Weight excess is a relatively common disease for pets living in urban environments. Yet, in the past years, there has been an increase in the number of dogs and cats with overweight. With the options for pet food increasing, there is a lot of confusion and pseudoscience around helping our pet-friends lose weight.
Although not every dog breed encounters serious health complications with a couple of extra pounds, dogs with an excess of weight have shorter lifespans. Bellow, we mention some of the well-known medical conditions in dogs associated with overweight:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Problems related to heart
- Cancer – especially intra-abdominal ones
- Diabetes of Type 2
- Urinary bloodstones
- Affected joints get degenerated very fast
- Many anesthetic problems like they cannot tolerate heat easily
- Cushing diseases which mean that the adrenal glands become unstable
And there is still more bad news – keeping an eye on your food brand is not enough to keep your pet healthy. There is a lot of high-carb scarcely nutritious food options out there. You need to pay attention to the amount of food, the quality and take your dog out for a fast walk. In other words, if you see your dog lacks energy and looks a bit chubby, perhaps it is time to stick to a weight loss program endorsed by your vet.
Percentage Of Overweight Dogs
As we mentioned before, obesity has been creeping into the agenda of the center of disease and control (CDC) in the states – and it is slowly making it to our 4-legged friends. One resource points out more than 50% of dogs are overweight in the US. Whether this is the exact number or not, we shouldn’t overlook there is a clear increase in pet suffering weight-related diseases, and as pet owners, we definitely must take a look at possible solutions to prevent and help our dogs to lose weight.
Why My Dog Is Overweight?
Similar to people, dogs gain weight for many different reasons – and yet, the simplest explanation is usually the answer. Take a look at some of the most common causes of the excess of weight in your dog:
Spoiler alert: you are giving your dog too much to eat. Between snacks and meals, your dog is most likely eating way more calories than it should. We discuss below the ideal size of the portions for dogs, depending on their size.
Absence Of Physical Exercise
Dogs are usually quite active, but they are confined to indoors all the time they are most likely to change their normal behavior. An active dog requires a lot of care. Absence of physical exercise gradually leads to weight gain and change on the pet’s mood.
Sterilizing your dog not only does reduce the metabolism but also leads to weight gain. Dogs that went through neutering should have a stricter food and exercise regime. This procedure tends to affect their level of energy and therefore the number of calories burnt
High Carbohydrate Food
Low-quality food has a high level of carbohydrates and leads to gain weight. Try to include food that is rich in protein as food with a higher amount of carbohydrate results in stimulation of insulin production which causes an increase in appetite, thereby increasing the weight.
This is not a very common disease, but it is still possible that your dog has Hypothyroidism. Dogs with this problem are also prone to weight gain. It may also happen that the dog’s adrenal gland produces cortisol, which causes Cushing diseases that likewise hypothyroidism leads to accumulated fat on their abdomen. Dogs with hormonal disorders appear pot-bellied.
The Decline In Metabolism
When the dog reaches its middle age, i.e., 5 to 6 human years, the metabolism tends to become slower. Hence, if your dog is already pudgy, your pet will have more chances to be obese as it grows older.
Of course, this is also an essential factor that can cause weight gain. You need to be extra cautious if your dog is mixed-breed, Cocker Spaniel, Collie, Sheltie, purebred Beagle, Basset Hound, Dachshund or Lab.
Symptoms of hip dysplasia include limping and difficulty to hop, for example, into the car and climbing the stairs. Other signs are your pet constantly licking their hip and pain when touching it. Hip Dysplasia hinders movement and leads to weight gain.
How to check if your dog is overweight
The massive and cuddly dogs have a shorter lifespan as compared to the fitter ones. They live 6 to 24 months less than the leaner ones. What’s more shocking is that if a dog is even slightly overweight, their lifespan is automatically reduced. You don’t necessarily need to take it to the vet to see if whether your 4-legged friend is overweight or not, just follow these tips:
- Checking weight: The scale may show you a number, but how do you know that’s the right weight for your dog? Different breeds possess distinctive shapes and sizes that change from one to another. In order to get the actual ideal weight of your dog, you must consider breed, age, and height. Dogs 5% heavier than the ideal total weight should be put in a diet regime. Between 1% to 5% they are a bit chubby, but not necessarily overweight. Still, you should decrease the amount of food and try to make it exercise more.
- Checking Ribs: You can run your hands over his flanks and abdomen to check his ribs. If you feel them, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you don’t feel the ribs but only the accumulated fat, then your dog may be a bit fat.
- Check for Shape: When you look at your dog from the side, you must be able to see a broader chest and thinner abdomen. If the abdomen appears to be prominent, your pet is overweight.
- Check on Energy: A fit dog has enough stamina to easily eclipse the average person energy. However, if your pet has become a couch potato is a sign that it is overweight and hence too lazy to play around. Also, this can be a sign of other diseases like the ones discussed above.
How Much Your Dog Should Weigh?
Dog’s eating habits shouldn’t be based on how many times it seems hungry. Although the bullet-proof way to determine how much your dog should weight is to visit a vet, there are established charts with approximations.
The typical weight differs from breed to breed and changes with the activity level. Dog’s diets are based on ideal weight and it can be achieved by managing calorie intake daily. A diet chart is very beneficial in knowing the perfect weight for the dog.
We got you several options to determine the ideal weight of your dog:
Resting Energy Requirement index
First, there is a natural formula of Resting Energy Requirement (RER) to identify the dog’s calorie needs. We can easily calculate the calories if we are aware of the ideal weight of the dog. The formula is [30 * (the dog’s weight in kilograms) + 70] = calories per day] To illustrate, if your dog weighs 40 kg, then all we need to do is (30 * 40) + 70 equals to 1270 calories per day.
If you have the dog’s weight in pounds and wish to know the weight in kilograms, then you need to divide the number in pounds by 2.2, which will give you the weight in kilograms. To illustrate, the weight in the pound is 44, then 44 divided by 2.2 will yield 20 as the weight in kg.
You need to check these calories against the calories in the dog’s food packet. If in case, you are serving home cooked food to your dog, then you need to sort everything as per the calories in the individual elements that are used in food.
Keep it simple – check this chart for body weight
If you are among the ones who do not like maths, there is nothing to worry. We are here to help you with the below-mentioned table that shows the calorie intake needed to be based on the weight and the activity level of the dog. Let us see that:
Approximate Calories Needed per lb. of Body Weight
|Dog's Weight||< 20 lbs||20 - 50 lbs||> 50 lbs|
Or, You can use our calorie calculator for dogs
The only input you need is the dog’s weight and calories intake is determined by the calculator. If you notice, every method has different results, but all of them show around the 1,000 calories/day is ideal for 40 lb dogs.
Is It Normal For My Dog To Be A Little Overweight?
You might be wondering how one or two extra pounds will affect the dog, and depending on the breed a little overweight makes a huge impact on their health. One or two extra pounds is alright on big dogs, but this is too much for small ones. A couple of pounds could represent 10 percent of the body weight of small dogs!
A study was conducted for over 14 years on the calorie intake of dog which revealed that the dogs that were served about 25 percent less food than those free fed dogs lived for two years longer and also the aging signs shown by them were quite less.source: whole-dog-journal.com
Also, we cannot ignore the health issues that start with weight gain as these diseases develop gradually, which cause terrible consequences. Apart from the most common illnesses mentioned, there are several health problems such as pancreatitis, disc disease, ruptured cruciate ligaments, and damaged the immune system.
Many people find their healthy weight dog to be underweight when they see overweight puppies all around. And this is alright, as long as more than two ribs are not visible, our pet friend is just perfect and not skinny.
Strategies To Help Your Dog Lose Weight
The following are simple ways you can make your dog shed all that extra pounds. Let us study a few of them:
Reduce Calorie Intake
This is the first and most important step for weight loss as most dogs gain weight due to overeating. Calories and portions in food packages are not always accurate for all dogs that for instance, are neutered. If your dog is spayed/neutered or old, by feeding them with the recommended portions you will be giving it 20% to 30% more calories than you should. The best way is to consult a vet who will examine your dog’s health and tell you the roughly amount of daily food intake. In the case you don’t want to take your dog to the vet you can use the formula ([(pet’s weight in lbs/2.2) * 30] + 70) to determine the number of calories.
Once you are done with the calculation of daily calorie intake, now it is time to split the meals. Use measuring cups to have better control over the amount of food you give to your dog.
Choose healthy treats
We all love to treat our pet-friend now and then, even if they are on a diet a healthy treat is can’t do big damage. Sugarless and low-carb goodies are by far the best for dogs with overweight. Sweet potato, salmon, and blueberry bites are perfect to keep their teeth clean.
Veggies are healthy
Greens are important for dogs as well!m you should consider serving food with green beans, broccoli, celery, sliced apples, baby carrots, bananas, and ice cubes. Never feed a whole banana or apple as they carry high sugar content, which leads to weight gain.
Physical activity is the key to lose weight. Go to your favorite spot for a brisk walk for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Exercise boosts their immune system, enhance cardiovascular health, and it also helps to manage bad behavior. Every breed has its own favorite activity:
Hunting Breeds: Spaniels, Standard Poodles, Retrievers
Swimming, Walking, Fetch, hiking
Hounds: Dachshunds, Bassets, Beagles
Fetch-chase, Puzzle toys
Herding Breeds: Shepherds, Collies, Corgis, Heelers
Herding, Agility, Flying Disc
Terriers: Scotties, Airedales, Jack Russells, Staffordshire
Obedience, digging or puzzles, tag
Toys: Maltese, Chihuahuas, Pekingese
Tricks-Games, Squeaky Toys
Supplements are not only beneficial for humans but are equally suitable for dogs. An omega-fatty acid supplement comprises of fish oils that act as an antioxidant and helps in treating various diseases as well as promotes weight loss. L-Carnitine and i-carnitine are perfect to lean muscle mass as well as promoting weight loss. Just consult the vet before starting these supplements to avoid any side effects.
Low Down The Carbs
Carbohydrates are important for energy, but surplus on carbs in every meal is not beneficial. Most of all, the food that we serve now comprises 60 percent of carbohydrate. Always go for a balanced diet for your dog that is rich in protein and low in carbohydrates. Check with the vet once before updating the diet.
Synergistic Feeding Toys
KONGs, the feeding toys are very interactive and helps the dog to remain in shape. These toys help to mentally stimulate dogs. Treat balls are also a good idea that promotes eating and exercise at the same time as the ball keeps them busy in chasing itself.
A Regular Follow Up
This is the most significant factor that needs to be followed daily to maintain regular diets. Check on the dog’s weight biweekly or at most in 3 weeks. This is necessary as the calorie alteration in the diet and tips are essential for an effective result. It is important to monitor whether the dog is not losing more than 2 percent of weight each week as if they do so, they will suffer from muscle loss.
Make Sure That The Loss Stays Intact
Once the dog has reduced the weight keeping healthy habits is the next step. This is the biggest challenge which varies from one dog to another.
Choosing Your Dog Food
When you opt for a weight loss program, there are certain things that you need to take care of. For instance, you should reduce the calorie intake by feeding your dog with nutrient-rich foods. Keep your dog healthy choosing meals with:
- Protein In Abundance: Protein is always necessary for all sizes of dog. Approximately 30% extra protein in the diet helps to lean and builds muscle. Food rich in protein will keep the dog’s tummy full, which will make the diet effective. We should remember that we need to reduce the excess fat but not energy.
- Low-fat content: Healthy dog food has between 10% – 15% of fat. A minimum of 8% fat is required in his diet. It should be noted that the average dry food contains 16 percent of fat whereas the canned food holds up to 23 percent of fat, we need to cut down on these.
- Low calories: Normally, a dog needs 400 calories per cup. We need to ensure that we give him something that is below 400. You can give him the food containing calories from 250 to 350 per 8-ounce cup or a 13 ounce can
- More Natural Ingredients: Natural ingredients have their own set of benefits. Having wholesome food ingredients will boost digestion and metabolism. Opt for fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and real animal-based fat. You can also opt for high-quality ingredients and supplements like prebiotic fibers and probiotics that help the food to be digested smoothly.
- Less Unhealthy Ingredients: Apart from the by-products, you should also try to avoid any excess sugar or fillers, artificial additives like color, flavors. Also, make sure that the food is free from preservatives like BHA and BHT and ethoxyquin.
Routine is the key to stay healthy for dogs and humans alike. Once your dog gets used to healthy food and exercise, it is relatively hard for them to gain a lot of weight. Paying a short visit to the vet once every six months also helps to prevent life-threatening decreases related to an excess of weight.
In general, you should always balance food and exercise: if you choose a high carb food, you should make sure your dog gets a lot of exercises. High-protein food may be ideal but could be a bit expensive. Choose natural ingredients and trustworthy brands over inexpensive ones and possibly packed with artificial food.