Way too many calories and a lack of sufficient exercise spell “FAT DOG” with big, capital letters. And it’s the most common form of nutrition-related problems created out of fear. Owners who fear malnutrition have a tendency of overfeeding their pets without realizing they’re causing additional problems. In the U.S., approximately 40% of all dogs are needlessly fat or obese and thus suffer from arthritis and heart disease. Even worse, obesity decreases a dog’s lifespan!
If you’ve paid any attention to the problems that obesity causes in our own species, then you’re already familiar with the effects it has on canines. A fat dog suffers from the same symptoms that obese people suffer. That includes pain, liver disease, a lack of breath, and immobility.
To prevent your dog from obesity, you must always feed it a sensible amount of food, limit treats, and give the dog plenty of exercises. You can also monitor the type of food do you buy and serve.
Just like you check the food labels on the items that you buy for yourself and your family, you’ll want to do the same for your dog. On such labels, you can find the right feeding proportions based on your dog’s age and weight. Bear in mind that your dog’s activity level and health may not coincide with the label’s recommendations. A low-exercise dog or dog with an illness, for example, may not eat as much as what’s suggested on the label. You have to take your dog’s individual needs into consideration when following manufacturer suggestions. Fortunately, you can ease arising confusion by consulting your vet. Your vet will probably tell you to feed your dog the minimum amount of food suggested by the product’s manufacturer first and then gradually increase that amount until you find a quantity that satisfies your dog. (Most labels suggest a range of cups like 2 cups to 4 cups. Start with 2 cups first).
Note that feeding suggestions recommend total food amounts. If your dog’s weight requires 2 cups of food, that’s 2 cups of food per day – not per serving. If need be, break up the 2 cups into 2 servings: 1 cup in the morning and one cup in the early evening or late afternoon.
Once you detect your dog is gaining more weight than he should, it’s time to cut back on the amount of food. Gradually decrease the amount of food you serve by a cup until you find an appropriate medium. Cut down on the treats as well, and take the dog out for an extra walk every day.
The ideal dog should have a lot of energy (age and breed permitting) and plenty of meat on its bones. If you can readily see ribs, the dog probably isn’t eating enough. (Note that certain breeds, such as the Border Collie, Siberian Husky, Greyhound or Whippet will show prominent ribs even when they’re at their proper weight.) A sharply cut waistline and visible hip bones is a definite sign of malnutrition. In that case, it’s time to increase your dog’s food intake.
If the dog is healthy but demonstrates a low activity level and difficulty breathing when it finally does get up to move, it’s overweight. But it isn’t always easy to detect when a dog is a fat dog. An obese dog needn’t have rolls of fat, protruding bellies, or barrel bodies to be obese. That’s why it’s important to determine your dog’s appropriate weight from a height chart.
Ironically, a fat dog could suffer from an illness that doesn’t have anything to do with overeating. A dog that gains weight out of the blue could suffer from an illness rather than bouts of overeating. Your vet can help identify the cause of sudden weight gain and remedy the problem.