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Find out more about your dogs
Many owners ask, "What is the correct weight for my dog?" This is difficult to answer as every dog is a different size and shape. Even dogs from the same litter can have different bone structures.
The easiest way to tell if your dog is overweight is to run your fingers along their chest. You should be able to find their ribs quite easily – each rib should feel a bit like a washboard. Run your fingers along the centre of their back and you should also be able to feel the bones of their spine.
If you cannot easily feel the ribs or spine, then your dog may be overweight. And without trying to put any judgment on it, being fat is not good for your dog.
Weight loss is a simple equation of calories ‘going in’ vs. calories being used up by exercise. If your dog is eating too much and/or not exercising enough, then he/she is likely to be putting on weight.
Calories 'going in' include ALL their meals plus timbits, rewards, treats, bones, scavenged food plus the little leftover piece of toast in the morning, and anything they might get from your friendly dog-loving neighbour.
Occasionally, there are some medical conditions that can cause a dog to be overweight. Before you commence a weight-loss program for your dog, it’s advisable to have a chat with your veterinarian.
The simple solution is to feed your dog less of everything (including treats and leftovers) and start exercising more. This is sometimes not that easy as your dog may demand more food. When decreasing the total amount of food, bulk up what you do serve by including fibre such as cooked pumpkin, carrots or unprocessed bran so he/she does not feel so hungry and is not so demanding.
Check on a particular food’s label or packaging for the amount of it that should be fed according to your dog’s ‘target weight’ – i.e. the ideal weight for your dog. Be aware though that these are usually a guide for when this food is given exclusively.
Sometimes changing to a smaller bowl can be a good idea. A smaller serving looks a lot bigger in a little bowl.
Some people like to give their dog treats, which is fine – this can be part of the enjoyment of owning a dog. A way to still do this while managing your dog’s weight loss is to start the day by putting ALL the food your dog would get on any given day into a bowl – including all and any treats. Once your dog’s emptied the bowl, you don’t put any more in that day. This can also help if you have a family where everyone wants to give your dog treats or leftovers.
There are also tailor-made prescription diets and weight loss clubs run by your veterinarian that can assist greatly in trimming down your dog.
Exercise is a very important component of any weight loss program. Start to gradually increase the length of your dog’s walks. Add in some playtime or fetch during the day to encourage your dog to be more active. Feed your dog using food release devices (e.g. KongTM toys, Treat Balls etc.) to encourage your dog to ‘work’ for their food. Some owners even throw the dry food out into the backyard to encourage their dog to search for it. This is great environmental enrichment for any dog, not just overweight ones.
Perseverance and consistency are very important in any successful weight loss program, and everyone in the family needs to be working together towards helping your pooch shed those excess pounds.
For more information on how to help your pet lose weight please see;
The Pet Health Library: Obesity
Dr. Wendy Brooks, DVM, DipAVBP