It’s not only humans who struggle with being overweight; even your little furry friends at home suffer from the same condition. Obesity in dogs is a common problem with data showing that almost a quarter of the domestic canine population in the western society. Now, this should be a red alert to any conscientious pet owner as obesity in small dogs can set the precedent for many health challenges and can shorten a dog’s life span. But before you start planning to arrest this situation, you must first be able to tell that your dog is indeed too fat.
Is my dog too fat? Examine your dog’s rib cage, spine, shoulders, hips any presence of a thick fat layer preventing you from easily feeling the bones is a likely indication of obesity. If your dog struggles to walk or jump and they’re not old, then this may be an indication of being unfit, possibly due to weight gain. The most common reasons for being overweight are poor diet, too many treats and lack of exercise. Other reasons may include, age or even hormonal issues.
In this post, I will show you how to determine if your dog is too fat and tell you about the causes leading to the condition before revealing the various remedies you can use to manage the situation.
A Dachshund with his belly dragging on the floor, a Chihuahua that can no longer fit through the cat flap; these are both situations that should concern you as a pet owner. Generally, what is bad for humans is bad for dogs; and the same goes for obesity.
Unresolved cases of weight gain among small breeds can result in major health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, back and joint pains, as well as stiffness.
If you own a dog, it is crucial that you do your best to shield your pooch from obesity, and the best way to begin this is by checking whether they are obese. But how do you do this? Let me explain…
Knowing if your dog is overweight entails determining his body condition score, very similar to the BMI scale for humans that everybody seems familiar with there is for digs a BCS scale which stands for Body Condition Score. Take a look at the chart below.
The BCS is a system of scale between 1 and 9; with a dog at
1 being emaciated,
4-5 in the ideal state,
while 9 is obese.
To determine your pooch’s BCS, you have to examine various aspects of his appearance as follows:
Examine his ribs: You want to start by gently pressing down on your dog’s rib cage. Ideally, you should be able to feel a thin fat layer that allows you to feel and even see the ribs without a struggle. However, if you feel a thick fat layer that you have to press down hard just to get to the ribs, your dog is probably obese.
Feel his spine, shoulders, and hips: Just like in the case of the ribs, you should also be able to feel a thin fat layer on the spine, hips, and shoulders. The existence of a thick fat layer on these areas that won’t let you feel the bones is an indication of obesity.
Examine the base of his tail: A difficult one this one, you need a good knowledge of your dog’s normal build. The base of your dog’s tail is that part at the end of his spine just above the anus. The base should feel smooth and covered with a thin layer of fat, but, bear in mind that this is also quite a muscular area. If the fat layer is so thick that you can’t feel the base, your dog is likely overweight.
Identify his waist: With your dog facing you while standing in front of you, look down his body. If the waist is intact, you’ll be able to identify a smaller width between his rib cage and hips. If you cannot instantly determine this narrowing width, then your dog may be obese, however be aware that if this is a bitch then other factors like pregnancy could be at play.
Look for a tuck in his abdomen: Sit on the ground next to your dog so that you are almost eye-to-eye with him. Observe his abdomen; the abdomen is supposed to be tucked up just behind the rib cage. You can run your palm along the underside of his rib cage and towards the abdomen. Your hand should curve upwards towards your dog’s rear end. If this doesn’t happen, your dog may be overweight.
NB: The facts we mention here are ONLY A GUIDELINE. Do not rely entirely on your pooch’s weight to determine obesity. Weight is not the sole indicator of obesity; your dog’s BCS is another crucial aspect to consider. Besides, there are other factors such as sex, height, body build, etc that determine the recommended body weight, so considering only his weight and the BCS scale may not be the most accurate assessment of your dog’s weight.
Why is my Dog too Fat?
Now that you have determined that your little dog is indeed overweight, you might be wondering how he got to this point right under your nose. Well, there are several causal factors that may have led to your dog gaining too much weight. The following are just some that may have contributed to this:
- Inappropriate Food
When your dog achieves adult size, you should start feeding him adult dog food. Giving your adult pooch puppy food, rich in calories can result in obesity and bone issues.
Many people buy foods that are clearly labelled “Working Dog Food”. This type of food is meant for dogs that are active all day, with lots of running and walking such as farm dogs, unless this is you, you should NOT be feeding this food to your dog. It is extremely high in calorific content and is not suitable for the normal household domestic dog.
Another thing you want to avoid is those extra treats that you feed your dog. This is because these treats, normally, aren’t calculated into your dog’s daily food intake. If you are going to use treats for training and the like, try to use very small treats.
Human food from your table such as cheese or sausages can have a massive effect on a dog’s diet. People seem to forget that they are often giving their dog left overs and that they are adding it to their dog’s daily diet intake. Just a few extra snacks can pack a significant amount of extra calories.
- Lack of Exercise
This is one of the most common mistakes people make particularly when they have small dogs. Just because you have a small dog, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise them on a daily basis.
Although some dogs have special exercise needs, all dogs generally need to be engaged in some kind of daily physical activity. Lack of exercise will leave your pooch bored, possibly frustrated which can lead to them chewing furniture etc and will in the long term make them unhealthy, and eventually obese.
This is why you should make an effort to ensure he gets adequate physical activity, any size dog in its natural wild environment would spend much of the day exercising.
- Diseases and Hormonal Disorders
Hormonal issues like an underactive thyroid gland can lead to reduced hormone production that causes weight problems. Your dog’s adrenal gland may also produce too much of the hormone Cortisol, creating a condition referred to as “Cushing’s disease”.
Dogs suffering from this condition technically don’t gain weight; However, the fat deposits are re-distributed to the abdominal region, giving your dog a pot-bellied appearance.
Age will generally slow your little precious pooch down and make him quite inactive. This comes to us all eventually, if you have spent time with your dog then you will know when they are slowing due to old age, but even so a good days exercise will help them to keep mobile. Your dog is likely to spend more and more of their time laying around and sleeping, with little or no interest in walks. At this point, short of reducing their feed there is not much that you can do to avoid additional weight.
What Can I do to Control my Dog’s Obesity?
There are many ways to be a responsible dog owner and try to address your dog’s struggle with obesity. Try taking the following practical measures to manage your dog’s excess weight gain:
Portion Control– Knowing the proper serving size of a meal for your obese dog will be crucial for success. Dog food manufacturers normally label their products with guidelines on how to serve the food in the form of charts or have the same information on their websites. Try to follow the guidance given, but there can be several variables that come into play, if you are still struggling then seek further guidance from a veterinarian on how much food to give your dog.
Put him on a Diet– Dieting is a great way of getting your small breed to slim down. Examine everything that he eats and conduct an honest assessment of his entire daily meal program, including extra treats and snacks. Doing this might just make you realize that you need to cut down on the food. Make a diary of their food intake including things like treats and this may give you a clue as to where you need to start.
Don’t be swayed by his Begging– Dogs can be very good at giving you that longing look to make you feel guilty, discipline yourself not give in to your obese dog’s constant cries for more food. Don’t be soft them; remember that you are doing this for the greater good, a longer life for your precious pet. Just make sure you are serving the right portion and be cautious not to go beyond the recommended limits.
Get him to Exercise– Create a daily exercise plan for your dog that will do you and them good and adhere to it. Apart from the daily evening walks that you should have with your pooch, you can try engaging him in more physical games like “fetch” and “tug-of-war” or enroll him in a doggy care center to play or get walks if you are at work all day.
It is important to keenly follow your dog’s weight. Remember that obesity, even in a moderate state can end up shortening your dog’s life. If you want to keep your pet from recurrent health problems and save yourself a possible financial burden, try using the guide above to help you keep your dog in good shape.