The ever-growing so-called obesity epidemic in humans has been a very real concern for some years now, with health concerns like diabetes, cancer, depression and heart disease, and an undoubted effect on quality-of-life. Sadly, the same is true of our dogs –the RSPCA now says it’s a serious welfare issue. Why is this – and what can we do about it?
Why are dogs overweight?
- Overweight owners: Overweight owners can have overweight pets for two reasons. If they tend not to exercise or to eat healthily, then they may not know how best to care for their dog to maintain fitness and an ideal weight; or they may simply be unable or unwilling to exercise the dog properly.
- Indulgent Owners: Many people treat their dog ‘too’ well, with titbits or their own leftovers; or simply not taking them for a walk if it’s cold, or too hot, or raining…
- Young families: Of course we’ve cleared our plates, Mum. With a little help from the family dog…
- Neutering: We all know it’s the right thing to neuter our pets – do we all know that neutered dogs should have a little less food (or a ‘light’ formulation) and a little more exercise?
- Breed: certain breeds have a higher risk.
- Age: Older dogs have a tendency to gain weight, perhaps as they begin to expend less energy.
- Gender: Females seem to be more prone to weight gain.
- Hectic lifestyles: People who have work and family commitments may struggle for time for a proper dog walk.
Keep a regular check on your pet’s weight – you should be able to feel, and just about see, their ribs with no excessive fat covering, there should be a definite ‘up’ at the belly and their waist should be defined enough to see from above. Your vet can help if you’re unsure.
The ‘magic formula’ for staying a healthy weight is much the same as with humans: Eat less, move more – a dog will happily take plenty of exercise, so that’s up to you. If you struggle, bribe the children, take it in turns to do several short walks a day or find a good dog walker. As for diet, a good quality food, fed in the recommended amounts with just a couple of suitable chews or biscuits is all your dog needs. Anything more is literally spoiling them – or worse.