Tech Talks: Canine Obesity

Tech Talks by Emily Harbury, LVT

With the current holiday season in mind, I think an obesity article is needed. Not only are humans prone to overeating during the holiday season, but so are our pets. An estimated 52.7% of US dogs are overweight or obese. Being obese or overweight comes with health risks; wear and tear on joints, cranial cruciate ligament injury, kidney disease, increased risk of diabetes, increased risk for any anesthesia procedure, respiratory disease. Extra weight, on average, shortens a dog’s life span by 2.5 yrs.

Every bit of food your dog consumes should be monitored by you. Free access to an ever full dog bowl nearly guarantees overeating – as well as deprives YOU of the opportunity to use food as a prime motivator in training. Be sure to account for the calories in dog treats when you are calculating your dog’s total calorie intake.

If you’d like to trim up your pet, consider how to safely start your dog on a diet. First, get a complete exam from your veterinarian because there may be a medical condition causing your dog’s excess weight. Common diseases associated with weight gain include endocrine problems such as hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism. Eliminate disease as a possible cause or contributor to 5 your dog’s weight issue before starting your dog on a weight reduction diet. Too many dogs start on a diet and fail to lose weight simply because diet wasn’t the problem, disease was. Your veterinarian can also give you a good frame for what your dog should weigh. Just like when we start a diet, it’s nice to have a set number to focus on. Your veterinarian can help determine how many calories your dog needs to safely lose weight.

Once you eliminate the possibility of disease causing excess weight you can start a diet and exercise plan. Most leash walks are slow with frequent pauses to allow the dog to smell interesting objects or to mark territory. Though these sorts of walks (called sniff walks) are important and enjoyable for your dog, they won’t help him lose weight. Walk briskly and focus on the “out” leg of your walk and then he can sniff walk on the way back home. Start your activity with the brisk effort first. It should feel like a brisk walk and you should break into a light sweat. The key is to keep it up. Don’t stop. When the dog wants to take a break, get happy! Walk faster or even break into a dance (my dogs love when I do the grapevine) anything to keep them interested in powering ahead with you.

Once you put your dog on a weight loss program, it’s critical that you determine if it’s working for your dog. Each dog is an individual and may require many changes in diet or routine before finding the correct balance. Ideally, your dog should be weighed every month until his ideal weight is achieved. Work closely and actively with your veterinary team to reach goals faster and safely.

The button below will bring you to a visual body score chart to help you determine if your dog is at his perfect weight. Fluffy body hair can disguise weight and you’ll need to feel for his ribs beneath all that hair.

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