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Weight management

Today´s subject is the right weight in dogs. Some of you might think this is not an issue. But unfortunately, it is quiet on the contrary 60% of dogs are overweight or obese.

Many dogs that have walked through my doors in the past years, have been overweight.
I have treated dogs with bad joint disease, with the biggest issue being, that the owner felt so sorry for his dog, he kept giving him treats. This resulted in obesity and caused severe mobility, inflammatory and pain issues.
Sometimes I have overweight dogs and owners (this always feels a bit more awkward for me to point out). Another all-time classic is “he is too heavy because he was neutered”, and not to forget my favourite line: “the vet said his fine”.

I do not mean to be the moral police and make you feel bad. The goal of this blog today, is to raise awareness and gain knowledge. One reason for overweight, I have not mentioned yet, is that the owner simply does not know that the dog is too heavy. 

So, were to begin? Maybe in the food bowl. 😊
We are what we eat, and our dogs are what they eat. But here comes one big difference, we get to choose what and how much we are eating and in theory we know what is good and what is not so good for our body. Our dog is never going to think “oh if I eat all this I am going to get fat”. A lot of dogs will be just really happy about the food, as it is a great reinforcement for theme. Sometimes I do not know, if it´s their genetics telling theme “you never know when the next meal is arriving” or if they have lost a sense of “ok that’s enough”? What ever way, I know a lot of dogs that will never say “no” to food.

My first tips for weight management (before we dive into the problems it can cause):

  • Use a weighing scale every time you prepare food for your dog.
    Don`t measure 1dl, measure 180g or what ever the amount is that your dog is receiving. Measuring in cups or dl can be deceiving, because depending on how those kibbles are lying in the measuring tool it can easily be 20-40g more than you think.
  • If you are feeding fresh food, it is the same, you need to weigh what you are feeding, and if you are mixing it up a lot, you need to consider how much fat is in the meal (ex. Chicken and Beef contain different amounts of fat).
  • Read exactly what you are feeding your dog, study the package, often you will not find the calories per 100g, but you might find the energy it delivers. You will definitely find how much fat is in your dog´s food.
  • Know what you are feeding, the bag might say “light” or “senior” or whatever. But that does not mean, that it is suitable for your dog.
  • Don´t forget to take all the treats you are feeding into account as well!

Little advertisement drop:
If you are interested to learn more about dog food, we have a course coming up in February 😊.

Problems of being overweight:

  • More work for the heart
  • More weight on the joints = more wear and tear on the cartilage
  • Blood flow is not as good, as the heart needs to work harder (more volume) and the fat is taking up space leaving less room for blood vessels and lymph vessels (more pressure in the vessels)
  • In extreme cases movement can be compromised
  • Endurance is compromised
  • Breathing gets harder
  • It is more likely that your dog can get:
    • Arthritis
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Skin disease
    • Cancer
    • Breathing problems
  • Being overweight can cause more pain. Fatty tissue releases inflammatory mediators. So, to say it in a nutshell it can make inflammation in your body worse (“it’s like poring petrol on a fire).
    Ex. if your dog (or you for that matter), have Arthritis and overweight. Loosing this extra fatty tissue will not only reduce pressure, wear and tear on your joints, but it will also reduce the inflammatory process leaving you with less pain.

Extra Benefits if your dog is the right weight:

  • Less cost in food
  • If your dog has health issues, possible less cost in medication
  • Possible less cost in vet bills and physiotherapy
  • Maybe more cost for activities, because you are motivated to go out and train together with others 😊

How can I tell if my dog is the right weight?

  1. It should be easy to feel the ribs, but they should not be visible.
  2. When looking at your dog’s back from above, you want to be able to see a waist. Like an “hourglass figure”
  3. Looking at your dog from the side you want to see the belly line going up at the end of the chest, it is called “an abdominal tuck”
  4. This applies to all breeds.

Seeing so many overweight dogs, many people, even professionals, have lost the sense of “what is normal”. This makes the whole perspective shift. Dog shows can pose an additional problem. I see a trend in show lines having poor posture and being overweight. People interested in a breed, might follow different shows and get used to images of heavy looking dogs winning prices. So it becomes the new normal. Let´s not let that happen!

I have had concerned clients come in and tell me that people do not like the way their dog looks, and that the breeder has told them the dog is to thin. Fact is, each of those dogs were in perfect weight condition, actually since losing all that weight, they were in their best form ever.

Here is a Picture for BCS that might help you:

In most cases you want to aim for a BCS of 4-5 with good musculature.

How can a dog lose weight?

Dogs are experts in turning just truly little fat, into a massive amount of energy. Meaning, you probably will not be able to give your dog so much exercise that he will lose weight. (Also keeping in mind that he cannot move as well when overweight).

  • In obese dogs I recommend starting the journey together with a professional to advise you.
  • 1.Key is about managing the food intake
  • The whole family needs to be on board
  • Keep a food and weight diary and make sure everyone involved in feeding, or giving treats uses it. Ensure that you are truthful, and you may work out exactly why you are struggling to manage the weight!
  • Measure your dog’s chest right behind the elbow and his waist right behind the chest. Sometimes weight loss is not that obvious, if your dog is gaining muscle at the same time.
  • Get your dog moving, and if possible consider swimming or a water treadmill (use a life west to reduce stress mental and on the body)
  • If your dog is not losing weight pls check with you vet. Weight gain can also be caused by a hormonal disbalance or other diseases. Never wait to long to get your buddy checked out.

Please feel free to ask me any questions.

Happy Holidays!

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