how to beat obesity in dogs

New Year – New You, but what about your dog?

For most of us the New Year starts with some healthy resolutions. We have excessively indulged in food and made some other poor choices which now make us promise ourselves to start the New Year with better habits. As we make all these decisions on our own life style, maybe it is a good time to also consider how we take care of our dogs.
Dog obesity has been a growing problem over the years, unfortunately dogs do not make New Year resolutions and just eat whatever they are given by us, their owners. It is therefore important that we ensure to make healthy decisions for them.

What is obesity?

The WHO defines overweight and obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation which represents a risk of health. Whether this is in regard to yourself or your pet, obesity is a problem on multiple health fronts.

What is the danger of obesity?

In dogs, carrying too much weight around, negatively affects your dog’s health by decreasing his stamina, making him less tolerant to heat, it can cause difficulties in breathing, furthermore the weight causes extra pressure on joints, bones and ligaments, it adds to heart problems, it can cause a decreased liver function, increases the risk of Cancer, can be a cause for diabetes and can puts your pet at a higher risk when undergoing any surgical procedures due to an increased anesthetic risk.

How can we rate obesity?

See WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee Body Condition Score table next to this article.

How do I know what weight my dog should be?

Your best advisor in this is your own veterinarian. Most breeds have special guidelines which are clearly defined in their pedigree and with that comes an expected weight and body score. As Vets see huge variety of dogs throughout their daily routine they have established a good eye for body score and related weight and can guide you to ensure your dog has a proper weight for his size, age, breed and health condition.
Other Pet Professionals such as groomers, dog trainers e.o. can also help you find the perfect balance.
Certain health conditions require or cause a different weight. Animals with joint problems are massively helped by reducing their body score to almost “skinny – under ideal” as this leads to them carrying less weight around on their already painful joints.  Dogs with hormonal disbalance or on specific medication might put on weight or hold on to fluids more excessively, making them an even more difficult challenge to keep in line with ideal body scores.

What can I do to help my dog lose weight?

  1. Change your habits – feed your dog a set amount per day which is specifically calculated for your dog and will keep him in ideal condition. This daily amount can be divided into as many portions as you want to feed per day + one additional portion to use for giving him/her a small “treat”. Ensure the full family is aware of this routine and does comply. Small children (and visitors) often love sharing their food with the dog, calculate this into the daily routine so it is acknowledged and will not cause weight gain.
  2. Regular weighing – Seeing is believing, and this also counts for weighing of your dog. Weigh your dog at home or at your vet and register this weight with the date. This ensures you can see changes easily in both positive and negative direction. Weighing and registration of your pet’s weight can be done for free in our Clinic.
  3. Diets – although there are many diets which are specifically designed to keep your dog at the correct weight or ensure weight loss whilst getting all the important vitamins, minerals & fiber, ensuring not to overfeed your dog is the first step. Commercial & Premium Pet Foods are designed for dogs in other climates and area’s then we keep our dogs in the UAE. Dogs in Europe and America in general have moreexcess to parks, forests and lakes and can be taken everywhere, allowing them more exercise and are burning more calories. The daily portion advise on the packaging therefore in general is too much for our dogs in the UAE. So start by feeding your pet, if overweight, approximately 20% less. If this reduces his/her body weight, adjust the food intake when the ideal weight has been reached. For more chronic cases, or cases where weight loss is not so easily achieved, start on obesity diets and once more review your own habits. Also make sure to adjust the food intake whenever the summer months are here again as the dogs get less exercise and therefore should have less food, same should be done is your pet is recovering from an injury which required adjusted exercise exposure.
  4. Exercise – Same as in human obesity challenges. Exercise is part of a healthy routine, however it is better to stick to a regular, achievable exercise routine then to expose your dog to ups and downs as some exercise regimes are not achievable in this hot weather or are to challenging for you as the owner of the dog in the long run. Exercise should be balanced with physical abilities of both Pet parent and dog in this case.