Though there aren’t any weight watcher programs for dogs, it is still possible for your dog to be overweight. Dogs, like humans, need a healthy, balanced diet and plenty of exercise to maintain a healthy figure and to ensure a long, fulfilling life. Also like humans, dogs are susceptible to dangerous conditions that result from obesity, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions and stroke. If you are concerned about your pup’s weight, it might be a good idea to have a veterinarian take a look at him just to be sure. If the vet determines that your dog is, in fact, over the normal weight, he or she will put your pup on a strict diet and recommend a certain exercise regime.
However, there are ways that you can tell if your pup is overweight on your own too. Look for the signs of an overweight dog below to make sure your pup doesn’t demonstrate any of them and, if he does, to get him on a healthier routine before he experiences any major health complications.
Signs of Unhealthy Weight Gain and Obesity
Your Dog Has No Definition
Dogs can have a figure too! In fact, dogs, no matter their breed, should have a figure. This means that you should be able to look down on him and see a clear outline of his hips, waist and shoulders. His waist should be tapered and thinner than the rest of his body (but not too thin, because that’s unhealthy too!). If your pup looks like a blob or a sausage link, he is overweight and you should contact a veterinary professional at the United Veterinary Center right away for advice.
Your Pup Has Trouble Breathing
Trouble breathing is a very bad sign indeed. If your pup wheezes after walking short distances, breathes heavily when eating or has trouble pushing air in and out of his lungs after performing the most basic of tasks, it’s time to put him on a diet. Trouble breathing is an indicator of clogged arteries, which can quickly lead to more extensive health issues.
You Can’t Feel Your Dog’s Ribs
While you don’t want to be able to see your pup’s ribs, you certainly want to be able to feel them when you pet him. Stroke your dog’s fur and determine whether or not you can feel his ribs through a thin layer of muscle or fat. If you have to press too hard, your dog may be slightly overweight.
Your Pup Can’t Groom Himself
Dogs should be able to groom themselves naturally without trouble, and if yours is struggling to reach all the necessary places, he is overweight. Not only is this bad for his internal health, but the inability to groom himself means that he is susceptible to skin conditions, mites and other parasites as well.
Your Dog is Constipated
Dogs on a healthy diet are regular, but dogs that are overweight tend to be constipated and gassy. If your dog is regularly stinking up the house, or if you’ve noticed that you haven’t picked up after your dog in awhile, look for other signs of weight gain to determine if that is the problem. If the other signs don’t add up, your dog may have another present condition, which you should have checked out by your vet right away.
Your Pup Has Trouble Moving
If your furry friend isn’t as active as he once was yet he’s still young, it may be because of his diet. Moreover, if your dog demonstrates difficulty moving around, such as hopping up and down from the couch, moving towards his food bowl or even rolling over, he is definitely overweight and should be seen by a vet right away.
Getting Your Pup Back On Track
If your puppy is overweight, there are steps you can take at home to get him back to a healthy weight right away. Use these seven tips to guide your dog back to a healthy lifestyle:
Veterinarians recommend a certain amount of food for each individual dog because they know what is healthy and what is not. That being said, the best tool you have against weight gain is a measuring cup. Never “guestimate” how much food your dog should have—always measure it out. If your vet recommends one cup a serving, three servings a day, give him precisely that. Giving him too much at once (as in all three servings at once) will make it more difficult for him to digest and will slow down his metabolism.
Another way you can determine how much your pup needs to eat each day to remain healthy, calculate the amount of calories he should be taking in each day. And don’t think you can trust the numbers on the dog food bag, as those guidelines are formulated for un-spayed or un-neutered, active adult dogs. If your pooch is older and neutered, and if he spends most of his days indoors, you may be feeding him one to two cups too many each day, which can result in significant weight gain. Ask your veterinarian how many calories your pup should consume each day or calculate it yourself by using the following formula: [(pet’s weight in lbs/2.2) x 30] +70. This should give you a general idea of how many calories it is safe for your pet to consume each day.
Cut Out Carbs
If you were trying to lose weight, what would be the first thing you’d eliminate from your diet? Chances are you said carbs. Eliminate carbs from your pooch’s diet by buying low- or no-grain foods that are high in protein. You’ll be surprised by how quickly he begins to shed those pounds!
Treat Him Tactically
Are you big on giving your friend treats for every little accomplishment he makes, or even “just because”? While your pup may love you for this, it can be extremely detrimental to his health, as dog treats are generally high in calories, sugar and fats (hence, why they’re so delicious). If you want to continue treating your pet, opt for all natural solutions, like chicken treats or natural jerky. Hand them out sparingly too, as anything in excess can pose health complications.
Don’t Skimp on the Veggies
It’s understandable that your pooch loves his beef, but if you want him to grow big and healthy (and big as in strong, not overweight), make sure he has a balanced diet of protein and vegetables. You don’t even have to worry about finding vegetarian dog food either—just head on over to your local farmer’s market and grab some carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumbers or anything with a crunch that your dog will love to chew on, and that will give him his much needed dose of vegetables.
If your pooch is severely overweight, you might want to talk to your veterinarian about vitamin supplements. Supplements such as daily omega-3 fatty acid and fish oil help to keep the pounds off, and have even been proven to prevent and treat numerous diseases. L-carnitine aids with weight gain and promotes lean muscle mass, so as your vet about this as well.
Finally, your efforts will only be as successful as how hard you work. If you’re serious about helping your pup shed those pounds, put on your jogging shorts and get jogging, pet in tow. Start small by taking your dog on a short walk through the neighborhood. Increase your distance by fifteen or so more feet each day. It may seem insignificant, but before you know it, you and your pup will be doing laps around the neighborhood with ease. He’ll be all the healthier for your efforts, and so will you!
Consult the Professionals at the United Veterinary Center
At the United Veterinary Center, we’re concerned about your pup’s health, and you should be too. If you notice signs of unhealthy weight gain in your pooch, consult with a dog health care professional at our animal clinic about what you need to do to help your dog shed those pounds. While the above advice can certainly help you help your dog, they are simply guidelines. Each dog is different, so before you make any major changes in your dog’s routine, schedule a visit with our caring veterinarians today.