Does your dog need to go on a diet? Is your canine companion too chubby? Do you seem to have a lot more dog to love than you ever had before?
Canine obesity is a genuine concern for many dog lovers. Although conformation standards vary among different dog breeds, each type of dog has a healthy weight range. And many dogs far exceed the optimum poundage veterinarians recommend for their body types.
Pet care experts have estimated that some 40 to 50 percent of all domesticated dogs in the United States may be overweight, or even obese. What’s more, canine obesity can lead to countless serious health risks, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure, ligament and soft tissue injuries, osteoarthritis, respiratory disease and more.
So how can you tell if your Golden Retriever has become gluttonous, your Corgi too corpulent, your Bichon blubbery, your Poodle pudgy, your Chow Chow chubby or your Rhodesian Ridgeback too rotund?
Here is a handful of ways you can assess your dog’s weight to determine whether he or she might stand to drop a few pounds. For simplicity’s sake, these five steps for dog weight evaluation use this acronym: “FETCH.”
F = Feel your dog’s physique.
Often, a pet owner may be able to assess a dog’s weight and overall physical condition by petting and grooming the dog. At such times, it may become clear whether a dog is bony and frail, flabby and fat or basically fit.
Because each dog (and especially each dog breed) is different, the main objective is to watch for any significant changes in an individual pet’s physique. In fact, some dog owners photograph their pets periodically and compare new and old pictures to help determine the fitness of their dogs.
Dogs that wear sweaters, canine blankets or other garments may reveal any dramatic or measurable weight gain when these items become snugger than usual, as well.
E = Evaluate your dog’s activity level.
Excessive weight gain tends to reduce a dog’s energy level, and canine obesity often leads to more sedentary behavior. Certainly a previously active pet that seems to become lethargic and lazy deserves to be evaluated closely.
T = Track your dog’s weight gain or loss.
Conscientious pet owners usually keep track of important changes, such as a significant weight gain or loss. A dog will invariably be weighed at veterinary checkups, at least annually, but many pet owners will weigh him or her at least monthly and note any ups or downs.
Many veterinary offices allow regular clients to stop in and weigh their dogs without charge, particularly during off-peak hours.
C = Check your dog’s eating habits.
A dog’s diet is an essential component of his or her overall condition, and any alterations to this should be duly noted. If a dog’s appetite should increase dramatically, and especially suddenly, this may be cause for concern.
In addition, if friends or family members begin offering increasing amounts of dog treats or table scraps, then the question of potential canine obesity may become an issue.
H = Have a vet check your dog’s weight and health.
Of course, the most thorough means of determining obesity in a dog is to consult a professional veterinarian. A vet can examine the dog carefully and rule out serious medical conditions that may cause excessive weight gain, such as Cushing’s Disease, diabetes and hypothyroidism.
The animal doctor may also check a female dog for pregnancy, if she has not been spayed.
Veterinarians typically use a five-point body scoring guide, ranging from emaciated to obese, to evaluate a dog’s weight. These animal doctors often observe dogs from the sides and from above, while feeling the canines’ ribs, sides, bellies and other regions for excessive fat.
It can be tricky to gauge a dog’s weight condition, as different canine breeds bear varied physical standards. Wrinkles may be appropriate for a Shar pei, but not for a Whippet or Greyhound. A St. Bernard or Newfoundland naturally carries more bulk than a Great Dane or Dalmatian.
Although obesity itself is not a life-threatening emergency in a dog, this condition can lead to many health concerns, so it merits addressing. A healthy diet and a suitable exercise program may put a too-heavy dog back on track. Often, a veterinarian may prescribe a special canine food formula and portion controls to help a dog diet in a healthy manner.
With a bit of proper conditioning, an obese dog can go from fat to fit and regain his or her fetching figure.