If your dog happens to be fat or obese, the problem is not only with your dog’s appearance, extra weight also leaves a significant, negative imprint on your dog’s health. What’s most worrying according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, is that more than half of the dogs in the United States are fat or obese. The good thing is that you have the power to change the situation.
In this article, you are going to learn about the most common causes for very fat dogs, as well as quick tips to overcome them.
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Why is your dog getting so fat? 6 common causes
If you have a fat dog, there are several possible reasons why. Below are the top reasons we see in our veterinary clinic for an overweight dog.
- Medical problems. This isn’t the most common cause of obesity in dogs, but it is the first one we want to address. Only certain diseases such as diabetes can cause a dog to gain weight. This is a common problem as no matter how little food they eat, they gain weight. And despite a common belief, old dogs are not the only dogs prone to such problems. It is highly recommended to visit your veterinarian if your dog carries extra weight. This is because putting a dog with an underlying medical problem on a diet will not work and it may even cause harm. Besides, obesity is a precursor to many other health issues and can cause medical problems. For more information, please see our article on the 4 Early Symptoms of Diabetes in Dogs.
- Too little exercise. Similar to humans, dogs have become extremely sedentary over the past decades. Dogs who used to guard homes, assist in hunting, or herding sheep all day have now become exclusively companion animals. For example, our Labrador Retriever being a sporting dog was bred to retrieve birds when out hunting with their human. Since we don’t hunt, we played fetch to let her burn off all that extra energy. Our other Labrador Retriever didn’t like to play fetch as much, but absolutely loved swimming. Thy have webbing between their toes which makes them exceptional swimmers. During the day, most of them patiently wait at home for their owners to return and spend the evening in quiet time with their owners by the television. What you need to do is to get moving, at least a little bit, but do it every day. Nothing burns calories as much as playing, walking or even playing fetch with your dog. The good news is that you get some exercise at the same time as your overweight dog. Additionally, click here to read about other ways you can be active with your dog.
- Too much food. The formula for weight gain is as simple as 3 – 2 = 1. That is, calories consumed minus calories spent in activity equals weight gain. Most every overweight dog we see in our clinic simply eats too much. Does your dog overindulge in food? How would you know? If you aren’t sure, measure your dog’s daily portion of food and stop free feeding your dog. Free feeding means always having a bowl of food available to them. Read the feeding guidelines on your dog’s bag of food. There is usually a table that states the amounts of food necessary for dogs to maintain a healthy weight. Assess your dog’s ideal weight and feed them according to the recommendations on the package. An easy practice is to weigh or measure your dog’s total daily food in the morning and serve it to your dog throughout the day. We found that a morning and evening feeding works best to maintain your dogs weight.
- Table scraps and treats. Giving your dog your leftover food can be very dangerous in terms of overeating. This is because no one ever counts the calories that your dog is getting from them. Well, you should. We recommend that table scraps are best to be avoided completely. The reason for this is that many things that we eat can be toxic or even fatal to your dog. Common foods like onions or garlic are toxic to your dog. It’s fine for your dog to have an occasional dog treat, especially if you are dog training. However, treats shouldn’t account for more than 5% of your dog’s total food intake, and remember that for every treat your dog receives, reduce their daily food intake accordingly. When we were raising one of our pups for agility training, we fed him his entire breakfast one piece of his kibble at a time as rewards for performing the proper actions on command.
- Poor diet. Most commercial dog food is high in fat and carbohydrates which is bad for your dog’s weight. We’ve found that many lower end and middle grade commercial dog foods, including many branded as premium, top quality, or “vet’s choice“, are full of fat, carbohydrates, and fillers. Of course, homemade diets aren’t difficult to make if you know what you are doing and avoid foods like grains without meat, meat without organs, oil cooked food, barbecue or baked goods. What is a challenge is to give your dog complete nutrition. Given how busy everyone’s lives are, we recommend that our patients look at the best dog food that fits their budget. We found that looking at the list of ingredients when comparison shopping made a huge difference. Another benefit of feeding your dog the best dog food your budget allows, also may help with other health conditions such as allergies. We have helped so many obese dogs lose weight and reduce their allergy symptoms by switching to a higher quality dog food.
- Age changes. As a puppy grows up, their caloric needs become less, and many a dog owner fails to reduce the amount of food accordingly. Similarly, as your dog gets older, their activity decreases, their metabolic rate slows down, and his food intake should be reduced.
How can you tell if your dog is overweight?
According to the American Kennel Club, one of the simplest ways to tell if you have a fat dog is to look at their body shape. If your dog has a defined waist and you can feel their ribs, they are probably at a healthy weight. On the other hand, if you compare your dog’s shape with dogs of the same breed, is yours rounder? A bulldog for example is a stocky breed that doesn’t have the tiny waist of say a greyhound. Look at your dog from the side and do you see their stomach hanging down? Their abdomen should be higher than their chest.
As a loving dog owner, weight management should be of concern if you have a fat dog. Once you understand the cause of your dog’s obesity, you are in a much better position to stop it and even reverse it. However, putting your dog on a crash diet is also not recommended. Again, please consult with your veterinarian.
You now know the most common causes for very fat dogs and the quick tips to overcome them. This will go a long way towards a happy life for you and your dog. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.
You can learn how to put a dog on a diet properly in our next article.