Commonly I'll hear pet owners joke about the weight of their dog; 'my dog is so fat!', but it's not a laughing matter. Being overweight, or obese, can have serious health consequences for a dog - especially if they've been overweight for a long time. Let's talk about dog weight, and by the end of this read, you'll be able to understand if your dog is overweight, and what to do about it.
First, let's work on understanding if your dog is overweight. An easy way to check if your dog is overweight (that works for all breeds and genders) is to feel their ribs; you should be able to feel all of your dog's ribs without a layer of fat over them. If you feel a thin layer of fat over your dog's ribs, then your dog is overweight. If you cannot feel the ribs, or struggle to feel each rib then your dog is very overweight and needs some lifestyle changes.
Another way to tell if your dog is overweight is your dog's abdomen should be noticeably smaller than their chest. You should notice a difference between the size of the chest and the stomach, the stomach should 'tuck' into the body; if your dog's chest and stomach have no difference in size (and barring any pregnancy or other issue), your dog is overweight. There should be a notable size difference between your dog's waist and chest.
'Okay, my dog is overweight - now what?'
If you do find your dog to be overweight, then it's time to take action for your furry friend and make some changes. You should look into (or talk to your vet about) the number of calories your dog needs daily. Weight gain is most commonly a result of eating too many calories and not spending enough of them in a day (also known as calories in, calories out).
Let's break this down into a simple math problem for ease of understanding. If you don't already know, calories are the energy living things get from food and use in their bodies for everything they do - calories are important to pay attention to!
Let's say (for example)your dog needs 1500 calories/day for their activity level (one 10 minute walk every day). If you were to feed your dog 2000 calories/day, they'd have an excess of 500 calories at the end of the day.
Where do those calories go? Well, they aren't being used by your dog's body so they will be stored for the future - in the form of fat. This is how living beings gain weight, in its simplest form.
Now that you understand how weight is gained, you can usethis knowledge to help your dog lose weight.
Taking the same example- if your dog is getting 2000 calories/day and only needs 1500 calories/day,then it's easy to see what needs to change. By paying attention to the labelson food products, you can easily find out how many calories a portion of foodis providing to your dog (usually # of calories per cup or another measurementunit) and use that information to provide your dog with the correct amount offood. Reducing food intake is the most common way to reduce weight.
Alternatively, you canchoose to increase your dog's caloric needs through additional exercise! Dogswill have a base caloric need (based on their breed, size, and age) and thenadditional calories depending on their activity level. The activity level of yourdog is a major player in managing their calories and weight. Let's use mathagain to see how activity can affect your dog's weight.
With the same example(your dog needing 1500 calories/day, and receiving 2000 calories/day with one10 minute walk every day) we can see that reducing calorie intake is one way toreduce your dog's weight. But let's say we keep the caloric in-take at 2000calories/day, but you still want to reduce your dog's weight. Instead ofreducing the amount of food your dog eats, you can choose to increase yourdog's activity level. If you take longer or more frequent walks, increase theintensity of the walks, or add additional play-time like fetch or just lettingyour dog run around a park - these will all cause your dog to burn morecalories, thus increasing their caloric needs. So you could keep your dog on2000 calories/day, as long as their activity level was increased to burn anadditional 500 calories every day. To lose weight, they would have to burn morecalories/day than they consume (known as a calorie deficit).
To Wrap it All Up!
To summarize, dogs gainweight due to having their caloric intake GREATER than their calories burnedfor each day. If you would like your dog to lose weight, you must make theircalories burned for each day GREATER than their caloric intake. Do this insmall amounts, (for example giving a dog that needs 1800 calories a day 1600calories), as you don't want to starve or harm your dog.
Keep in mind that the longer a dog isoverweight, the more harm and risks to your dog increase. It's yourresponsibility to help your dog manage their weight. As their owners, dogsdepend on us for their care! Make sure to play with your dog and give them loveoften.