You’re sure to have heard reports about the growing rates of overweight pets, and Petplan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner agrees that it’s an important issue. ‘Obesity is a serious medical concern, not just about how a pet looks. So, ensuring your dog is a healthy weight is a vital part of caring for his wellbeing,’ he says. Find the facts on canine obesity here, and how you can help your pet to avoid it.
How to keep your dog in shape
1. Stick to feeding times
In the wild, dogs are natural scavengers, meaning most will eat as much as possible – from their perspective, they need to fill up in case they don’t eat again that day. So it’s important to follow the instructions on your pet food packaging and give your pet the right amount at recommended intervals throughout the day. Use treats sparingly and avoid processed versions that can be high in calories. Natural alternatives, such as a small piece of cooked chicken breast or piece of sausage, can come in handy during training, but remember that these count as part of your dog’s daily food intake and adjust their meals accordingly.
2. Walk, train and play
Some breeds are bursting with energy, while others, such as the Bulldog, have a more laidback approach to life. Whichever type of dog you have, it’s important that you find out about the activity level he needs. But don’t be fooled into thinking that any time spent outside is enough, as experts advise that dogs don’t move as freely and consistently when left to simply roam by themselves. Instead, enjoy regular playtimes together and head out for a walk at least once a day.
3. Watch their weight
Many owners don’t realise that their dog is overweight, as it can be tricky to weigh your pet at home. Instead, experts advise keeping an eye on his physical shape or body condition.As a rough guide, you should be able to feel but not see your dog’s ribs; you can test this by standing above him and feeling firmly down his sides. If your dog is very well padded, has a saggy belly or their body no longer comes in at the waist, you may need to gradually adjust their food or exercise level – although it’s a good idea to first book a check-up with your vet to rule out any underlying health issues.
4. Take it slowly
If you need to change your dog’s diet or lifestyle, vets recommend doing so gradually, as sudden loss of fat (more than 2% of body weight per week) can cause serious health complications. It could be that you need to reduce the size and number of your pet’s portions, or that your pet may need a vet-recommended special diet formulation – speak to your vet about what’s best for your dog. To get your pet used to the change, you might need to mix in a little of his usual food to encourage him at first.
Want to know more about your dog’s eating habits? Find out more in our diet Q&A. And don’t forget, every dog is an individual and their diet and exercise level should be adjusted to suit their needs, with help from your vet and breeder if necessary.