that their dog has a serious weight problem; you hear that ‘Rufus is just a big dog’, or ‘she has put on weight, but it’s normal as she has been spayed.’
When the dog’s weight is expressed in terms of human weight, the problem is put in context; it explains why the dog is ‘fat,’ not ‘big.’
- A 90 pound female Labrador retriever is equal to a 186 pound 5’ 4” female or 217 pound 5’ 9” male
- 105 pound male Golden retriever is equal to a 203 pound 5’ 4” female or 237 pound 5’ 9” male
- 12 pound Pomeranian is equal to a 249 pound 5’ 4” female or 290 pound 5’ 9” male
Many veterinarians are uncomfortable talking about a pet’s weight for fear of offending the client. It seems weight is a sensitive subject not only to humans, but also to their pets. And because weight gain is gradual and subtle, most pet owners fail to appreciate the effect of a few extra pounds gained over a year or two.
Understand the health and other consequences
“Obesity continues to be the greatest health threat to dogs and cats.” states APOP Founder, veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward. “Obesity is a disease that kills millions of pets prematurely, creates immeasurable pain and suffering, and costs pet owners tens of millions of dollars in avoidable medical costs.”
Obesity causes disorders such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, and more. However, the real danger of obesity in pets is the inflammation the fat causes. When you help your dog to lose weight, the chronic inflammation associated with obesity is reduced; and so the underlying medical problems is addressed.
Obesity also robs a dog of the joy of living; they probably feel lousy most of the time – chronic fatigue, depression, decreased energy and vitality.
If you think your dog obese, you need to have a frank conversation with your vet. If your pet is facing serious health issues, what can you do about it? You need professional help with an eating and exercise plan suited for your dog; as well as follow-up services.
The eating plan should give the precise numbers of calories and nutrients your pet needs each day in order to lose weight and the exercise plan should be suitable for your dog’s age, weight and health.
Now that you know how many calories to feed your pet each day, start measuring your dog’s food. We’ve got to be specific when it comes to feeding our pets. Don’t trust the bag; pet food feeding guides are formulated for adult, un-spayed or un-neutered active dogs.
Weight loss isn’t about starvation or deprivation; it’s about safe and sustainable lifestyle changes.
Start a daily exercise and activity routine, designed by your veterinarian; particularly if the dog has led a mostly sedentary life recently.
Enjoy the reward!
Weight loss, when done correctly, changes lives. Pet owners often forget how rewarding life with a dog can be due to the slow sapping of vigor and mobility excess weight causes. Helping a pet lose weight is not easy and create challenges along the way; however, the gains are simply too good to resist.
Don’t forget the follow-up care with your vet; it’s essential for sustained success. Weigh your dog every one to three months. The goal is to change to an active, healthy lifestyle that is the new normal.
The few minutes you spend on diet and weight could well be the difference between two additional years of high-quality life for your trusted companion, or a shortened, suffering final stage of life.