Amy L. Fiedler has no doubt her Pomeranian needs to lose weight. And while a couple of pounds may not sound like a lot, it’s one-quarter of his total body weight!
Fiedler suspects her overindulgent parents were sneaking their grandpup human food -- a no-no -- when they puppy-sat each evening. So now she packs carefully measured bags of dog food dinners and the occasional snack pack for her dog’s stays with her parents. That careful diet, along with regular trips around Fiedler’s large backyard, is helping her Pomeranian manage his weight.
Just like humans, more dogs these days could stand to trim down a bit. The fourth annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) study, released in February, found that an alarming 55 percent of dogs are overweight or obese. Since the organization began its surveys in 2007, the number of obese dogs has steadily increased. A dog is considered obese if his weight is 30 percent above the ideal.
If your dog is obese or even simply overweight, you’ll find it more difficult to enjoy outings and adventures together. But more important is the fact that overweight and obese dogs suffer more health problems and may live shorter lives.
Evaluate Your Dog’s Weight
So how do you know if your dog could stand to lose some weight? Before you begin a weight-loss plan, make sure your hunch is correct by assessing him. Don’t depend upon “average” sizes for his breed to determine whether or not he is obese, as a dog’s individual height and bone structure must factor into the equation. Instead, try to objectively look at him. Place your hands on either side of his rib cage and carefully run your palms along it:
- If his ribs are protruding, he’s too thin.
- If you can feel his ribs individually and his abdomen is slightly tucked up when you view him, he’s at a good weight. “If you stand over your dog and look down at his body outline from an aerial view, the abdomen should narrow before the hips, not be in a continuous line,” explains Dr. Tracy Dewhirst, a Knoxville, Tenn., veterinarian and a regular blogger for Exceptional Canine.
- If you can’t discern his ribs easily, or if he lacks a waist and his belly drags, he needs help.
If you have doubts, your veterinarian can help you assess your dog’s weight. You can also find a helpful chart to score your dog’s shape on the APOP website.
The Cause of Canine Obesity
The same variables that cause people to pack on pounds can contribute to a dog’s weight gain. Your dog may eat more calories than he burns. He might not get enough exercise. Does he indulge in too many doggie treats? In addition, as your dog ages, his metabolism can naturally slow.
But dealing with your dog’s weight problem needn’t be painful. Premium dog food brands offer formulas that maintain a proper ratio of protein, fat and fiber and allow your dog to feel full -- without overeating. Some foods also contain the nutrient L-carnitine, which can help your dog's body burn fat into energy. And finding ways for your dog to increase his activity levels will simply mean more time together.
Look for our veterinary expert Dewhirst’s recipe for weight loss in her Exceptional Canine blog next month.