When it comes to our furry friends, their weight can fluctuate just as much as ours. Depending on levels of exercise and calories consumed, if your dog is doing less and eating more is a sure-fire way of them piling on those extra pounds.
From puppy development to caring for a Golden Oldie, weight management is fundamental in ensuring your dog leads a happy and healthy life. Significant weight gain can lead to detrimental effects on your dog’s joints, muscles, digestion and even cognition so there is no time like the present to help them shed that unwanted weight. Understanding the reasons behind your dog gaining weight and how to counteract it can help direct both you and your dog into a healthier and happier lifestyle.
Assessing Your Dog’s Weight
Managing your dog’s weight is just like managing our own. From scales to visual differences, checking if your dog has put on extra pounds is easier than ever. Your dog’s veterinarian will recommend you come in to weigh your dog every 6 months to see if there are any dramatic changes in their health. However, for puppies, this may be more regular during their first 6 months and more for dogs with illnesses such as diabetes (where weight is affected).
Your Dog’s Size and Breed
Managing your dog’s weight is also dependent on their breed. Smaller breed dogs will have a dramatically lower healthy weight than medium or large breeds so understanding your dog is key to help ensure they don’t become overweight or obese.
Guidelines suggest that your dog’s healthy weight should be as follows:
- Small Breeds (Dachshunds, Pomeranians etc): Less than 10kg
- Medium Breeds (Spaniels, Labradors and Collies): Between 10-25kg
- Large Breeds (German shepherds, St Bernard’s): 25kg
When visually assessing your dog’s weight, look out for excessive fat around the stomach and ribs. A healthy dog should have a slight curvature around the ribs and not be rounded in shape. You may also notice your dog has decreased energy, lethargy and is less keen to go for walks and exercise which can all be indicators your dog has gained excessive weight.
Factors Contributing to Overweight Dogs
There are many factors that can contribute to your dog’s weight gain. Firstly, diet is a massive influence on how healthy your dog’s body is. A lack of proper nutrition and more carbohydrates than normal can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Ensuring your dog’s diet is balanced with protein, vegetables, fruits and botanicals can help keep their health in tip-top shape and reduce the likelihood of piling on those extra pounds. Stick to feeding guidelines so no more than 2 bowls of food per day and keep treats to 10% of their nutritional intake – any more than this and you will notice visible weight gain in your dog.
Even us humans know the importance of exercise for our health. Helping to break down fat and help our hearts, regular exercise is just as important for our four-legged friends. Dependent on your dog’s age, breed and size, levels of exercise may differ, but you should be aiming for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day for your dog.
For those with working breeds or larger and more active dogs, recommended exercise can vary from anything up to 2 hours so if you live with a springer or cocker spaniel, border collie or retriever – it’s best to get those walking shoes on and get outdoors with your furry friend.
There are some health issues that can lead to weight gain in dogs. Hypothyroidism in dogs is when issues with the thyroid gland affect a dog’s metabolic rate leading to weight gain. If your dog’s thyroid gland is underactive it means it isn’t working as it should to manage their metabolic rate. This rate is responsible for how your dog converts calories into energy and the storage of fat. This can be diagnosed with a simple blood test so if you notice your dog gaining excessive weight, dull fur and slow hair growth these could all be signs indicating your dog is suffering from hypothyroidism.
Strategies to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
One of the main ways to help your dog lose weight is to choose the right food for them. Choosing a balanced formula of protein, vegetables, fat and carbohydrates is the right method for managing your dog’s weight. Cheaper and more commercial brands of dog food tend to use less high-quality ingredients and bulking agents that can irate our dog’s digestion and increase the likelihood of overconsumption and weight gain. Opt for food that is natural, high-quality and made with the finest ingredients to support your dog’s nutrition and weight.
Another factor contributing to weight gain in dogs is treats. Your dog’s treats should exceed no more than 10% of their diet and any more can lead to piling on extra pounds. Opt for healthy and low-calorie treats to support your dog’s nutrition. Vegan dog treats have taken the world by storm for their incredible ingredients packed with pawfuls of nutrition supporting not just weight management but your dog’s overall health and well-being. Low-fat treats including those made with root vegetables like carrots, pumpkin and leafy greens like spinach and kale are low in calories but help contribute to a better and healthier digestion.
Exercise is a fundamental tool for helping your dog lose weight. With summer fast approaching, there is no better time to get your dog out and about as days are brighter and longer – just remember to keep dogs out of direct heat around the hours of 11-3 pm. In addition to outdoor exercise, try adding a little more play to your dog’s indoor routine. Interactive and moving treat toys can manage over-eating and boost mental stimulation. Take time to play with your dog at home by either tug toys or trick training like rolling over, jumping up or spinning around. These can all increase your dog’s exercise levels and strengthen the bond between you.
Monitoring Your Dog’s Progress
Visual inspections and weigh-ins at your local vet are a great way of managing your dog’s weight loss journey. At many veterinarians, you can weigh your dog for free with scales located in the reception area so both you and your vet can keep a record of their progress.
Progress in your dog’s weight loss journey may include increased energy, increased motivation to go for walks and play and key visual signs such as reduced fat around the tummy and ribs. So, with simple changes to their diet, exercise and routine, you can help your dog shed those unwanted pounds and help keep their bodies happier, healthier and more wholesome for longer.