How do you know if your dog is overweight? What are the side effects of your dog being overweight? How can you modify your dog's lifestyle to help them lose weight and improve their health? In this article, I hope to concisely answer these questions.
When you look at your dog's profile (from the side), does their stomach appear to curve upward from the ribs toward the hips? Your dog's stomach should not be level with their ribs. Furthermore, when you stand over your dog and look down on them (literally, not in a condescendingly metaphoric way), their waist should noticeably curve inward between the ribs and the hips.
Another way to tell if your dog is overweight is by touch. When gently petting your pooch, you should be able to feel their spine and ribs through their skin without applying pressure. If you have to feel through fat to find the ribs or the spine, you can be sure your dog is overweight.
Obesity is a very common problem with pets, and can cause some very serious healthy issues such as rapid corrosion of cartilage in the hips and joints, cardiac disease, respiratory disorders, various forms of cancer, diabetes mellitus, orthopedic injuries such as ligament rupture, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis.
So how can you protect your dog from obesity-related health problems? The obvious answer is "diet and exercise." The less obvious is what types of exercise, how much exercise, what kind of diet, and what types and quantities of treats and bones.
As far as their diet goes, it should be high in protein, not too high or low in fat, and low on carbohydrates. A dog's diet should also be nearly void of all grain, especially corn, as it's difficult for dogs to digest. So, how can you keep all of this straight when selecting healthy food and treats for your dog? Think of what dogs would eat in the wild. Dogs don't process or cook their food in the wild, and dogs don't eat a lot of grains and oats in the wild. Dogs are carnivores, and they hunt smaller animals for food. I've seen dogs actually kill rabbits and birds while on leash, simply due to instinct.
This doesn't necessarily mean to unwrap a raw pack of Purdue chicken breasts and throw them in a bowl. There are more sanitary ways now to feed your dog raw meat. Ferrera Farms and Prime Taste Treats both carry freeze-dried raw meat treats for dogs. They're sanitary enough to touch because they're freeze dried; but they're not cooked, which means that they retain all of the desired nutrients dogs need. There are also all-natural chews for dogs such as bully sticks and marrow bones. These types of raw bone and organ treats are generally not cooked either, but rather smoked or slowly roasted for sanitation and flavor. As far as food goes, many pet stores carry refrigerated raw meat blends for dogs. There are also freeze-dried raw meat-based foods that can be reconstituted by adding water.
Regarding exercise, you need to walk them or run them with a bicycle. If walking them doesn't tire them out, you can add a prong collar and work on training them during your walk; the mental focus required of them during the training will help to exhaust them much more than walking alone. If you have a larger dog that's so full of energy that you can't wear them out on a walk, consider purchasing something like a dog bike leash. This will enable you to attach them to the side of your bike and take them for a long run. I've used this with all three of my dogs, and by the time they're finished, they're panting on the floor with a smile large enough to put the Joker to shame.
Whatever directions you choose to take, make sure you get started right away. The health of your pet is not only important to keep them alive, it's important for them to feel happy and balanced.
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