Helping an overweight dog improve their health
Updated: Jul 8, 2019
An overweight dog will often suffer a poor quality of life. Obesity is a major contributing factor to poor health and can ultimately shorten a dog's life expectancy. Keeping your dog lean is vital to ensure they live a long, healthy and happy life.
Excess fat and body weight means your beloved pooch is more prone to diabetes, metabolic and endocrine problems, arthritis, breathing problems, etc. All of these conditions compromise the quality and life of your pup.
Unfortunately, there are many plump pooches these days. One alarming statistic claims that over 50% of our beloved four-legged friends are now overweight dogs. So much so that when someone now sees a lean dog they classify them as too skinny. So how do you recognise signs your dog is overweight?
If you can’t easily feel their ribs, there is a good chance you have an overweight dog. Counting your pooch’s calories is becoming a careful consideration these days. Unless calories are restricted and exercise levels increased, our pooches are prone to weight gain which can lead to obesity.
Increasing the amount of exercise your overweight dog takes is a great way to ensure they are burning off fat. Walks are a good way for both owner and dog to keep fit, but there is nothing like a good vigorous play between a group of friendly dogs or some throw and fetch with a ball. If your dog maxes out on exercise and still hasn’t slimmed down, it is time to look at their diet.
Looking at your dog from above, the waist is not clearly defined
When running your hands around your dog, you are not easily able to identify the ribs
There is no abdominal tuck: the chest should be clearly wider than the waist
The dog is no longer able to move around as easily or with as much energy
Simply: the scales show the animal is heavier than the recommended weight for the breed
Reducing calorie intake is certainly going to improve the weight of an overweight dog. However, not all sources of calories are equal. A question commonly asked by dog owners is “What is the best diet for my dog?” Well, there are many different types of diet that your dog could be eating, Here is a list of some of the best, through to some of the worst. Where does your dog's diet feature?
Nutritionally balanced raw homemade diet - This is the best diet you could feed your dog and the best thing about it is that you can handpick your ingredients and you know the quality of the ingredients. Raw also allows you to include a lot of nutritional variety.
Nutritionally balanced cooked homemade diet – this provides the same benefits of a homemade raw diet, but some of us just like to cook food and not feed raw. Also, some dogs prefer warm food as opposed to cold food.
Commercially available balance raw food diet – there are many raw diets available, but it is important to ensure the food is correctly balanced to provide a complete meal. This is the fastest-growing category, which will allow you to find food which fits your ethical and financial parameters.
Dehydrated or freeze-dried raw diet – for owners who can’t or won’t feed fresh raw food, this is a good alternative. All you have to do is add water to make them biologically appropriate. These diets have not been processed at high temperatures and therefore retain a high nutrient value. These are not the same as a raw diet, but they are a great choice for people on the move and it is the next best thing to fresh raw food diet.
Commercially available cooked or refrigerated food – this is a relatively new thing to come to the marketplace. These are gently heated and retain the moisture content. This food is fresher than a processed diet so the nutrient content is better. But as with all diets, the raw materials can range from terrible to excellent.
Tinned food – this type of dog food can include premium grade meat to meat of much lesser quality, but the moisture content is much more biologically correct than dry food. Many can have excellent protein, fat, fibre and card ratios.
Dry food (kibble) – Dry food commonly known as kibble contains a high percentage of carbohydrates. Even so-called “grain-free” kibbles contain carbohydrates, just take a look at the ingredients on the bag of dry food. These carbohydrates and fillers promote weight gain and make it more difficult for weight loss to happen. This type of diet is not biologically appropriate for dogs in terms of moisture content. The quality of the meat used in kibble can vary, negatively affecting the nutritional and protein value. If the food has been baked it will say on the label, otherwise, you will have to assume it has been extruded. This probably means you are placing carcinogens in your dog's dinner. Many can contain grains and starches, which are not appropriate for a dogs diet.
Unbalanced homemade diet, raw or cooked – some owners believe that giving their dog chicken breast and vegetables is being kind to their dog. Unfortunately, unless you are adding in some vital supplements your dog will be missing vital nutritional requirements. Fresh is always better, but balanced is always imperative. Homemade food for dogs must be done right or not at all.
If the diet you are feeding your dog falls into the lower categories don’t panic. It could be due to affordability or the fact you were not aware of which diet provides good nutrition. Set a goal to feed better quality foods moving forward, or as soon as your budget will allow.
High levels of carbohydrates are not good for your dog as they are higher in calories than the equivalent weight in protein. So out with the carbohydrates (grains and fillers) and in with the protein (meat). Ideally, it should be fresh meat but even processed tinned, air-dried or freeze-dried meats would be better than dry food. Remember adding vegetables into their diet is a good way of reducing the calories. Try and stick to lower glycemic ones like broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
The solution to preventing weight gain is to feed as much raw, frozen, tinned or freeze-dried food as your budget will allow. If you own several big dogs, feeding a fresh or raw diet can become expensive. However, you can still improve the nutritional value of their diet simply by substituting some kibble for fresh raw food.
Knowing how much to feed your dog is just as important as knowing what to feed your dog. All commercial foods should come with a feeding guide, but as with humans, not all dogs are the same. The calories one dog needs on a daily basis, may not be the same as what another requires. So remember this feeding guide is just that a ‘guide’. But if you are looking to put your dog on any kind of diet, it is advisable to check with your vet first. This will ensure that you will not be compromising your dog's health in any way.
If you are looking to help your dog lose weight then it is recommended that you do not reduce your dog’s daily intake by more than 40 percent in one go. As with humans, gradual weight loss is better. Once their intake has been reduced, their body should begin to burn through some of the fat reserves. This is to compensate for the reduced levels of food intake.
For more information on how to start your dog on a raw food diet, visit the Uberpet website and browse our range of natural raw dog food.