Getting your dog back in shape

Dog overweight! Is my dog overweight? – 

Getting your dog back in shape and losing weight

You cannot tell by weighing a dog and looking at tables of “right weight for breed” because all individuals are different. The only way is to look at body shape and assess body fat. Does your pet have a potbelly? Viewed from above, does your dog have a waist – that is, does the body taper after the rib cage? Can you easily feel your dog’s ribs? No waist, a bit of a paunch, and a well-cushioned ribcage means it is time to take action. The average “chubby” pet is usually at least 15 per cent overweight.

Being overweight can have lasting consequences and can even be fatal. There is a genuine risk of killing your pet with kindness.

The way the body works changes considerably in overweight animals. Once an animal is overweight, the working speed of the body slows and they are less active so they do not need to eat much. It is rare for medical problems to cause obesity in dogs.

My dog always seems hungry…

Fortunately dogs cannot buy chocolate on the way home from work, nor do they have to recover from “bad hair days” eating chocolate bars at tea break! Responsible owners should learn to resist soulful eyes.

Dogs are scavengers in the wild and it is natural for them to eat everything they find – whether they are hungry or not.

Only giving them treats “now and then” makes things worse. The scientific name for this is “variable reinforcement” and it is why people play fruit machines – the occasional win makes up for all the losses. One cure is for everybody in the house to learn never to give treats when they are eating. And do not let your dog follow small children who are snacking and “hoover up”.

There is a lot of variation in the energy that different individuals require daily, and feeding packets tend to recommend an over-generous daily amount. If you are concerned about your dog’s weight, consult your vet. The guidelines below give an indication of how to find out if your pet is the right weight.

The next step

It is best to start with a trip to the vet.  Using a special calorie-controlled food from the vet is usually the most effective way of losing weight.  Many vets run weight control clinics providing regular check-ups. They are often free of charge, and help to ensure that the diet is working, and that weight loss is not occurring too rapidly.

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