Many people know that cats have a tendency to become overweight. However, if you are a dog owner, you need to realize that dog obesity is also a growing epidemic. While close to 59 percent of all cats in the United States are now overweight, in 2016, a survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention revealed that almost 54 percent of all dogs are overweight or obese. Some dog breeds are more prone to obesity than others, including Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Bichon Frises, Pugs, and Cocker spaniels.
Read on to learn the hazards that come with being a "pudgy pooch" and steps you can take to get your overweight dog back into shape.
The Health Hazards of Canine Obesity
Just like in humans, the greater the number of extra pounds of body fat a dog is carrying, the more risky the extra weight is to their health. In addition, unlike the health of humans, which can often "spring back" into good condition after shedding excess weight, some damage inflicted by canine obesity can be permanent.
Just a few of the most severe health hazards of canine obesity include hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, liver disease, and even an increased risk of developing cancer. In addition, dogs carrying extra weight can become very intolerant to heat, and the extra weight can make putting them under anesthesia extra risky for their health.
How to Determine If your Dog is Overweight
While, of course, your veterinarian can tell you if your dog needs to shed a few pounds or not, there are also easy ways to determine if your canine companion is carrying a few extra pounds at home.
One easy way is to press gently on your dog's ribs. If you notice just a thin layer of fat covering their ribs, yet can still feel each rib under the fat, then that means that your dog is likely at a healthy weight. However, if you have trouble finding their ribs under a thick layer of fat, then that means your dog likely needs to shed a few pounds to get back into good health.
Your dog should also have a visible waist and all other bony areas of their body, such as their shoulders and spine, should also be covered with just a thin layer of fat and not a thick one.
How to Get Your Overweight Dog Back Into Shape
If you determine that your dog is likely overweight, then take them to a veterinarian who can verify that they need to shed a few pounds and recommend a low-calorie, yet filling, dog food that will help them shed the extra weight without feeling an uncomfortable sensation of hunger all day long.
Of course, increasing your dog's exercise is another important part of controlling their weight. If your dog is severely obese, then take it slow at first, walk only when it is cool out, and be sure to monitor them for signs of heat exhaustion, since obese dogs are often very intolerant of heat.
Another great exercise option for obese dogs, especially if they suffer from joint pain, is swimming. Swimming does not put as much stress on your dog's joints as walking does, and being in the water can help keep your dog cool to prevent overheating.
If you suspect that your dog may be overweight or obese, then take them to a veterinarian, such as at Northwest Animal Hospital, for an expert opinion on whether they need to shed a few pounds or not and find out whether the extra weight has already damaged your pooch's health. Your veterinarian can then recommend a great diet food and take steps to help control and/or reverse any health conditions caused by your dog's extra weight.