What’s one of the biggest threats to your dog’s health? Believe it or not, in North America it’s canine obesity, a condition brought on by—much like in humans—a combination of poor diet and lack of exercise. In fact, if your pup’s weight exceeds its ideal mark by even as little as 10%, they’re at a greater risk for disease and their life expectancy can be shortened by nearly two years.
Knowing and Maintaining Ideal Weight
How do you know if your dog is overweight and at risk? Start with a baseline.
Every dog has an ideal weight, and your vet can help you determine an appropriate baseline. Once that weight is established based on your dog’s breed, age, and more, occasional weigh-ins at the vet can help you keep an eye on your pup’s weight.
Dogs are considered overweight when they exceed their baseline by 10%; they’re considered obese at 20%. At that level, they can develop issues like diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and osteoarthritis.
Keep in mind, unusual canine weight gain can also be caused by chronic conditions such as cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism, issues that can be identified by your vet.
October 13 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, let’s dive in to see what you can do to make sure your pet is healthy and happy!
Proper Diet and Regular Exercise
On average, dogs need 30 calories per pound of body weight to maintain their current weight. If your pup is weighing in above their baseline, that 30 calorie benchmark might need to change.
Beyond size and breed, your choices and your vet’s recommendations should consider age, activity level, and other conditions to create a nutritionally complete dietary plan and appropriate exercise regimen. For example, young, rowdy pups require greater caloric intake; pregnant or nursing females benefit from additional protein and minerals; and older dogs may need more regular exercise to keep energy levels up and help burn calories.
When looking at food labels, focus on the low end of the listed weight range and work from there, adjusting for the above factors. Additionally, try to limit intake to mealtimes, and keep tasty, but less nutritional treats to around 10% of your dog’s daily calorie allotment.
Walks are still a great way to get your dog moving. Even at a reasonable pace for just 20 minutes a day, low impact neighborhood strolls can have a major positive effect on the physical health and mental well-being of dogs—and their pet parents, too. If you and your pup have access to water or wide-open spaces, a good swim or a rousing game of fetch can also go a long way.
Though canine obesity is a common problem, fortunately prevention is easy to achieve with a few simple changes. Consult your vet about your dog’s weight, take advantage of local pet store resources with knowledgeable team members who can help you find the right food for your dog, and put your pup on the diet and exercise plan they need to get fit for a long, happy, and healthy life.