In this weeks super informative Found it, Fetched it podcast Joanne Perrott is joined by a new guest, Nicola Kulendra. Nicola is a specialist vet in small animal surgery.
Obesity in dogs has become a much bigger issue in recent years and now, if your dog is a healthy weight, they tend to be in the minority. It’s not that we are intentionally harming our beloved pooch, more that we are being a little bit too loving and a little bit too generous.
What are we looking for in a healthy weight dog?
With there being so much variety in dogs, both in terms of the different breeds but also the varying ‘types’ within a breed, there can’t be a “breed ‘x’ should weigh ‘y’ kilos”.
However, what we’re looking for is some form of hourglass figure meaning that the waist (just infront of the hind legs) is slimmer than the ribcage. Different breeds will dictate how much slimmer the waistline is expected to be though – a Staffordshire Bull Terrier will likely still be quite heavy set around the waist whereas a German Shorthaired Pointer’s waist will be naturally much smaller.
Should we Calorie Count?
Again with there being so much variation dog to dog, it would be virtually impossible to give a calorific guideline.
What we can do though is be more aware of what, and how much of it, we are giving our dogs that goes above their daily food ‘allowance’. For example, if your dog is fed 500grams of kibble and then receives training treats/rewards or leftovers from your dinner as well, it’d be a god idea to think about making a few adjustments – this could be simply reducing the amount of ‘table scraps’ you feed. Or, consider using a portion of their ‘mainstay’ diet as the training rewards rather than an additional product.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the guidelines on the back of a feedback are just that – guidelines. They’re not gospel and given that each dogs’ metabolism works uniquely to them, the ‘recommended portion’ of feed could be too much, or not enough, for your dog
Can Obesity Contribute to Behavioural Changes?
An overweight dog is unlikely to start displaying severe behavioural issues (unless the extra weight is causing them pain), but you might notice your faithful friend appearing somewhat ‘stubborn’; they might want to turn around on a walk much sooner than before, or be less inclined to follow you upstairs/on to the couch.
If you have been known to fall for those puppy dog eyes on more than one occasion, and offer some of your leftovers from the dining table though, you could be inadvertently encouraging your dog to beg, or even steal.
What’s Happening on the Inside?
Weight change frequently creeps up on us – it’s easy to not notice the small daily changes and then one day it suddenly becomes noticeable, you’ve realised that your dog is appearing a touch porkier than perhaps he should.
But when there is fat on the outside, there will be fat growing on the inside too. Internal fats can put pressure on the lungs, the abdomen, and even on the airways – for some dogs such as the bracyphelic breeds, this can cause major complications, particularly during warmer months or in hotter climates.
It’s not uncommon to find fatty deposits during abdominal surgery in overweight dogs, not only can these deposits cause problems for your dog but they can also make your veterinary surgeons job much harder. Even a routine spay operation can be made more difficult if the dog is overweight and the operating vet is having to work around fat stores on the kidneys and ovaries.
If the pancreas is exposed to fatty foods it will ultimately become inflamed and you could end up with a hefty veterinary bill to help keep your dog fit and healthy.
It’s not just the internal organs that can be affected by being overweight; excess weight also affects joint mobility and health and can lead to early arthritis. The severity of the declination determines the need for medical intervention but sometimes, if the problems have gone far enough, early euthanasia may be advised in the best interest of the dog.
If you’ve realised that your canny canine has been making the most of your generosity and it’s time to make some changes, that time is now (don’t wait for January 1st to make those resolutions!).
Join a weight clinic at your vet’s surgery so you can keep track of the weight loss programme and have help making adjustments along the way.
Either switch out the current diet for a reduced calorie one – the volume of food will likely be similar to what your dog is receiving now but the calorific intake will be smaller. Or start feeding 10-20% less volume of their current food – no stomach adjustments are required by your dog but you may find they start giving you some filthy looks at the half-measures..
As mentioned above, use a portion of their normal food to use as rewards in training and/or use carrots or other vegetables instead of meat scraps following your dinner.
If there are no joint issues present, exercise can be gradually increased to increase fitness and to use up more of the calories that we’ve put in. If there are some joint or mobility problems avoid fast, repetitive ball throwing as this will put too much pressure on already struggling joints.
Swimming is a fantastic way to increase fitness and decrease weight whilst not pressuring the limbs – make sure that if your dog is swimming in cold waters in winter months, that you have the ability to dry them off thoroughly and within an appropriate time frame to avoid muscle strains, cramps, or catching a chill.
Prevention is better than Cure!
Know what you’re feeding your dog, the amounts of it, and understand that the more you put in the harder you’re going to have to work to ensure excess calories don’t get stored as fat.
A puppy obviously has a different set of needs in terms of nutrient and calorie intake but once your pup has reached six months of age, reduce the quantity of meals down to 2 per day. By this age you should also have a better idea as to his individual energy levels and metabolism so can make an informed judgement as to how much food he requires per day.
The same as with us; it’s harder to shake those excess pounds than it is to pile them on, so do your best to restrict your generous food-giving nature and help your pooch to stay a healthy hourglass weight.
This weeks podcast blog was written by LWDG Group Expert Samantha Thorneycroft-Taylor
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