Diet Control: Tackling Dog Obesity

Obesity is one of the most common yet most preventable diseases in dogs. In the UK, vets think that around half of the canine population could be obese or on the verge of being so.

Obesity is simply an accumulation of excess body fat. It will put a strain on all of your pet’s organs, and could dramatically cut their life short. It is also a stepping stone to other issues such as heart problems and joint arthritis.

The best way to control your dog’s weight is by exercise and food, but it is important to know what suits your particular dog best.

Why Is My Dog Obese?

Many dogs suffer from a weight problem. This is especially so in neutered canines. They certainly require fewer calories per day for normal body maintenance following neutering, and many owners don’t realise this.

But in many cases, it is a simple imbalance of the amount of exercise and amount of food. “Eat less, move more” applies to dogs as well as humans! Medical conditions can also cause obesity, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, but with these, there will be other tell-tale signs such as coat condition and low energy. They’re also relatively rare.

Any excess calories which aren’t burned off will simply lead to an ever-increasing weight problem. Whilst exercise helps a little, it is this combined with dietary management which is essential if a dog’s weight is to be lowered to a normal level.

Dog Obesity Health Risks

As mentioned above, obesity can cause a shorter lifespan, heart issues and joint pain. But it can also mean:

  • Arthritis
  • Urine incontinence
  • Back problems
  • Breathing problems such as windpipe collapse and laryngeal collapse
  • Breathing problems in flat-faced breeds
  • Cancer
  • Heatstroke
  • Injury (as their movement is restricted)

What Should I Feed My Obese Dog?

It is recommended by most vets to use high fibre, low-calorie complete diet – one particular favourite brand is Hills – available from vets and online in tins or dry form. Buying online will work out as cheaper in the long run after you have their advice. Get your dog weighed, and ask your vet’s nurses for a target weight, and a suggested amount of daily food to eat.

You mustn’t feed anything else at all (except water of course). It is likely to take several months for the weight to come under control, after which it is all about maintaining this and ensuring their diet remains steady.

Dog Exercise

Check out our guide on how much exercise your dog needs. It can depend on breed, size and age, but it is important to remember that dog exercise isn’t always just a run in the park or walk around the block. You don’t even have to get active with them, or leave the house!

How Can I Help My Dog Lose Weight?

Weighing every fortnight is essential to ensure that you are making progress and do keep a record of this – plotting a graph is really helpful, and you can see the progress (or lack of it!) at a glance. If you find the dog won’t eat the diet, don’t worry too much at first. They will soon learn to eat it once the hunger sets in. It could be a good idea to gradually introduce the diet change into their diet, but be firm. DON’T give anything else as a tastier alternative for the odd meal – the dog doesn’t need it.

The right balance of exercise and diet should work alone, but do get the help of your vet’s practice in this. Have the dog’s health checked first to ensure everything is OK, and then use the services of the practice to keep monitoring your dog’s progress. Just occasionally, an overweight dog may be suffering from an underlying medical problem, so it is important for your vet to oversee the diet.

Dog Obesity Prevention

Aside from the regular exercise and suitable diet, there are other tips to think about in order to prevent obesity in the first place.

Research before you buy a dog, into how much exercise they need. If you are an active person then an active dog which needs 2+ hours per day is fine, but for less active or busy people, one which needs under an hour is best. If they aren’t getting enough exercise, they could also develop behavioural issues which make tackling obesity harder, too.

Also bear in mind how many treats you give them. Most have a guide which shows a maximum daily amount, but remember that you need to tailor their regular meals around this too. A dog which has had their fair share of gravy bones throughout the day won’t need as much dinner – no matter if they tell you differently!