New research from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) shows a rise of obese pets in 2014. An estimated 52.7% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. The majority of the nation’s dogs and cats continue to be overweight, and most pet owners are not aware of the problem, according to the APOP.
Obesity is common in dogs of all ages, but it usually occurs in middle-aged dogs, and generally in those that are between the ages of 5 and 10. Neutered and indoor dogs also tend to have a higher risk of becoming obese.
- Feel your dog’s ribs. You should be able to feel the rib cage easily. If you can see your dog’s ribs, he is too thin. If you can’t feel his ribs when applying slight pressure, he is overweight.
- The area around the base of your dog’s tail, spine, shoulders and hips should have a slight fatty layer. If you can’t feel any bones underneath the layer of fat, he is overweight.
- Look at your dog from above. He should have a waist behind the ribs. If the area between the ribs and hips is wider than the hips or ribs, your dog is overweight.
- Look at your dog from the side. The area behind the ribs should be smaller in diameter than the chest. This can, however, vary by breed.
Obese dogs can develop additional medical issues if not treated:
- Damage to joints, bones and ligaments
- Heart Disease
- Digestive disorders
- Increased risk of cancer
Treatment for obesity is achieved by reducing caloric intake and increasing your dog’s exercise time. Diets that are rich in dietary protein and fiber, but low in fat, are typically recommended, since dietary protein stimulates metabolism and energy expenditure, along with giving the feeling of fullness, so that your dog will not feel hungry again shortly after eating.
Increasing your dog’s physical activity level is important for success in losing weight. Take your dog for a 15 minute walk every day, or add in a second walk. Playing games such as fetch or learning an obstacle course are also good exercises.
If you feel your dog is overweight, consult your veterinarian to determine if there are any other medical problems before starting your dog on a weight reduction program.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery county and northern Chester County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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