Did you know that October 12th is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day? With an estimated 54% of dogs in this country meeting the criteria to be considered overweight, this day has become more relevant than ever. But what exactly can a loving owner do to help his or her overweight dog shed a few pounds?
Just like cats, dogs actually have plenty of ways to lose excess weight, and many of the solutions are simpler than you might think. But before getting to that, you might find yourself wondering, “How exactly do I know if my dog is overweight?”
Healthy Weights for Dogs
Considering the seemingly endless varieties of dog breeds—which all come in their own unique shapes and sizes—applying one ideal weight to all dogs is virtually impossible. However, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention has a very handy chart that covers the ideal adult weight ranges of the top 100 American Kennel Club breeds. Below, we’ve listed the ideal healthy weights of the top 10 (if you don’t see yours listed below, just click the link above!):
- Labrador Retriever: 65-80 lbs.
- German Shepherd: 75-95 lbs.
- Yorkshire Terrier: Less than 7 lbs.
- Golden Retriever: 65-75 lbs.
- Beagle: 18-30 lbs.
- Boxer: 50-75 lbs.
- Bulldog: 40-50 lbs.
- Dachshund (mini): 8-10 lbs.
- Poodle (mini): 11-17 lbs.
- Shih Tzus: 8-16 lbs.
Health Issues Faced By Obese Dogs
So now you have a better idea of where your dog stands in regards to its weight. But what exactly is the big deal with canine obesity, anyway? As it turns out, a lot. In fact, a large study of Labrador Retrievers found that dogs that are even slightly obese experience a reduced life expectancy of nearly two years when compared to healthier Retrievers. But that’s just the start! Among other things, overweight dogs are also at increased risk of:
- Exercise and/or Heat Intolerance
- Respiratory Issues
- Weak Immune Systems
- Various Types of Cancer (such as renal cell, esophageal, liver, etc.)
- Orthopedic (bone/muscle) Disorders
Common Reasons For Overweight Dogs (And How to Achieve Dog Weight Loss!)
So, it’s pretty clear that canine obesity has the potential to be a very serious issue. But what exactly causes a dog to become obese, and more importantly, what can help with dog weight loss? Below, you’ll find a mixture of some of the most common and some of the more obscure causes of obese dogs:
Food Intake: Arguably the most common cause of overweight dogs, a dog’s food intake is directly proportional to its weight. While some dogs are picky eaters who will only touch their food when hungry, other dogs will opt to munch down until there’s nothing left regardless of how hungry they are (or aren’t). If your dog falls beneath the latter category, consider rationing out its food to prevent gorging. Also, keep in mind that table scraps and treats are huge contributors to obesity, as are high-energy dog foods with lazier dogs won’t aren’t able to burn off those excess calories as easily as their more energetic counterparts. As an alternative, consider purchasing one of the many high-quality dog foods specifically designed for dog weight loss.
Age: Dogs often experience weight gain as they age and their lean body mass continually declines. This is often compounded by a decrease in activity. As a result, it’s important to carefully monitor and lessen your dog’s food intake in proportion to its decreasing energy expenditure.
Environment: Just like many people do, dogs tend to eat when they’re stressed or bored. Even simple things, like changes in household routines, are enough to stress a dog. Likewise, some dogs might rummage through the garbage not because they’re hungry, but because they have nothing else to do! Also keep in mind that dogs living in a household with other dogs tend to eat more because of perceived (or actual) competition. Be mindful of these environmental factors so you can accommodate your dog accordingly.
Breed Disposition: Data has repeatedly shown that certain breeds are more prone to obesity than others, with Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, Dachshunds, Basset Hounds and Scottish Terriers being prime examples. Conversely, some breeds, such as Greyhounds, have a very low incidence of obesity.
Neutering: This often comes as a surprise to dog owners, but neutering can indeed lead to canine obesity. The science behind it is simpler than you might think: When your dog is neutered, its loss of sex hormones slows down its metabolism, making dog weight loss more challenging.
Illnesses: In rare cases, illnesses such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, or brain diseases might be the cause of an obese dog’s health issues. If dog weight loss simply can’t seem to be achieved despite your best efforts, or if you simply suspect that something is amiss, immediately schedule an appointment with your vet to get a diagnosis so the underlying issue can be addressed.
This October, Be Proactive!
With National Pet Obesity Day just around the corner, take your dog’s health into mind. After all, nothing is more important than making sure your furry friend is happy, safe and healthy!