It seems that all anyone in the health field wants to talk about today is the obesity problem in people. While there is little doubt that it is a national epidemic here in the USA, what most clinicians do not realize or even think about is that many over weight people also tend to have overweight dogs. Health providers should be as concerned about the overweight pet problem as they are about overweight people, because one answer to combating obesity in humans is by combating it in dogs.
There was a time when people would take their dogs for long walks, jogs or even run with them. Now many of us cannot seem to drag ourselves away from the television or computer screen long enough to even open the back door to let out pets out so they can relieve themselves. That is a real problem and health threat to people and pets alike. The way to change all that and help overweight dogs to lose those pounds and stay healthy is by making sure their owners do likewise.
Although it is always wise to check with your doctor before starting any exercise problem, most overweight people could probably benefit by taking their dog for a walk more often then they do. If they have an overweight dog, the benefit is mutual for both the person and their pet. Start with short walks around or near your property, expanding the distances involved each week until you see those pounds begin to drop off you and your pet.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recently issued a press release stating that over forty one million dogs in the USA are clinically obese, so we know this is a real problem and not just some made up disease du jour to sell more over the counter pills at big box pet stores. While canine obesity is a major problem, it is not a one size fits all problem and I understand that. The best way to find out if your dog is clinically obese and needs help shedding some pounds is by scheduling a veterinary exam. Generally speaking, any dog which is fifteen to twenty per cent above its expected weight for breed, size and age is considered obese.
While it is tempting to try and treat that problem yourself apart from just taking your dog for more walks if that is possible, you should not simply purchase a bunch of over the counter pet pills or choose some diet dog food without speaking with your veterinarian first. Some dogs may be so obese that they might require special medication or even prescription dog food which your vet can recommend, prescribe or even supply if necessary.
Obesity in dogs may begin the same way it does in people. Research tells us that puppies aged nine to twelve months which are allowed to become overweight through over feeding and a lack of proper exercise are prone towards a life time of obesity. Once a puppy settles into a sedimentary or stagnant life style, they lose interest in physical activity. Even worse, their bodies adjust to that lifestyle. This makes it extremely difficult to take a dog which has spent most of its youth with little or no meaningful exercise and suddenly try to get it excited about long walks or other types of physical activity.
If you are concerned that you dog may be obese and want to check for yourself, you can perform a simple procedure known as a Rib Check. According to LongLiveYour Dog.com you can perform that procedure in this manner: “Place both of your thumbs on your dog's backbone and spread both hands across his rib cage. On an obese dog, you won’t be able to feel the ribs through the fat covering, or will only be able to feel them when you exert significant pressure. Actually feeling your dog is important, as the coat of many dogs will make a visual check difficult.”
Obesity in dogs begins with bad habits taught by humans. For example, most people have the misconception that offering their dog table scraps is a treat for the animal and provides their pet with food which they believe is superior to dry or wet dog food. The problem is that reasonably good quality dog food is designed to meet the nutritional needs of canines, not people. Likewise, table food is designed to satisfy the appetites and meet the nutritional needs of people, not dogs. Do NOT feed your pet table scraps.
It is not a myth that some dogs will eat until they get sick. Just like people, dogs can either develop or have a genetic disposition towards over eating. If you see that your dog is eating more than it needs to be healthy, do NOT overfeed your pet. Any vet will tell you that over feeding is the number one cause of canine obesity, right behind having a sedimentary lifestyle. You can take things a step beyond not over feeding your dog by using weight management dog food, but I recommend you consult your veterinarian before taking that step or deciding on a particular brand.