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Obesity in Dogs: It's a Common Problem

Obesity in pets causes many problems. More than 24% of overweight dogs have locomotion problems such as arthritis and spinal disc disease. Many also have respiratory difficulties, high blood pressure and heart disease. In fact, one study has shown that grossly overweight dogs are 34.8% more likely to have circulatory diseases.

Yet, there are solutions to obesity.


No fat pups please!   Top
One of the most important means of preventing obesity in adult animals is to make sure they are not obese as puppies. The development of too many fat cells as a puppy, through overfeeding, will usually cause obesity in the adult dog.

If you have a pup, it is therefore important that you encourage it to exercise and play. That’s the easy bit! Also, avoid having food available constantly. This prevents your pup from eating as much as it wants whenever it wants.

Instead, you should feed your pup three times a day until it is about eight to twelve weeks of age. After that, feed it two meals a day until it is twelve months of age, unless it is a giant breed, in which case, twice daily feeding should continue until it is about eighteen months of age.

So, slightly under feed your pup rather than over feeding it. Resist the temptation to a have a typical ‘roly-poly’ fat puppy as you are setting the pup up for obesity as an adult animal.

How can I tell if my dog is overweight?   Top
If your dog has lost its waist, in other words if the abdominal area just behind the ribs is wider than its chest when viewed from above, then it is a fair bet the your pooch is overweight.

For dogs that are obese, a proper weight reduction program will see a gradual reduction in weight.

Weight reduction strategies   Top
First, weigh your pet and document this starting weight. You should now aim to reduce your pet’s weight by about 3% each week, reaching your pet’s ideal weight after about 12 weeks - but you have to be tough with yourself.

Work out what your dog should weigh as its target weight. Now give it the amount of food needed for a dog that would weigh 60% of this target weight. This should see the weight reducing about 3% per week.

The next rule is that you should only feed your pet from its bowl and never feed titbits or feed it from your dinner table.

To reduce your pet’s weight, feed it on a low calorie, high fibre diet.

You can buy prepared weight reduction diets from your veterinarian. These diets are totally balanced and are a lot easier to manage than cooking your own version. One prescription diet available from your veterinarian is designed specifically to be used in a weight reduction program. It is a properly balanced, very low calorie, high fibre diet. The increased fibre fills the stomach and results in a feeling of ‘fullness’ while not adding unnecessary calories.

Keeping the weight off   Top
Once your dog’s weight has reached its optimum weight, you should then put it onto a normal ‘light’ diet (rather than a prescription, weight reduction diet) to prevent the weight increasing again.

With dry food, it is a good idea to measure your dog’s daily food in the morning and then feed this to your pet divided into three to four meals a day. If you want to give your pet a titbit, do so, but only from this measured quantity of food.

Many dogs are obese because they use food to manipulate their owners and their owners use food to manipulate their pets!

To prevent this, always feed your pet in an out-of-the-way room, such as the laundry, and confine it there with its food for fifteen minutes. If it has not eaten its food in this time, then throw the remaining food away and give it no more until the next allocated feeding time. By confining your pet with its food, attention seeking over the food bowl becomes a non-issue.

Obesity in pets is a dangerous condition. Be tough with yourself to be kind to your pet. Reducing the weight of a beloved pet is not easy and I suggest that you consult with your veterinarian to start a proper weight control program for your pet - after all, that’s what your vet is there for.
 

Dr Cam Day BVSc BSc MACVSc


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