The Fat Fido Phenomenon

Are sweaters looking too snug? Have you noticed some extra pudge around the middle? Time to go on a diet! No, we’re not talking about you! We’re talking about your faithful canine. Obesity in dogs is one of the most common health problems pet owners face and it’s one that can be readily avoided and corrected.

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential to your dog’s well being. It is our job to instill proper eating habits and nutrition early in our pet’s life. By providing scheduled feedings and the correct amount of food, you can avert problems with weight in the future. Measuring your pet’s food is vital. The size of your dog dictates how much he or she requires, and many times owners don’t realize just how much they are doling out. Check the label of the pet food of your choice; it will usually give you a guide as to how much to feed your pet. If you are in doubt, consult your veterinarian. Most will give you the proper daily amount. If you break up your dog’s meals (ie: feeding more than once a day), it is up to you to equally divide the daily amount among them. It is a common mistake to feed a pet the entire recommended daily allowance every time they are fed. This will undoubtedly lead to a portly pup. You can make mealtime fool proof by purchasing a plastic measuring cup & marking off how much your dog should receive per meal. If you have more than one dog, you may need to feed them separately as some are more voracious chowhounds than others.

Your dog’s life is comprised of three major stages: puppy hood (0-12 months), adulthood (1-6 years) and maturity (7+ years). All three stages have specific nutritional requirements. A growing puppy will require more calories than the adult dog. The mature dog is normally less active than the younger dog, and therefore requires less food. While your pet will always be your “puppy”, it is important to be aware of where he or she is in his or her life cycle so you can provide the appropriate diet.
Snacking is the biggest threat to a svelte figure. Treats should always be counted towards your pet’s daily requirement, and given out sparingly. Try rewarding your dog’s good deeds with a hug instead of a hot dog. Cookies and other snacks should be reserved for special occasions. However, if you enjoy rewarding your pet with a treat opt for low-calorie choices that are available. You can also make a treat last by breaking it up and giving your pet a just small morsel. But remember, every bit counts!

We share many things with our pets: our homes, and hearts and our lives. But the one thing we should not share is our food! By giving a dog “people food” you are not only instilling unsavory behavior such as the dreaded “begging dog”, but you are also adding inches to his or her waistline. It’s hard to ignore the fastidious beggar but the term “killing them with kindness” is too accurate to ignore. If you feed your pet human food on top of what they receive in their bowl you can be assured that your once slender pooch will morph into an overweight animal before you know it. So when your pal comes begging, just say NO. When you have guests or take your dog along while visiting others, it is important to let them know that you do not allow your pet to indulge in human-style snacks. Remember, your dog will never say “no, thanks” to something edible. It is up to us to do it for them.

Playtime is not only fun for your dog, but it will help keep him or her fit. By providing your pet with proper exercise you can battle the bulge while bonding. Frequent walks, jaunts in the park, or simply a game of tug in conjunction with good eating habits can keep your dog’s weight at a proper level.

Some people simply think that a porky pup is just adorable. Unfortunately, the health risks are not so cute. Obesity contributes to many health problems including:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis and joint problems
  • Difficulties in respiration
  • Increased risk during surgery

By keeping your dog fit and trim, you decrease the risk of these and many other medical woes. And your dog will be even cuter! Certain breeds, such as dachshunds and basset hounds, are even more at risk when overweight due to the stress it puts on their unique physique.

So, how can you tell if your dog is overweight rather than just robust? There are telltale signs of which you should be aware in addition to putting your dog on a scale.

  • You can’t feel your dog’s ribs: Give him or her a nice gentle squeeze. If you don’t feel his or her ribs right away, it means they are hiding under an unnecessary layer of fat.
  • You dog’s waist has disappeared: If your pooch is carrying a spare tire around his or her middle instead of in his or her mouth, it’s time to diet.
  • Difficult or labored mobility: Your once spry animal now has difficulty walking and seems sluggish.
  • Lethargy: Your pal sleeps more than usual (is this even possible? Remarkably, yes.) and lacks energy.
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath: You may notice your pet wheezing or becoming “winded” during normal activities, or for no reason at all.

If your dog is indeed overweight, do not ignore it. Take immediate action to get your pet back to a healthy weight by consulting your vet. They can suggest the best methods of slimming down. There are special foods designed for the dieting dog that you can purchase if your pooch is prone to putting on the pounds. Try to increase activity levels, eliminate snacking between meals, and decrease the amount of food you are dispensing. Soon your dog will be back on the fast track to good health.

by Rebecca Ash