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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

How to Tell If Your Dog is Overweight or Obese

Sometimes dogs and humans share the same problems. This is particularly true when it comes to pet obesity. Just as waistlines of humans are expanding due to poor dietary choices and lack of activity, our four-legged friends are experiencing their own battle with excess pounds. When it comes to overweight and fat dogs, there’s a tendency for a dog owner to attribute their pet’s obesity to being “pleasantly plump”. Unfortunately, being pleasantly plump in the dog world can lead to a dog being unpleasantly unhealthy.

How to Tell If Your Dog is Overweight

The first step in getting control of pet obesity is to determine if your dog weighs more than he should. How do you tell if your dog is overweight? Purina has designed a system that allows you to quickly and easily determine if your dog is overweight. This appears on the back of all Purina dog food packages. If you use Purina dog food, you can use this system as a guideline for determining pet obesity in your own dog.

Your dog is of ideal weight if his ribs aren’t visible but can still be felt by palpation. You should also be able to see a well defined waistline on your dog which is the area beneath the rib cage and the back end. If your dog is overweight, you probably won’t be able to feel the ribs and the waistline will not be visible when viewed from above. In a fat dog, the stomach appears oval in contour when you view it from the side position. Check these parameters from all positions carefully to determine if your dog is of appropriate weight.

To feel your dog’s ribs, place both thumbs on your dog’s spine in the middle of his body. Extend your hands around to each side and press lightly. If your dog isn’t overweight, you should be able to feel the ribs easily with your fingers. Performing a check like this is particularly important in dogs that have excess fur since it can be difficult to determine normal body proportions with excess hair covering the body.

What to Do if Your Dog is Overweight

If your dog fails the pet obesity test and you find you’re dealing with a fat dog, it’s time to take action. By helping your dog loose those excess pounds, you’ll help him feel more comfortable and, hopefully, keep him around a bit longer. Just as in humans, pet obesity can lead to premature death from diabetes and other medical conditions as well as contribute to your pet’s disability by increasing the risk of joint problems.

Start by taking stock of how much you’re feeding your dog, particularly how many snacks he gets throughout the day. Reassess how many walks he gets on a daily basis. Then, make an appointment with your vet to determine how overweight your dog actually is and whether you need to change dog foods. If your fat dog is older, he will require fewer calories than when he was young.

Once you’ve visited your vet, establish a meal schedule and walking plan to reduce caloric intake and burn more calories. Pet obesity is usually a less difficult problem to treat since dogs normally can’t access the refrigerator on their own. The hardest part is learning to not feel guilty when your dog begs for food. To circumvent this problem, make an effort to not snack when your dog is around. Be consistent and your fat dog will lose those excess pounds and you can both breathe easier. The reward will be a happier, healthier dog.

By Dr Kristie, reprinted by permission

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