Overview – Is My Dog Unhealthy?
Health concerns cause a variety of issues that plague North America. Many of these problems are a result of poor diet and lack of exercise. This overindulgence in caloric intake makes people overweight or obese; in fact, more than one out of every three adults in America are considered as obese. Similarly to humans and their health, our pets are also at risk for health concerns, including dog obesity. Have you ever asked yourself: is my dog unhealthy?
As a result of living with overweight humans, these pets live unhealthy lives. They are not getting the nutrition they need from their foods. This can be caused by bad quality food or too much food. Also, many of these pets do not get the exercise that they need to burn the calories that they have been given. Unfortunately, unlike humans, many of our pets have much weaker systems and are thus much more easily affected by the weight. Many negative issues can arise quickly and cause real problems for our pets. These issues can diminish and drastically shorten the quality of life of your pets. This leads to high pet care costs and time commitments that can be easily avoided by having the right knowledge to avoid these situations.
Health Problems Caused by Dog Obesity
Just like human bodies, being overweight or obese puts your dog’s body at risk for many health risks. These issues can cause short term problems as well as long term issues that can really affect the lifespan of your pup. Examples of common health concerns are: arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. However, this weight can also cause larger more severe problems like: kidney disease, certain cancers and heart and respiratory diseases.
Dog Obesity Concerns
The largest problem with the obesity in pets is that many pet owners are unaware of the issues. Although obesity in humans is quite easy to diagnose, it is not so straightforward in pets. Many pet owners do not know what obesity looks like in their pet. In fact, according to a North American research study, that asked pet owners about the health and fitness of their pet, 22% of the respondents said that their pets were a normal weight when actually their animal was either overweight or obese.
The first step in verifying the health of your pet is to understand what obesity looks like. This allows you, as an owners, to take the proper actions to getting your dog back on a healthier track.
How do I know if my pet has dog obesity?
Veterinarians and Pet Health Specialist have devised an assessment to determine the health of your dog. This assessment is called the Body Condition Score (BCS). It is on a nine point scale and shows what your pet looks like when it is very thin to obese. There are three categories of weight and each category is given a range of numbers between 1-9: too thin (1, 2 and 3), ideal weight (4 and 5), and too heavy (6 and 7 – overweight and 8 and 9 – dog obesity). To better understand this system, 1 is considered to be 40% underweight and 9 is 40% overweight.
The test to determine your dog’s BCS number is very easy to administer by feeling the ribs of your pet and looking down on your pet to see if you can visually see his waist. For example, if you cannot feel your dog’s ribs and when you look down on him from the top there is no hourglass shape, your dog would be considered a 8 or 9 or this scale.
What is my dog’s perfect weight?
The best way to find out the ideal weight of your dog is to visit the veterinarian. However, you can also figure out this number by using the Maintenance Energy Requirement (MER) calculation. This calculation allows you to understand the caloric intake that your pet needs based on neutered status, weight loss/gain, amount of exercise and age. Although this calculation is just a rough estimate, it does provide an idea of how much you should be feeding your pet.
When implementing a cap on your dog’s calories, include all treats. This will decrease amount of food at each meal needed accordingly. Although treats are always fun to give your pets, they should not compose more than 3-4% of your pet’s daily caloric intake. This will help to control for dog obesity.
How to Calculate my dog’s MER:
- First calculate the weight of your dog
- Divide your dog’s body weight in pounds by 2.2 to convert to kilograms (kg)
- Calculate the Resting Energy Requirement (RER) for your dog by using this formula:
RER = 70 x (body weight in kg)^0.75
Calculate the Maintenance Energy Requirement (MER) by multiplying the RER by one of the following commonly used multipliers.
Commonly Used Multipliers:
Typical Neutered Pet = 1.6
Typical Intact Pet = 1.8
Weight Loss = 1
Weight Gain = 1.7
Light Work = 2
Moderate Work = 3
Heavy Work = 6
Growth (less than 4 months old) = 3
Growth (more than 4 months old) = 2
Healthy Dog Diets
If, through these calculations, you find that your dog is overweight and you are working to get the weight of your pet down, use a proper system of weight loss. A healthy weight loss amount is to feed your pet 80% of their total calories. This will lead to a 1-2% decrease in body weight per week. However, before starting any weight loss routine it is best to consult your veterinarian as they are the ones who know your pet’s health the best. Check out some of our own healthy home dog cooking!
Dog Obesity Prevention
Besides making changes to your dog’s diet, you can also prevent or keep off excess weight by increasing your pet’s exercise. This is a fun and easy way to keep your pet (and you) healthy while also spending quality time together. The best way of doing is this to incorporate regular exercise into your pet’s normal routine. Take your dog out for lots of walks, go to the beach or go for a hike (check out our blog about Vancouver dog trails for ideas on where to go)! All of these activities help your pet stay in shape!
How to Keep my Dog Fit in the Winter
It is easy to take your dog out in the summer because it is so nice outside, but what if it’s Winter? Winters in Canada are notoriously bad. Between the cold weather of the East Coast and the rain of the West Coast, many Canadian dogs gain lots of weight in the winter. The following is three activities to keep your dog active indoors during these winter months. Check them out!
Top 3 Indoor Fitness Activities for your Dog
Hide and Seek
Hide small treats around the house for your dog to find only with his nose. Put the treats under boxes or solid coloured containers. This not only trains their body but also it keeps your dog’s mind active. To find the treats they must use their sense of smell. Let your dog sniff out the box. When he finds the box lift it up and give him a reward. Congratulate him on his reward and move on to the next box! You can also use his favourite toys as prizes under the boxes. Give him hints when he goes in the right direction to encourage and keep your pup motivated. The more times you do this the more your dog will love the game and get more excited about finding the hidden objects.
For this one you will need a friend! Grab a handful of treats and put them in your pocket (ask your friend to do the same thing). Go to different sides of a room and call the dog by name and ask him to come towards you. Reward him with a treat when he arrives. Then have your friend call to the dog. Make your dog run to your friend for their next treat. As the game advances, get farther and farther apart in your house, making your pet run between rooms to get treats. Once your dog gets the hang of the game, switch out the treats for chew toys! You can also advance the game by running away from your dog and having him chase you.
This one works great for houses with large living rooms. Use recyclable items as different obstacles. Have your dog navigate the obstacle course going under and over certain objects. This is a great workout for your dog as you can train him to go faster through the course or pass larger or harder routes. Some suggestions of obstacles could be:
- Kitchen stools
- Cardboard boxes
- A pole with two stands
- Hula Hoops (Jump Through)
- Ball (For Fetching)
Each time your dog makes it through a lap of the course, reward him with praise and maybe even a treat. You can increase the difficulty of the course by making your dog carry a toy in his mouth as he goes through the trail! Dogs love to play games and this one definitely gets them very excited!
The health of your pet is the most important factor in them living a long and happy life. The more time and energy that you spend on making sure they are eating properly and having enough exercise means you are doing the best you can for your pet. To help take the first step in this process, consult your veterinarian and create a diet and exercise plan. All of these steps will help decrease the chances of health concerns caused by dog obesity.
Although this activity is focused on your pet, you will also see the benefits in your own health. There is no real downside to taking on this challenge!
GoFetch loves to hear about doggie fitness and your success stories, if you have taken on a healthier lifestyle, let us know by sending in your story to firstname.lastname@example.org!
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