We are all well aware of the benefits of being fit, eating well and exercising. We sometimes go to great lengths to improve our own health, not hesitating to spend outrageous amounts of money on a gym membership, a treadmill for our living room, organic foods and natural health products. Though perhaps reluctantly, we might even take a morning jog or attend a Pilates class after a long day at work. We do all this (or at least some of this) for ourselves, but is it possible that we have been neglecting our dog? Could we be overfeeding him? Could we be forgetting to walk him? Just as excess weight and obesity can have disastrous effects on human health, the same applies to your dog. Obesity comes with a plethora of risks and diseases: diabetes, respiratory conditions, arthritis, joint disorders, even behavioral problems and reduction of lifespan.
Like humans, dogs don’t become overweight overnight. It’s usually because of a few bad habits that our furry friend puts on weight, sometimes even without our noticing it. However, don’t let things go too far. Regularly check on your dog. But what signs should we be looking for? Here is a non-exhaustive list of 7 elements to pay attention to when it comes to your dog’s weight.
1) The dreaded tell-tale scale!
If you suspect your dog is overweight, your first reaction could be to rush to your bathroom scale and weigh him. However, since dogs come in all shapes and sizes, your dog’s actual weight can easily deceive you by making you think he is lean or overweight when that is not the case. Each breed is different, as is each individual. So don’t panic if, as you weigh your dog on the scale at home, the number seems rather substantial. Get your calculator and do some math instead. Get a chart, either from your veterinarian or online, that indicates your dog’s ideal weight, taking into account his breed, height and age. If your dog is 5 to 19% heavier than what he should be, he is overweight. A little change in his routine and diet can have a great impact not only on the scale but on his overall health. If he is 20% heavier than normal, greater measures might be necessary. Before you change anything too radically though, please consult your veterinarian to make sure you are not damaging your dog’s health through your earnest efforts to help him.
2) Where have his ribs gone?
A good indicator if you’re not sure whether your dog is overweight or not is the rib test. Run your hands around his flanks and abdomen. On a dog at ideal weight, you should be able to feel the ribs (but not see them, which would mean your dog is too skinny). If you cannot find them, if you cannot feel them through the fat your dog has been accumulating over the years, then maybe it’s time to change his diet and get him to exercise.
3) No 6-pack!
Okay, this expression is far-fetched but what I mean here is, when you look at your dog from the side, his shape should be wider at the chest and thinner at the abdomen. There should be an abdominal tuck. If the body shape looks more like a tube or worse, if the abdomen is prominent, then it’s a sign your dog is overweight.
4) What waist?
When you look at your dog from above (I’m giving you a workout here!), you should clearly spot his waist. There should be an overall hourglass shape. If the figure is straight or thicker at the waist, don’t ‘waist’ time (!) and take steps to improve your dog’s health.
5) No more interest in physical activities?
Your dog used to be so energetic, sometimes to the point of draining you of your own energy. He used to play around, go fetch, be enthusiastic whenever you came back home, try to catch his tail, or much to your dismay, try to chase bicycles and cars... when he was a puppy, that is. Now, he prefers the coziness of the couch and sleeping has gradually become more appealing than playing outdoors. If this scenario seems familiar, maybe your dog has become apathetic because his weight keeps him from being active or because exercising requires much more effort than before. Carrying too much weight is definitely exhausting for your dog. A general sense of apathy can be a sign your dog is overweight.
6) No more stamina?
If your dog can perform all his regular activities and still looks quite active, but cannot do as much as before, cannot play as long as before, cannot run as fast as before or gets quickly tired, check his weight. For example, imagine your dog’s ideal weight is 21 kg, and he has put on weight over the last few months and now weighs 28kg. Think about it—that’s an extra 7 kg of fat that he has to carry around, that his muscles have to support, that his blood needs to feed, that his heart has to maintain and so on. No wonder your dog prefers the couch to the backyard when exercising requires so much effort!
7) Not coming to the second floor?
Your dog used to follow you around the house all the time but now, he skips his turn when you take a trip to the basement. Or if your dog needs three attempts before he can jump on the couch, his weight is in sure need to be checked. I remember when I was a teenager, I knew a family who owned a Great Dane that, in my humble opinion, was overweight, though the family strongly denied it. In the house, there was a slight drop in the floor level between the kitchen and the dining room, and I mean ‘slight’, barely 2 cm. Yet, if the dog had to make that ‘ascension’ (if you will allow me the use of this exaggerated language), he had to back up quite a bit to have enough room to take off, so to speak, and get the needed momentum to reach the ‘higher altitude’ of the kitchen. As you can imagine, the dog had crossed off visits to the second floor from his list of hopes and dreams.
If you took the time to read this article, you undoubtedly love your dog. And maybe you are a little concerned about your dog’s weight. If, after taking note of these signs, you are now convinced your dog is overweight, please take appropriate measures as soon as possible. Remember it’s never too late. Minor changes in your dog’s routine may mean great benefits. Consult your veterinarian, reduce your dog’s portions, and get him to play outside or take regular walks. And you know what? You yourself will even gain from all of this, and I’m not talking weight! Not only your dog, but you too will be fitter and have more energy!