It is absolutely heart wrenching when I see fat dogs. The dog’s back looks like a table you could put dinner plates on, they can barely move and they’re panting so much they look like they’re gasping to breathe. Don’t their guardians see the state they’re in? I must admit I have had chats with some of them and I’m always shocked by how blase they are. I tell them I had rescued an obese dog, the steps I took to help her lose weight, how easy it was and I even give them the name of my vet. Sorry to be negative but I doubt any of them followed up…but you never know.
Let’s be realistic. It’s harder for us to lose weight because we can get food anytime we want, that’s not the case for dogs. We are in charge of when they eat and what they eat, so you can already see how easy it is to end obesity in dogs. It’s all about a good quality diet in the right amount, less junk, more exercise!
In a 2016 survey by The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), results show that 54% of all dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. There are 41.9 million obese dogs in the U.S.
What’s even more disturbing is – 93% of dog owners (I prefer to call them guardians) thought their dog’s weight was normal.
The 2014 PDSA Animal Welfare Report states that 1 in 3 dogs in the U.K. is overweight, or obese.
Here are the results of a survey conducted by Petplan in the UK – Petplan statistics and facts
My experience with an obese dog
When my husband and I adopted our dog Red, she hadn’t been well cared for in her previous home. She was around 8 years old and so obese, her stomach literally touched the ground. A dog that shouldn’t way more than 10lbs weighed a whopping 18!! I wish I had a picture to show you, but they must be packed away in storage at the moment.
She couldn’t take more than a couple of steps without panting and having to sit. She’s a small dog, with skinny little legs, and all that extra weight had to have been so uncomfortable for her.
I took her to the vet for advice and together with our regular walks, which at the beginning were nothing more than a few steps, the weight dropped off quite quickly. As the weight came off she was able to walk longer, and you could see how much better she was feeling.
Causes of obesity
Ruling out metabolic disorders, medications and other health conditions, the cause is too much food, the wrong food, too many treats, too little exercise, and people not knowing how much their dog should weigh.
How much should a dog weigh?
It’s an important number to have as it will give you the goal you’re working towards. Your dog’s ideal weight will depend on what type of dog you have, which is made a bit more challenging nowadays with all the new mixtures out there. The old charts may not be as helpful but they can still give you a rough estimate.
I don’t advise you guess but rather make an appointment to see your vet. He will tell you your dog’s ideal range and what to do to help him get there.
The benefits of being at a healthy weight
- Longer life expectancy
- The possibility of less illness
- Decrease the chances of getting arthritis
- Able to exercise and play
- A better quality of life because your dog will be feeling so much better
What are the dangers associated with being overweight?
- Shorter life expectancy
- Poor quality of life
- Strain/damages joints and bones
- Developing arthritis, and makes existing arthritis even worse
- Harder to cope in the heat
- Hip dysplasia
- Respiratory disorders, and worsens existing ones
- Poor condition of coat and skin
- Greater risk during surgery
- Elevated blood pressure
- Spinal disc problems
- Liver, kidney and heart diseases
Added complications during surgery
Senior dogs are already at higher risk during surgery, and being overweight adds significantly to that risk. All the extra fat makes it harder to get at what the vet is operating on, meaning your dog will be in surgery longer than he should be.
Also, most anesthetics are broken down by the liver, but a fatty liver will not be able to do that job as efficiently as a healthy one, so your dog will take longer to come out of the anesthesia.
Is it safe for dogs to lose weight?
A better question would be, is it safe for dogs to not lose weight?
What can I do?
- Stop feeding him table scraps
- No more unhealthy treats
- Fewer treats
- Better portion control
- Exercise – the type and intensity will depend on the health and condition of your dog
- See your vet who will likely enroll you in their weight loss clinic, which most practices have these days
The first step is to have a consultation with your vet – it goes without saying, your dog needs to come along. Your dog will be weighed, then a goal weight will be set. After that, you will discuss a diet and exercise regime.
Please follow the recommended plan, and make sure everyone in your household, or involved in your dog’s care, understands that as well. You don’t want someone sneaking him extra food or treats, when you’re not looking. That isn’t doing him any favours.
Your vet may recommend switching over to a different brand/type of food, that will help your dog feel fuller without having to decrease the amount, or simply suggest reducing the amount of what he’s currently eating.
If you will be switching brands, please do so gradually. Add the new food in small amounts to his existing food at each meal. Gradually increase the ratio of new to old, until he’s switched over. It should take about a week until he’s only eating the new food.
Some vets may recommend a raw or whole foods diet.
Unfortunately many people misunderstand that a “treat” is just that – something to reward good behaviour, a little “something” after a walk or for a successful training session. It is not a meal!!
Let your vet know what treats you’re feeding him, and he will either recommend just reducing the amounts given, or switching to a lower calorie, better quality brand.
You could use part of your dog’s meal, or buy good quality treats and give them sparingly.
Vegetables like raw carrot to munch on, cooked sweet potatoes, squash or raw apple can also be used as treats. Ask your vet if there are any fruits or vegetables not suitable for your dog.
There are thousands of recipes online to make your own dog treats. You’ll know exactly what ingredients go in them, giving you better control over what your dog is eating.
We know exercise is another piece to the whole weight loss plan, but depending on the condition of your dog, the type, length, and frequency of exercise will differ. Your vet will advise which form is safest.
Perhaps your dog would benefit from short walks, 2-3 times a day. If you live in a particularly hot climate, or when walking during the summer months, stick to earlier and later in the day.
Swimming is great exercise since it is low impact and won’t stress joints. Take him to the beach or a lake, and when the weather is older find out if there is a doggie pool in your area.
How to help fat dogs get slim – conclusion
I hope you can see how important it is for all dogs to be at a healthy weight. If you’re wondering if your dog is overweight, take him to your vet and find out. If he does need to lose a bit of weight, the earlier you start the better he will feel. It is the human who causes obesity in dogs, and it’s up to the human to reverse it.
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a new Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.