If you’re asking yourself this question… odds are you are right. According to a 2015 study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53.8% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese.
This obesity epidemic shows no signs of letting up and the consequences for our pets are more than just a few love handles. Dogs that are overweight are more prone to developing serious diseases as they age including knee injuries, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (including hypertension), arthritis, renal disease and cancer. These debilitating illnesses adversely affect quality of life and may result in shortening of lifespans.
The good news is that unhealthy weight gain in your pet is preventable by following some easy rules.
- Make sure that your dog is not being overfed. It may seem obvious but not only reading the feeding instructions on the food package but being precise with measurements can help. (Watch those heaping cups… we all do it!)
- Talk to your vet. Your veterinarian will take into consider a number of variables when suggesting the right amount to feed including the breed, the age, the activity level and any chronic illnesses affecting your dog. Like people, dogs from the same breed can have significantly different daily caloric requirements. It is important to remember that the feeding instructions on a bag are guidelines. Your dog may require more or less than what has been recommended on the package.
- Learn your pet’s Body Condition Score. Many vets use a nine point scale where five is perfect. You can find an example here. In order to achieve a 5 out of 9 score, your dog should have ribs that are easily felt when you rub your hand over the chest. When your dog is viewed from above, an easily visible “waist” should be seen behind the last rib. When standing and viewed from the side, there should be an obvious abdominal tuck behind the ribs.
- Watch those treats. Another important consideration is how much in the way of treats your dog receives each day. If you are also giving treats or snacks during the day you may need to adjust the amount you are feeding at meals. Your veterinarian can provide you with nutritional counseling on how much food and treats your dog should receive.
- Exercise. You knew it was coming…as with people, it’s important for your dog to get regular exercise through walking, running and/or games like fetch. Too many calories relative to the activity level can insidiously lead to an overweight and subsequently obese dog.
- Consider switching to minimally processed, activity based food. Food that is minimally processed with the right calorie profile and fat to fiber ratio to suit your dog’s activity is a great step. Protein rich with extra fiber, Humankind® for Less Active dogs is designed to help your pet feel more full while taking on fewer calories. (No sad looks for you!)
By feeding your dog a high quality, nutritionally complete food, while providing adequate exercise, you will be doing your part to help keep your dog physically fit. The next time you visit your veterinarian; ask her to spend some time talking to you about how your dog can maintain its ideal body condition score and weight. In the words of the famous American inventor Thomas Edison, “The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”