Next time you are patting your pup, run your hands along their ribcage and spine – can you feel the rib bones and vertebrae, do they have a well-defined, tucked-in waist line? If not, your dog may be suffering from obesity.
It is estimated that in Australia 1 in 3 dogs are overweight, but owners are often surprised when they are told their pup is packing a few extra kilos. Others simply laugh it off, seeing it as a sign their pooch is living a pampered life.
But according to Dr Tony Atyeo, obesity in dogs is on the rise, and can be linked to an increased risk of associated health issues.
“Obesity in dogs can be associated with increased risk of joint problems, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, heat stroke, diabetes and even pancreatitis,” says Dr Tony.
“Overweight dogs are probably not having the best quality of life, as they would suffer from more pain and discomfort than necessary”.
The main cause of obesity in dogs is the combination of too much food and not enough exercise.
Dogs are biologically and physiologically adapted to be active, and it’s this activity which helps keep them fit and healthy. But dogs kept as household pets do not always get the amount of exercise they need for the amounts of food (including those sly treats) that they consume.
So when you run your hands along your dog’s ribcage and spine and realise that your dog might be a bit overweight, what can you do about it?
Well there’s no need to panic, and a few simple lifestyle changes can help.
Firstly you can regulate the amount of food your dog gets. Hills provide some handy cups that help you measure out the right amounts of food for different sized dogs, and you can pick them up free at any of our three clinics – Gawler, Smithfield or Tanunda.
By regulating portion size you can ensure that your pup only gets the amount of calories it needs relative to the amount of exercise it gets.
The second step is to make sure your dog gets more exercise. Traditionally this has meant taking your dog for a walk, but you could also consider spending more time playing with your dog, take them to a dog park for some off-lead fun, or even follow the example of one of our successful weight loss clients, Ruby.
Ruby’s owner is unable to take her for long walks, so Ruby gets her exercise running on the treadmill at home, and so far she’s lost nearly 1.4Kg – over 10% of her bodyweight!
Just like humans, obesity in animals has serious health consequences, but you can help your pooch stay fit and healthy by regulating their diet and making sure they are getting enough exercise, and if you want any advice, just give us a call.