While some dog breeds are more prone to becoming overweight or obese, nearly half of the nation’s dogs and cats suffer some level of tipping the scales beyond their breed standards. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) reports that 59% of cats and 54% of dogs suffer from excess weight. Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC chief veterinary officer states: “Obesity in dogs is a widespread problem in the U.S. today, yet it is one of the most preventable problems.”
While many factors may contribute to excess pounds, such as Cushing’s Disease or Hypothyroidism, obese dogs tend to be older females, dogs between the ages of 5-12 and those who aren’t exercised enough to offset their daily food and caloric consumption.
The long-term health problems from overweight issues include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Respiratory issues
- Orthopedic problems
- Some forms of cancer
- Shorter life spans
How do you know if a dog needs to shed a few pounds? When viewing them from above, he/she should have an hourglass shape. From the side, ribs should be slightly visible with the abdomen tucked in and not hanging down.
It’s important for dog owners to develop a health plan to keep their “hefty” dogs toned and fit.
First starters should include a thorough physical exam with blood work, followed by a consultation with the family veterinarian to determine how to effectively reduce calories and increase exercise in a safe and methodical way. A comprehensive weight management program might include a diet change, fewer treats, smaller portions, or a complete change of food brand.
All dogs require high-quality protein, especially seniors. Treats shouldn’t exceed 10% of daily caloric intake and can include carrots, green beans, apple slices (no skin or seeds), watermelon (no seeds), blueberries and other quality alternatives to Milk Bones (basically potato chips for dogs).
Daily exercise is important for all dogs of all breeds and ages. Daily walks twice a day is ideal.
“Most veterinary nutritionists recommend a consistent diet in order to ensure a balanced meal,” says Dr. Alvarez. “The most important nutrient for senior dogs is high-quality protein, due to a higher need for protein levels.” No matter the dog’s age, exercise is another important factor in keeping him/her healthy and fit. It’s also good for a dog’s mental state – a tired dog is less likely to get into mischief.
Even older dogs should go out at least twice a day for mental and physical stimulation. “Dogs with heart or respiratory disorders can be taken out for shorter periods of time and during the cooler parts of the day,” says Dr. Alvarez. Some senior dogs can benefit from low-impact exercise such as swimming.
Keep this in mind for your dog’s health and wellness. Stay fit together!
If you’re curious about weight standards for individual breeds, check out this quick guide from AKC: Breed Weight Chart – American Kennel Club (akc.org)
Better Pet Fitness in Four Steps — Association for Pet Obesity Prevention