Is your dog among the 53% of U.S. dogs that are overweight or obese? And how can you tell for sure?
These are questions the people at the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) want us to ask about our pets during National Pet Obesity Awareness Month in October. Many experts agree that feeding our pets more wisely is the most significant —and perhaps the easiest—thing we can do to improve their health.
While awareness of pet obesity seems to have increased in recent years, our pets are still largely—well, too large. APOP blames it on something called the “fat gap”—the percentage of people who have overweight pets but don’t believe their pets are, in fact, overweight. The most recent “fat gap” statistic shows that 95% of people whose dogs are overweight just don’t buy it.
So what’s the big deal about a little extra weight?
Dogs that carry extra weight face greater health risks than their more fit counterparts. Those risks include:
- Heart disease: Being overweight makes your dog’s heart have to work harder and can aggravate cardiovascular problems.
- Breathing problems: Extra body weight makes it harder for your dog to breathe.
- Skin and coat issues: Obese dogs are more prone to problems with their coats and skin, including skin infections and dermatitis.
- Arthritis: Even a few extra pounds can be hard on your dog’s joints and ligaments, causing greater pain from arthritis.
- Mobility issues: Being overweight makes it harder for your dog to move around, which means he is less active, which in turn, contributes to weight gain.
You also need to be sure that your dog’s weight gain is not caused or being made worse, by an underlying health issue. See your vet before determining if your pooch has such an illness, or just needs a new food and exercise routine.
How to tell if your dog is overweight.
Besides putting your dog on a scale, there are three easy ways to tell if he is overweight by feeling his body and looking at it from the side and from above.
- Ribs: If it’s hard to feel your dog’s ribs under a cover of fat, he is overweight. His ribs should be easy to feel, even if they have a slight fat covering.
- Waist: If you cannot see a waistline on your dog when looking at his body from above, he probably weighs too much. You should be able to easily see a visible waist.
- Abdominal “tuck”: Look at your dog’s body in profile. His abdominal area should tuck up toward the rear, higher than his chest. If the reverse is true, your dog is probably overweight or obese.
Three ways to tip the scales in your dog’s favor.
There are a number of ways you can help your overweight dog lose that excess weight. Let’s concentrate on the top three.
- Reduced fat dog food. Consider feeding your dog a food that is lower in fat. Bil-Jac’s Reduced Fat Formula contains 30% less fat than Bil-Jac Adult Select. Dogs crave its real chicken taste—a rarity among reduced fat dog foods. Our Reduced Fat Formula will help your dog maintain a healthy lustrous coat and firm muscle tone.
- Choose the right treats, and use them thoughtfully. Start by choosing treats with a good balance of meat and other tasty ingredients. Bil-Jac offers a variety of treats dogs just love to gobble up. But please: treat your dog wisely. A good rule of thumb is to be sure treats make up no more than 10% of your dog’s total daily diet. We suggest saving the treats for times when you are training or for rewarding your dog for good behavior.
- Provide more exercise. As with humans, the simplest formula for weight loss is to burn more calories than are consumed. Consult your veterinarian before starting any exercise program designed to lose weight. You’ll want to be careful not to push your dog to exercise more vigorously than he safely can. At the same time, you want him to exercise enough to lose those extra pounds. For the most part, though, you’ll want to start with short walks and increase the length based on what your dog is able to handle. Combine these walks with brief play periods using his favorite toys. Just don’t overdo it in the beginning and gradually work up to more vigorous exercise when your furry friend is ready.
Easy does it.
When you find the magic combination of food and exercise, your dog should start shedding those pounds relatively easily. Just remember that losing weight in a safe manner takes time. But if you and your best friend stick with it, you’ll be having a healthier, happier time together before you know it!
Have you used Bil-Jac Reduced Fat Formula Dog Food in a weight loss program for your dog? Please share your story with us by using the hashtag #biljacdogs on social media! Consider taking “before and after” photos of your dog. We would love to see how Bil-Jac Reduced Fat Formula helps your dog shed that weight!