Benefits of a Dog Diet: Diagnosing and Treating Obesity in Dogs

The most obvious sign a dog is overweight is the appearance of excessive body fat. Other signs may include respiratory distress with minor exercise and generalized lethargy. The animal may also show weaknesses due to orthopedic abnormalities secondary to the obesity. The obese dog runs the risk of diabetes mellitus, heart disease and hip and joint abnormalities. These diseases can lower the quality of life for the animal.

The average dog owner does not realize his or her pet is overweight. In their minds, their furry kid is beautiful. They don’t see their dogs as obese because most people think a dog that has a perfect body condition is underweight. For instance, the boxer and greyhound at their ideal weight look to people as being starved.

Too often, the dog owner associates giving treats with bonding.

“The one thing that is hard to make clients understand is that they can have a good relationship and bonding time without having to give excessive fatty treats and/or table scraps. They think that they need to give their animals food from the table when in reality it isn’t the kind of food they are getting, it is the fact that they are getting from somewhere other than their food bowl. You could give a dog a piece of carrot or green beans out of your hand and he would be just as happy. You can also have a little bag of his regular kibble in a drawer by the couch and he will eat it like its a treat. The biggest issue is making owners aware that their pets food must be regulated just like ours. If I sat and ate continuously, I would be overweight, too.” – Mandy Stevenson, RVT Hills Veterinary Nutritional Advocate.

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All dogs are different, even within the same breed. Every dog has its ideal weight. A two-pound yorkie can be in perfect condition, and a 15-pound yorkie can also have a perfect body score. Because there are so many different types of dogs within a breed, (tea cup, miniature, small, large and giant) they have to be scored by a system. The most important thing to remember are the signs of a fit dog: palpable (by touch) ribs, an abdominal tuck and an hour-glass shape along the hips.

When starting a dog on a diet regime blood work may be done depending on the history of the dog and checking for body damage already caused by the obesity, otherwise a good diet is all that is needed. Lifestyle changes are also indicated for both the dog and his owner. The most expensive diet in the world will do no good if the dog is continually given treats. A proper diet, exercise and avoiding over feeding are essential. It is important that only one person in a household feeds the animal each day to monitor food intake. It should be noted that if after following a diet regime there is no change in weight a thyroid check may be indicated as well as a blood count, a chemistry to check the liver and kidneys, also the glucose levels. These tests are a good idea before surgery or annually after one year of age.

The amount of food given will depend on the dog’s size. A small dog may need to be on a diet food for two years to lose the same amount of weight that a big dog could lose in two months. It is all relative to the specific animal. A slower metabolism may dictate long term use of weight maintenance food. Results will take awhile. With diligence a dog may lose up to one percent of body weight per week.

The benefits to the dog are enormous. The risk of disease and obesity caused back, knee and hip pain are eliminated. The dog has more energy to play, can breathe and will not have to endure conditions caused by obesity. The owner also benefits from knowing their best friend will be around to give companionship and love for years to come.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Should you think that your pet needs medical attention, please contact your local veterinarian.  
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