Being overweight in humans can cause many health problems. Having an overweight dog can also be a cause for concern with respect to your pet’s health. Dogs can get some of the same diseases by being overweight that humans can, such as diabetes or heart disease. Other areas of concern may include: hip and joint problems (arthritis), pancreatic and liver disorders, difficulty breathing, reproductive and digestive disorders, circulatory problems, or even increased risk of cancer. As in humans, these can all lead to a decrease in the life expectancy of your pet.
In many ways you can judge your dog to be overweight just as you would a human. And, just as humans dogs come in all sizes and builds, so it is not how much the dog weighs on the scale that matters, but other factors that come into play. You can have a certain breed of dog, such as a black lab, that has a big-boned structure or one that has a smaller-boned build. These two dogs cannot strictly be compared by specific weight guidelines—one may be over the breed weight guidelines and the other may be under.
You will need to check several areas on your dog to determine if he is truly overweight, like the ribs, base of the tail, spine and shoulders, and his waist and abdomen measurement. There is a 5-point procedure that your vet can use to determine if your dog is overweight.
Certain breeds tend to be more prone to being an overweight dog than others. Typically these include: Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, Cairn Terriers, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Shelties, and Bassett Hounds.
Although it is often thought that spaying or neutering your pet will cause him to be overweight, the procedure itself is not the cause. Spayed or neutered animals are generally less active and the decreased activity, or lack of exercise, is the cause of the weight gain (not the procedure).
Before you start your dog on any weight control program, it is a good idea to consult your veterinarian to determine if your dog’s weight problem may be due to a medical condition. Your vet can also help you outline a weight reduction program for your dog to lose weight in a safe manner. Your vet can also provide vitamin supplements that your dog may require during his weight loss program.
As with humans, do not expect your dog to lose all his excess weight overnight. A good amount of weight loss for an overweight dog is to lose about 1-2% of his body weight each week.
Reducing the amount of calories that your pet intakes are usually the best method of weight reduction. That may mean restricting the amount of table scraps and treats that you feed him, or reducing the overall amount of food that he is currently being fed. Reducing your pet’s food 20-40% is a good guide to use.
There are also special ‘diet’ dog foods available on the market today that may help. By using these, you may be able to feed your dog roughly the same amount of food he is currently eating because these products contain lower calories.
A good tip to help your dog lose weight is to feed him more often, but smaller meals, during the day to help control his hunger feelings.
Exercise may also be a key factor in helping your dog to lose weight. Help your dog to stop being a ‘couch-potato’ and make him play and exercise more. You can throw a toy for him to fetch, take him for walks more frequently, or even purchase a treadmill especially designed to dog use.
Currently there are also dietary medications and nutraceuticals that are being examined to help your overweight dog lose weight. Ask your vet if these may now be available.