Dog Obesity: A Real Problem
Did you know that the leading health threat for your pet is obesity? With 55% of dogs tipping the scales as overweight or obese, those few extra pounds can quickly pile up into a multitude of health problems. Overweight dogs and cats are prone to arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, joint and bone issues, and shorter life spans.
How to tell if your dog is a good weight.
You feed them good food and healthy tasty snacks. You walk them at least twice a day and frequently go on hiking or running adventures. You may even know exactly how much they weigh right down to the ounce . . . but how do you know your dog’s weight is a good weight for their frame?
Your next visit to the clinic is a great time to talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s weight. Your vet can assess your pet’s overall body health with a complete physical exam and a scale similar to the body mass index for people.
Some pets have medical conditions such as hormonal imbalances that lead to weight gain. Fairly common in both dogs and cats, your vet can identify these issues through lab work and recommend specific strategies to help your pet reach a healthy weight range.
Also, remember not all dogs are built the same. From the tiny 3-pound teacup Chihuahua to the giant 175-pound mastiff, each breed varies in muscle mass, skeletal size, and coat density. These all contribute to the average weight for each breed.
The American Kennel Club assigns a breed standard for weight and size, but we there can be a huge variability even within individual breeds.
Instead of fixing on the number on the scale, a more objective way to determine your dog’s ideal weight is to focus on the Body Condition Score (BCS). Veterinarians and pet food companies have adopted this BCS system for evaluating a pet’s health and body composition.
The BCS system rates a dog from 1 (emaciated, minimal muscle mass, undernourished) to 9 (morbidly obese, excessive fat deposits). An “ideal” body condition would be a score of 4 or 5.
It is often easy to see if your pet is overweight: there are telltale signs of a pudgy face and body, waddle, and reluctance to go for walks or exercise that will reveal the extra pounds. If your pet’s weight gain occurs gradually, it can be more challenging to spot. Keep an eye out on your pet’s shape: you should be able to see a defined waist.
A quick home test to determine if your fluffy dog is a good weight is to run your palms along the side of his or her rib cage, just behind their front legs. If you can feel the contours of the ribs with your palms, (and do not have to use your fingers to push through fat deposits to feel the ribs), then your dog is likely an appropriate weight. If you can feel sharp edges of protruding ribs with your palms alone, your dog might be too thin.
Keeping your dog at a healthy weight for their whole life is crucial for long-term wellness. Regularly assessing your pets’ BCS and adjusting their meal portions and sizes accordingly, will keep your furry loved ones over healthier and happier for years to come!
Fat Dog Breeds
Weight is a pretty big issue, not just in people --- many dogs are overweight. And while any dog can get fat, some breeds are predisposed to putting on extra pounds. These following breeds are some of the most frequently over-fed and over-worked around.
It is no secret that America has a few problems with weight management, but what you might not know is that our dietary problems don’t end with us — approximately 1 in 5 dogs in the United States are overweight.* While pet parents should take care to regulate the diet of any breed of dog, there are a few breeds that are especially prone to packing on pounds. These are the dogs that might need extra care (either dietary or exercise-related) to stay in a healthy weight range.
A small dog with big personality, this wiener dog loves attention and a good spirited game of catch, but is also perfectly content sitting on a lap and getting pampered — and therein lies the problem. Without routine exercise you are going to end up with an overstuffed sausage on your hands.
A small but brave breed, the Scottish Terrier is known to be a wonderful watchdog, and makes for a great companion. Typically lively, if they are not given an opportunity to burn through their energy, they might start to get a bit doughy. Also, overfeeding can catch up to this breed quickly, so portion control is especially important.
This fantastic family pet is known for their bright, colorful personality, which sometimes errs on the side of mischief — especially where food is concerned. Almost perpetually hungry, the Beagle is notorious for being on a “see food diet” (if they see food, they eat it). Because of this, they are at an increased risk for becoming overweight. However, with ample exercise and a carefully monitored diet, your Beagle can maintain a healthy weight.
The Cocker makes for a superb companion for a family, being both playful and friendly with children. They are notoriously cute, making it tough to resist their pleas for more food or for table scraps. But beware — although these dogs can eat a lot, without the proper exercise and a good diet, they are bound to get pudgy.
A big-boned breed, the Basset Hound can be in danger of becoming overweight simply because of their tendency toward inactivity. While they are happy to get out in the yard and follow a scent, they are just as happy laying by the fire and taking a nap. They are not the kind of breed that will tell you they need a run, so to manage your Basset’s weight, you might have to give them a little push.
Quite possibly America’s favorite breed, the Labrador is a fun-loving, family friendly breed. Ideally this breed should be getting an hour or two of exercise every day. As such, many of the Labradors in America are not receiving the proper amount of exercise, leading to weight problems. Also, because they are a big dog, people tend to overfeed them. Just because they whine for more food, doesn’t mean they need it!
Many parents of Rottweilers assume that, since they are such a substantial dog, Rotties need more “fuel.” Yes, they are large, but they are not supposed to be beefy. And while they do need more food than a smaller dog, there is no reason to fill their bowl to the brim. A good test to see if they are overweight is looking along their back — if you don’t see a distinct tapering from the shoulders to the waist, your dog could stand to trim down.
Causes and Culprits:
Since pets don’t typically feed or exercise themselves, the root of pet obesity is overfeeding. However, there is good news. Pet obesity is entirely preventable and, once diagnosed, manageable!
Stop feeding them scraps!
Overfeeding is one of the greatest contributors to overweight pets. When it comes to preventing disease and helping your pet live a long and healthy life, what and how much you feed them is at the top of the list. If your pet is already overweight or you notice their weight is increasing, talk to your veterinarian about a recommended diet for your pet, including the type and amount of food and frequency of feedings. The goal is to help your pet reach and maintain a healthy weight before serious health issues set in, and ensure many more happy years together.
Stick to a strict feeding schedule
Doing this is essential to helping your pet maintain a healthy weight. Your pet can’t open the refrigerator, so it’s important for your family to have a conversation about treats and table scraps. Many pet treats contain added sugar, so if you do give treats, offer healthier options and limit the number of treats per day.
Neutering or spaying
Does spaying or neutering make your dog fat? No, but there is a connection between reproductive status and the number of calories a dog needs. Neutering and spaying slow a dog’s metabolism, and the loss of key hormones can affect activity level and appetite. That’s why neutered and spayed dogs typically need fewer calories or more exercise to maintain a healthy weight.
Genetics and breed predispositions
Yes, some dog breeds are more likely to become overweight. Earlier this year, University of Cambridge researchers found some Labrador retrievers and flat-coated retrievers have a gene mutation that causes them to weigh more than those dogs without it. So if your canine companion is a Labrador retriever who pesters you frequently for food and treats, it may be that he’s genetically hard-wired that way.
Other dog breeds predisposed to obesity include Bulldogs, Beagles, Basset Hounds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Dachshunds and cocker spaniels. Just because a breed may be prone to extra weight doesn’t mean all dogs of that breed will actually become fat. But it does mean you’ll need to be especially diligent about monitoring your canine’s weight.
The negative effects of obesity are more complicated than carrying around extra pounds. Associated health risks can include diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and others. For most overweight dogs, a combination of free-choice feeding, boredom and not enough playtime is the root cause, which comes back to us as pet parents. The good news is that it’s not too late to reverse the trend of increasingly fat dogs.
Obese Dog Health Issues:
Overweight and obese dogs are not to be taken lightly because these dogs are at a greater risk for a number of serious consequences. Here are some examples of such consequences.
Extra weight puts extra pressure on a dog’s joints. The cartilage in the joint deteriorates, which leads to arthritis. Sure, we can give pain medications, but weight loss helps significantly.
2. Heart and breathing conditions
Weight gain can cause heart disease and high blood pressure. It’s also linked to breathing problems. Overweight dogs are more prone to a collapsing trachea and laryngeal paralysis. Untreated, these airway conditions could lead to a respiratory crisis which could be fatal if not treated.
3. Anesthesia risk
The heart and lungs of overweight and obese dogs have to work harder during anesthesia. The dog struggles to breathe because he has difficulty expanding his chest. Dogs often sleep too deeply or not deeply enough. In addition, overweight dogs may take a long time to wake up after anesthesia.
Obesity may increase the risk of certain tumors such as benign fatty tumors (lipomas), as well as breast and bladder cancer (transitional cell carcinoma).
5. Skin diseases
Overweight dogs have extra skin folds, which can cause irritation and infection by bacteria. This can lead to scratching, body odor and skin redness. Overweight dogs often have an unhealthy looking coat because it’s harder, if not impossible, for them to groom effectively.
6. Quantity and quality of life
Obesity can take up to 2 years off the life of your dog! Quality of life is also lower. Carrying extra pounds around takes a toll; overweight dogs are slow to get down and up, they get winded or tired quickly and are less likely to play.
The trouble with being plump isn’t just vanity; excess weight causes or worsens many serious medical conditions in our pets. Our animal companions depend on us to make good choices for them. Make sure you’re feeding your pet based on sound nutritional advice and not due to price. Talk with your vet about strategies to keep your pet at a healthy weight. Your pets will be happier, have fewer medical problems, and you’ll enjoy more years together.
How to help my dog lose weight
Schedule an appointment with your family vet so you can tailor a weight-loss program to your dog’s needs. There are no miracles to losing weight: eat less and exercise more. Eating less will involve sticking to a balanced weight-loss food. It’s also reasonable to cut down on treats and “people food.” However, it’s not considered ideal to cut down on the amount of food unless your veterinarian suggests it. Starving a pet is just as bad as overfeeding.
The other requirement for losing weight is more exercise. Fortunately, this is the good part! It involves more time having fun with your dog.
There’s no doubt that, just like a human who exercises is a healthier human, a dog who is exercised is also a healthier dog. Aren’t most activities better with your four-legged friend? Active pets are excellent motivators; and will always be thrilled to go for a walk or run, mostly just to spend more time with you. As an added bonus, that exercise is as great for your pet as it is for you.
Here are some great ways to exercise with your pup:
Hopefully you’re already walking your dog daily. Walking can be a great workout. According to in a study published in The Journal Preventive Medicine, “Dog owners who reported walking their dogs were almost 25 percent less likely to be obese than people without dogs.” Plus, you and your pet will get stress relieving benefits from daily walks. If possible, try to establish a routine—say a 20-minute walk in the morning and one in the evening. Your pet will appreciate the stability, and a schedule helps motivate us to get out there daily.
Hiking might be one of the most rewarding activities you can do with your pup. The combination of a harder workout and nature is great for both your mind, body, and spirit.
Hiking is a little different than other activities, since you are essentially on your own out there, especially if you’re doing a big hiking trip. For hikes, you always want to have an ID tag on your pup, bring plenty of water, and ideally, carry a first aid kit. Plan ahead. Having the right gear —like portable water bowls—can mean the difference between a good and bad experience.
Even though you’re just walking, hikes can get very steep and hard. It’s best to build up fitness before attempting more strenuous hikes.
Here are a few tips for hiking with your dog:
- Make sure your dog is comfortable on a leash and has good recall in case they are off the leash.
- If your dog is cautious of other people or dogs, make sure to tell other hikers.
- Pick up after your pet (bring doggie bags!)
- Before you head out, check the park rules to make sure pets are allowed.
Like any high-impact sport, you should ease your pup into running. It’s fantastic exercise for them, but just like you, they need to get in shape over time.
If you’re running on the road, always keep your dog out of the line of traffic—and on a relatively short leash. You don’t want your pup zigzagging in and out of the road. If you live near a running trail, make sure that off-leash pets are allowed. Like hiking, you will want to carry water and make sure pup has an ID.
Tips for a successful run with your pet:
- If your dog isn’t good on a leash, try attending a basic obedience class. A well-behaved pet makes running easier on you both.Allow time for your dog to potty before you run. Plan to spend some time walking while you both warm up.
- Have set periods to let your dog do some dog things like sniffing before you start running or stopping along the way to use the bathroom.
- Make running a game for them—most dogs love intervals, so feel free to play with pace as your fitness allows.
Yoga is every bit as good for your pet as it is for you, and they wull get the same benefits. Relieving stress and strengthening your bond, yoga with pets is a combination of exercises and massage. Yoga + dog means benefits for all!
Exercise wise: there might be no workout buddy as great as your four-legged best friend. Your pet loves you and will want to spend time by your side every single day, rain or shine. And now that Summer is almost here, It's the perfect time to snap on the leash and go for a walk or run!
Overweight or obese dogs aren’t beyond saving. The situation can be corrected. Your family vet can provide you with the tools and the knowledge to help your dog live a long and happy life. You simply need to have the awareness and the motivation to act. Hopefully, having a happy and healthy dog is enough motivation.
Doggie Diet Plan
Every weight loss plan for dogs must be based on one principle: dogs that consumer fewer calories than they burn lose weight. Easy right? But if weight loss was that easy, why are so many dogs still overweight?
Did you know that an overweight dog is more likely to die at a younger age?! A recent study proves that dogs that maintain their ideal body weight live almost two years longer (and with significantly less diseases) than their younger siblings.
In other words, by helping your dog maintaining a healthy weight, you can add nearly two more years to your furry friend’s life!
Let’s look at the obesity problem in an easy way: Dogs that eat MORE calories than they burn will gain weight --- just like humans. So to lose weight:
Your dog must eat less and exercise more!
The Goal: Your Dog’s Ideal Weight
It is very important to keep your dog’s weight in the right range to ensure your pet is happy and healthy. Here is an easy way to tell if your dog is:
Theoretically, weight loss seems simple enough: fewer calories in plus more calories out equals weight loss. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that.
You should never put your dog on a diet without the assistance of your veterinary healthcare team. There may be an underlying medical condition that is causing or contributing to your dog's excess weight. Some common diseases associated with weight gain include hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism. These diseases, along with others, should be eliminated as possible causes or contributors to your dog's weight problem prior to beginning a diet. Too many dogs start on a diet and fail to lose weight simply because the diet was not the problem - a disease was. Your veterinarian can perform a physical examination and recommend blood tests to ensure that there are no obstacles to weight loss for your pet.
If a disease is not responsible for your dog’s excess weight and the doctor has determined your pet needs to slim down here are the steps for a successful doggie diet plan.
- Find your Dog’s Ideal Weight: your veterinarian can calculate the exact amount of calories your pet needs per day to lose weight based on his current size, ideal body weight, energy level, and general health.
- Consider what your dog eats: Do an honest assessment, covering all meals, treats, snacks, including those given by other family member, neighbors, sitters, strangers etc. But you don’t have to nix treats altogether,
- Reduce portions: Vet recommends cutting daily intake of food 15%-20% for a six to eight week period, then analyzing the results.
- Set a schedule
- Monitor your dog’s weight regular: This is to make sure your weight loss program in on track.
- Keep an eye on those treats: As well as chews, leftevers, and other extras you may not be counting.
- Exercise!: And continue to increase workouts as your dog becomes more fit.
Dog Weight Loss Food
If you’re considering switching to diet dog food, you might be wondering if your pup actually needs it. Not all dogs need a diet dog food, but with over 50% of American canines being overweight, many do. If you know your dog is overweight and needs to lose a few pounds, then a diet dog food is an obvious choice.
However, even dogs who aren’t yet overweight but have started to gain a little may do better on a low calorie or low fat food (in addition to more exercise, where possible) to nip things in the bud and help them maintain a healthy weight.
Some older dogs should eat diet dog foods, as canines tend to gain a little weight as they get older, especially as they start to slow down. Dogs who are less active than usual due to an illness or injury may also benefit from a diet food to help keep their weight from creeping up while they recover.
Prescription weight loss diets can be a good choice for severely overweight dogs, while high protein diets are an alternative for dogs and cats that do not have as much weight to lose but still need to cut back.
In her popular article, veterinary specialist, Dr. Donna Spector, recommends feeding your overweight dog a food that contains:
- Above-average protein
- Below-average fat
- Below-average calories
Weight Loss Dog Food Brands
When searching for the best diet dog food out there, Wellness Core® Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food Reduced Fat Formula is a great choice. With 25% less fat than the original formula, it’s great for dogs that need to lose weight or are starting to gain weight on their regular diet. The protein-rich formula helps keep your dog’s tummy feeling full for longer.
If you’re looking for a quality diet dog food that isn’t quite as pricey, Blue Buffalo BLUE Life Protection Formula Adult Dry Dog Food Healthy Weight Chicken and Brown Rice is an excellent choice. At around $50 for a 30-pound bag, it works out reasonably affordable and comes highly recommended. This healthy weight chicken and brown rice formula has more than 4,500 (predominantly positive) reviews and is suitable for all adult dogs.
With a reduced calories-from-fat ratio, this diet dog food can aid in maintaining the healthy weight of a dog who’s just starting to gain some pounds, or help with weight loss as part of a larger diet and exercise plan.
If your four-legged friend is well in need of a diet, look no further than Natural Balance Fat Dogs Dry Dog Food. Unlike some diet dog foods that are formulated for maintenance or weight loss, this low calorie option puts weight loss to the forefront, which is perfect if your dog is more than a little overweight.
With its specially designed balance of protein and fiber, this food helps keep your pup feeling full between meals, despite its low calorie formula. The high-quality protein also aids your dog in retaining muscle mass as she loses weight, although you’ll need to make sure she’s getting plenty of exercise.
If you’re looking for a diet wet food for your pooch, our favorite canned option is Nutro ULTRA Adult Weight Management Dog Food. With all-natural ingredients that provide complete and balanced nutrition while supporting weight loss or maintenance, this is an excellent choice for most adult dogs.
Flavorful fresh ingredients, such as chicken, salmon, lamb, and turkey make up much of the bulk of the food, with added extras such as rice, carrots, and pumpkin add carbohydrates and other nutrients. A wide range of added vitamins and minerals help to insure this food contains everything your dog needs to stay healthy.
Buyers love that this food contains no artificial flavors or preservatives; poultry by-products; corn; or soy—just natural ingredients that are good for dogs and will help with weight loss or maintenance.
Dog Weight Loss Recipes
If you like cooking for your pet, making homemade dog food for weight loss may be another great option.
Below are some of the best homemade dog food weight loss recipes. Before you get into them, take a look at some Homemade Dog Food Recipes on TopDogTips.com
1. Chicken Dog Food Recipe
- 1000 kcal and 22 grams of fat per 1000 kcal
- 14 ounces of chicken thighs (remove the skin and the fat)
- 1 pound of sweet potato, baked with the skin
- Half a pound of broccoli stalks
- 2 ounces of chicken liver
- 1 ounce of chicken hearts (or use 3 ounces of liver but no heart)
- 1 level teaspoon of eggshell powder
- A quarter teaspoon of iodized salt
- 40 to 120 IUs (2 to 6 drops) of vitamin E
2. Beef Dog Food Recipe
- 1000 kcal and 24 grams of fat per 1000 kcal
- 12 ounces of ground beef, at least 90 – 95% lean
- 12 ounces of cooked brown or white rice
- 6 ounces of red leaf lettuce
- 1 ounce of beef liver
- 1 ounce of beef heart
- One and a half teaspoons of bone meal
- Three quarters teaspoon of hemp oil (or walnut oil or twice as much canola oil)
- A quarter teaspoon of cod liver oil
- A quarter teaspoon of kelp
- 20 to 100 IUs (l to 5 drops) vitamin E
3. Mixed Protein Dog Food Recipe
- 4200 kcal and 24 grams of fat per 1000 kcal
- 3 pounds of cooked whole wheat macaroni
- 2 pounds of chicken thighs (remove the skin and fat)
- 1 pound of ground beef, at least 90-95% lean
- 1 pound of broccoli stalks
- 1 pound of red leaf lettuce
- Half a pound of chicken liver
- Half a pound of beef heart
- 1 can (3.5 ounces) of sardines
- 1 egg white from 1 large egg
- 4 teaspoons of eggshell powder (or 6,000 mg calcium from other sources)
- 1 teaspoon of kelp meal
- 200+ lUs (10+ drops) vitamin E
- 1000 kcal and 24 grams of fat per 1000 kcal.
- 6 ounces of chicken necks (remove the skin and fat)
- Half a pound of chicken thighs (remove the skin and fat)
- 1 pound of sweet potato. baked with its skin
- Half a pound of broccoli stalks
- 3 ounces of chicken liver
- A quarter teaspoon of iodized salt
- 40 to 100 IUs (2 to 5 drops) vitamin E
The size of the portions depends on the size of the dog:
- 1700 kcal for a 100-pound dog
- 1000 kcal for a 50-pound dog
- 600 kcal for a 25-pound dog
- 175 kcal for a 5-pound dog
Obviously, these are all just recommended portions. They depend on your dog’s breed, activity and metabolism. To be sure, it’s best to talk with your vet or a canine nutritionist.
Whichever option you choose make sure you always go with the highest quality. Always give your dog plenty of exercise, and always take your vet’s advice.
Weight Loss Pills for Dogs - Safe or Not?
In early 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved dirlotapide, the first veterinary medication designed as a weight management aid for dogs. Used in conjunction with a veterinarian-approved diet and exercise program, this medication was thought to be an effective tool for reducing your dog's weight safely and effectively. Slentrol, the drug name of Dirlotapide, manufactured by Pfizer and Zoetis, was discontinued, as a “business decision.” However, it was also reported that the drug was very difficult to administer: it required a lot of dosage adjustments as the dog’s weight changed and there were unpleasant side effects ( diarrhea and vomiting, which may occur at the beginning of treatment or when the dosage is increased, more than normal amounts of salivation, constipation, and mild depression
Also, just like with humans, once the medication was discontinued the dog gained back the weight.
Weight Loss Surgery for Dogs
So, if drugs don’t work what’s next? Well there is a surgical response! While it has not gone mainstream yet, there was a limited study on 4 dogs that underwent weight loss surgery and they lost 75% of their excess weight in 3 months. There is is “real interest” in a surgical response to obesity in dogs. Of course, there are a host of technical questions about all this: What type of surgery would be best? How do you prepare the dog for
(But honestly, should we even be asking these questions? Yes, obesity in dogs is a huge issue (no pun intended) and has health impacts – but these are animals that WE are feeding. This is not about a lack of self-control or willpower in the dog. This is about us overfeeding and under exercising our dogs. While we might lack the willpower to limit our own caloric intake or get enough exercise – this shouldn’t be the case when it comes to our pets.)
Dog Healthy Weight Calculator
Dog Weight Loss Tracker/ Journal
Future Offerings from Paw Labs
Weighing Cups (scoopers)
Pawfect Pet Food Scooper
Website: Pawfect Pet Food Scooper
YaDoggie Blue Tooth Scooper
(The scooper has a light on the front that serves as a food indicator. Red means don't feed the dog while green means go ahead, give that doggie some food.)
- Weight Journal (see above)
- Healthy Treats
NutriSentials Lean Treats
Link: Lean Treats: low-fat and low-calorie treats at just 17 calories per treat.
Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Canine Dog Treats
Link: https://www.chewy.com/hills-prescription-diet-metabolic/dp/155001 :tasty, crunchy biscuits with high levels of soluble and insoluble fibers especially for dogs on Metabolic prescription diet.
Purina Beggin’ Skinny Strip Turkey Dog Treats
Link: Beggin Skinny Strips :Mouthwatering, turkey-flavored dog treats with an aroma that dogs will love.
Ice Bucket Type Challenge for Dogs
- Social Media challenge video to increase awareness of pet obesity, encourage pet weight loss
- Instagram as main platform
Human & Pet Weight Loss Challenge
- Social Media Challenge?
- Tips to consider posting:
- Make a commitment to your walking routine and stick with it. (Use a journal / tracker
- An early workout to try: walking two blocks for every pound of your dog's body weight. So, if you have a twenty-pound dog, you'll walk forty blocks, or about two miles. Increase the distance about five to ten percent each week as you and your dog get used to the new plan.
- Take water with you. Give your pet a little water break and then encourage him to keep moving, but don't push him if he seems overtaxed.
- Put both of you on a low-calorie diet. Consult a doctor or nutritionist for the best plan for you, and consult a veterinarian for the best plan for your dog.
- Cut back on the high-calorie snacks and snack on healthy treats instead.
- Weigh yourself and your dog every week to chart both of your weight loss progress.
- If your dog is more excited about the walk than you are, use a front-clip harness, so he can't pull you down the street faster than you'd like to go.