Helping Your Dog Get Slim!

Gram and I are sitting in our usual place on the patio, waiting for the next weather report regarding the coming storm called Gustav, which is still out to sea, but maybe coming our way.

Our conversation has turned to food and diets, as Gram is always looking for ways to lose weight (she thinks she is still 30, when she is really 76) and so we have turned the talk over to dogs and their being overweight. Mr. Yule was very overweight until Mom put him on a diet (actually it was not a diet, but she changed our food and the amount we eat) and he has slimmed down a lot.

So we thought we would do this column on helping your dog get slim.

Dogs like we humans have a tendency to become overweight. Too much weight is as detrimental to a dog as it is to us and in some ways tends to create more problems.

Canine obesity is the nation’s number one nutrition-related health problem. More than half the dogs in the United States are overweight and of that number at least 25 percent are obese. Obesity in dogs is the fourth leading cause of canine deaths.

What are the warning signs? There are some very subtle signs that will alert you to the fact your dog is getting a bit overweight. First of all you might notice that your dog is not moving around as much as he/she used to. The fun game of fetch seems to have lost its luster and that hike into the woods does not seem so much fun, these are a few of the signs of too much weight. Not to mention problems getting in and out of the car or climbing up and down the stairs.

Visually you should be able to notice your dog’s shape hourglass shape when looking down on the dog. If you do not see an hourglass shape, you may be looking at a weight problem.

Also try feeling for your dog’s rib cage, you should be able to feel its ribs without having to use your fingers to search for them. If your dog has failed all these tests and you still need more proof look for some additional fat around the hip area, the base of the tail and does your dog “waddle” instead of walk?

Should your dog fulfill all these signs, it would be a good idea to call your vet and get some “reducing advice.”

What are some of the problems associated with overweight in dogs? Probably the most significant problem is osteoarthritis, a condition caused by the disappearance of cartilage, this is a smooth tissue at the end of the bones that prevents them from rubbing together. Once the tissue is gone and the bones rub together, inflammation and pain begin. The heavier the dog the worse the problem becomes.

If your dog has hip dysplasia, this problem will become extremely aggravated. Since this is basically an inherited condition, weight control throughout the dog’s life is very important.

Diabetes is also associated with obesity. A diet abundant in carbohydrates causes an over stimulation of the insulin producing cells in the pancreas.

Obesity can put an extra burden on the cardiovascular system and create heart problems.

Are certain breeds prone to obesity? Yes, some breeds are more apt to become over weight than others. It happens in large breeds as well as smaller ones. Labrador retrievers, dachshunds, golden retrievers, basset hounds and cocker spaniels are among the breeds that are prone to overweight problems.

Some dogs as they get older may have a thyroid deficiency, which can slow down the way its food is metabolized. But, basically it is too many treats, lots of people food, little exercise, and over feeding that causes our dogs to be overweight.

If your dog is over weight consult your vet for advice and a proper diet. Many times it is just a matter of cutting back on treats or giving your pet fresh veggies treats instead of the sugary ones on the market.

Exercise is important, dogs like people need exercise and walking is great exercise for the dog and for you.

Buying a high protein dry dog food instead of one loaded with extra carbs is a great start in the right direction. This is an instance where cheap is not always best. Mixing dry with canned is also a good idea and provides more protein for the dog.

Providing a proper feeding time for your dog is another way to start the weight loss program. If you are currently leaving dry food out for your dog to nibble on all day, stop it. Decide on a proper mealtime, you may want to divide the food into 2 meals, one in the morning and one as an evening meal, this way your dog will not get overly hungry.

Do not starve your dog and do not expect your dog to lose more than one percent of it body weight per week. A proper diet should take about six to nine months to achieve the proper weight.

A last bit of advice here, your dog won’t have an opportunity to eat and gain weight, if you stop feeding it all those delicious goodies that their brown eyes are begging for. Be strong and you can do it.

We hope this has shed some light on your dog's weight problem and so until next time I remain

Your loving Sadie