Dog owners may sometimes find it difficult to see that their dog is overweight. With canine obesity on the rise, maintaining a dog’s health has become more of a priority.
Happy and healthy dogs are at a good weight.
Humans can be quite conscious about our weight. We check nutritional information on packages, count calories, avoid fatty and unhealthy foods, and keep track of how much weight we gain and lose. There are so many ways that humans can maintain, lose, or gain weight as appropriate, but do we watch over our dogs’ weight with the same amount of attention to detail? It seems that the answer may be no, since canine obesity has become common. Animal behaviorist Monique Udell thinks that dog owners may not know that they’re already overfeeding their dogs.
Dog owners know—or at least should know—how being overweight can affect the health, well-being, and even longevity of their dogs. However, people tend to underestimate their dogs’ health, especially with canine obesity becoming more and more common.
What should your dog's diet be like?
If you see a lot of overweight dogs, you may start to think that that weight is what’s normal. Add to that the fact that it may be tough to admit that we’re overfeeding our dogs, and what we may get is an unhappy and unhealthy dog. Ideally, a dog should have noticeable ribs and very little fat. If you look at an adult dog from above, its waist should be easily obvious. But what if your dog doesn’t meet these criteria? Can dogs, like humans, have a weight loss regimen? According to this study, they can.
"The purpose of this study was not to ask the question does this diet work for weight loss in obese dogs (asked and answered!), but to see whether we could produce success across the world—different dogs in different countries," says Alex German, one of the study’s researchers.
According to this research, which included 926 dogs in 27 countries, a diet high in fiber and protein as well as increased activity for three months got the dogs to lose 11% of their body weight. The dogs also apparently had a better quality of life and decreased their food-seeking behavior. Intact male dogs were also found to have lost more weight than neutered dogs, likely because neutered dogs eat more often but are less active.
Exercise can be a fun time for both dogs and owners.
Udell says that exercise is also important in maintaining a healthy weight in dogs—just like in humans. Dogs are usually eager for activity, and walks are likely an exciting part of their day. However, owners may not consider their dogs’ exercise to be high in their list of priorities. Thus, it’s best if owners think of exercise as something of a partnership with their dogs.
It also helps not to do too much too soon, because this can make it harder for new habits to stick. Making exercise fun is also important. "During that first 20 or 30 days when the habit is forming, it needs to be enjoyable," says Udell.
22 to 40 percent of the world’s dogs may be obese—that’s a pretty high percentage. Overweight companion animals may be predisposed to orthopedic problems, diabetes, skin problems, and other health issues. Thus, maintaining our dogs’ weight is not only beneficial, it also keeps the vet bills away.
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