Did you know that obesity affects more than 50 percent of America's pet population? If your pooch is overweight, she can develop all kinds of health problems, such as painful arthritis, heart disease, breathing difficulty, diabetes and even bladder cancer. For your dog, the excess weight and the resulting health problems can mean less play time and depression.
How can you tell if your dog is overweight? First, your veterinarian will weigh your dog at her regular check-ups. Between check-ups, place your hands on her side - are her ribs hard to feel or even impossible to feel? If so, she is likely overweight.
Here are some easily identifiable causes of weight gain in dogs:
- Overfeeding - Dogs with unlimited access to food understandably eat more than they need
- Overeating - Many commercial foods are loaded with salt and fat. This improves taste, which means your dog will want to gorge
- Feeding habits - Feeding table scraps and "people food" can lead to obesity
- Lack of exercise - Too much food and too little exercise produces a typical result: Obesity
- Age - Older, less active dogs are prone to weight gain
- Gender - Female dogs are more likely to become overweight
- Neutering - Spayed or neutered dogs are twice as likely to become obese due to a more sedentary lifestyle. (There are many important health reasons to have your pet spayed or neutered - just be careful to monitor your dog's weight.)
Food plays a very important role in treating an overweight dog. Along with exercise, a low-fat and low-calorie food is essential in helping your dog lose weight and stay fit. Fiber is also a key ingredient since it helps your dog eat less while keeping her full. Once your dog has been overweight, she may be prone to weight gain and should have an ongoing weight-management plan based on good nutrition, exercise and regular check-ups and weigh-ins. For an accurate diagnosis and treatment options, always consult your veterinarian.