Is Your Dog Overweight? Learn the Tell-Tail Signs
Obesity in pets is a serious problem. In older dogs, obesity is a major health risk that can shorten their lifespan. Worst of all, most dog owners are oblivious to the risks. Do you know if your dog is overweight? In this article, our experts weigh in on the warning signs of canine obesity.
It can be hard to tell when a pet is overweight. Although we have all seen a pudgy cat or a gerbil that is a bit soft around the sides, these cases are outliers. In fact, the majority of overweight pets do not appear to be overweight at all.
When an overweight dog is left untreated, their weight can balloon into a health crisis. Especially later in life, overweight dogs can become slow and sluggish, and sometimes develop canine diabetes. It makes sense, then, that a responsible dog owner will nurture their four-legged friend with the respect and moderation it deserves.
One of the main aspects of a responsible pet owner is feeding your companion a proper diet. Not only does this involve selecting the right foods, but also the appropriate quantities. Controlling portions and feeding times is critical if you want your pet to lead a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, this rule is not always followed by dog owners.
Do you want to find out if your dog is overweight? In this article, we cover the most obvious signs of obesity in dogs. And, more importantly, we discuss how to respond to the issue in a way that respects your dog without deprivation or punishment. Read on to discover whether you should start taking action today.
The Tell-Tale Signs of Dog Obesity
As dog owners, most of us are constantly concerned about the health and wellbeing of our furry pups. But, as time goes on and the bond we share with our dog becomes stronger, we sometimes turn a blind eye to their personal issues. An overweight or obese dog is an unhappy dog, plain and simple, so you should watch out for any of the following signs.
No dog is meant to have a six-pack, but they should not exactly have an infamous “dad bod” either. Abdominal distension, a condition identifiable by a large protruding midsection, is usually one of the first warning signs of obesity. After a hearty meal, healthy dogs may experience abdominal distension. However, if distension becomes a constant issue then it is best to consult your local veterinary clinic.
Where Are The Ribs?!
A healthy dog should never have visible ribs. But that does not mean that their ribs should be buried under heaps of fat tissue either. If your dog’s torso is appearing more fluffy and watery than usual, you should check to see if you can locate their ribs. If you cannot easily locate their ribs with your hands, their weight may be an issue.
Have you noticed that your once-peppy and energetic dog is now struggling to catch a breath after a short run? Does you dog pant excessively, even during cold weather conditions? If you said “yes” to either of these questions, you should consider consulting your vet. Labored breathing is one of the first signs of obesity in dogs, or other underlying health issues.
Bloating and Constipation
When it comes to dogs, tummy issues should never be taken lightly. Dogs have sensitive digestive tracts that cannot be exposed to certain foods, even those that humans can eat without hesitation. If your dog has recently become more gassy or bloated, or if they are having irregular bowel movements, they may be overweight.
When dogs are young, they tend to bounce around the house and run, jump, and climb wherever they please. However, if your young dog has suddenly slowed down, there may be an issue at hand. Healthy dogs should be able to move freely and powerfully without having to nap or rest throughout the day. Young dogs that are constantly lazing about should be a cause for concern.
You Can’t Spot Their Waist
Dogs have a natural, curvy figure. When a dog has a boxy or excessively wide appearance, there may be something wrong. One of the first aspects of a dog’s body that a dog owner should pay attention to is its waist. If a dog owner cannot identify their own dog’s waist, then the dog is probably carrying a few extra pounds.
They Refuse to Take the Stairs
Many dog owners fail to pick up on the early warning signs of dog obesity. Refusing to climb stairs is one of them. This is especially true if your dog would rather wait patiently at the bottom of the stairs than climb them to retrieve something. If you notice that this is becoming a habit, put it to the test by placing a treat at the top step. A dog that refuses the offer is likely one that is overweight or obese.
Every dog should be able to groom their own fur. There is never a valid excuse for a dog to not be able to easily reach around their body and scratch, claw, and itch their fur when needed. If you notice that your once-limber dog is now struggling to reach parts of their coat, watch to see if this persists. If so, they may need to shed some pounds.
They’re Off The Ideal Weight Charts
We decided to include this one last. This is because sometimes weight can be a misleading determinant when it comes to diagnosing obesity. Muscular dogs, or dogs that are exceptionally tall or wide, can occasionally get a false read even though they are a healthy weight for their size. When it comes to dog weight, it is all about proportionality.
Nevertheless, weight charts and weight calculators are still useful tools. In many cases, they can serve as an effective warning sign. Just make sure to take their results with a grain of salt. One of the more reliable dog weight calculators can be found on PetMD here.
Getting Your Dog to Shed the Pounds
Once you have consulted with your vet and understand that changes need to be made, then it is time to take action. After all, it is the dog owner and not the dog that is responsible for most cases of dog obesity.
When treating an overweight dog, there are two main steps that must be followed. First, you have to encourage your dog to lose the weight. Then, you need to find a sustainable diet and lifestyle for your dog so that the weight stays off.
Believe it or not, losing the weight is the easy part. The formula for weight loss is simple: your dog must expend more energy than it takes in, every day. If your dog is overweight it is only because they have become accustomed to taking in, through their diets, more energy than they spend through activity and exercise.
Consult with your local veterinary clinic to discuss options for weight loss. There are many professional weight loss programs for dogs that make it easy for dogs and their owners. Almost universally, this requires dietary changes to be made. Additionally, a reputable dog weight loss program will require a dog to have timed exercise allotments throughout the day.
Now comes the hard part. Once your dog has lost its stubborn extra weight, it is critical that their new lifestyle sticks around for the long term. No matter what, your dog cannot go back to their former lifestyle that made them overweight in the first place. Instead, healthier lifestyle habits need to be adopted.
Typically, your vet will refer you to a weight loss program. Upon completion of the program, most guides will provide instructions for keeping the weight off. In all cases, this involves the encouragement of healthy physical exercise and portion control. However, you must make sure that your dog eats more than it did during its weight loss journey. Otherwise, they will continue to lose weight and may even become underweight.
Tips for Weight Loss
Don’t be discouraged if at first your dog can’t shed the pounds. For many dogs, this is a perfectly normal occurance. It usually requires several months of sustained effort for your dog to finally break through their weight loss plateaus and reach their desired weight. Here are some quick tips for helping your dog finally achieve their weight loss goals.
- Try a high-protein diet based primarily in meat products
- Cut back on foods that are high in dietary fiber; too much fiber in a dog’s diet is unhealthy
- Try preparing your own dog food, rather than store bought food
- Pack on the fish oil; fish oil supplements have healthy omega-3 fatty acids that promote weight loss
- Scale back portion sizes each week until you find the right balance
- Weigh your dog on a weekly basis rather than every day
- Don’t overdo it on the treats; and opt for treats that are low in sugar and other sweeteners that can induce cravings