We have all sat at the dinner table and felt that someone is watching us! A glance to the floor reveals those puppy dog eyes staring back at us.
Every inch of your consciousness tells you that you must not give into the emotional blackmail – but that face, those eyes! What harm will one little sliver of Sunday roast do – you give in – one gulp later and a satisfied canine wanders off across the dining room!
Tit-bits and treats all add up when it comes to calorific intake – we have all heard the analogy that if you feed a dog one cookie it is the equivalent of us eating a whole hamburger. While pet owners, and I am as guilty as the next, ignore these analogies the statistics are speaking for themselves. Current research shows that over 55% of dogs are classified as obese and this is a statistic that is rising year on year.
But does carrying an extra kilogram or two really have a big impact on the health of our canine companions?
The answer is simple. YES! It has a massive impact on the health of our dogs!
Obesity has been shown to affect many different body systems and has been shown to exacerbate orthopaedic, dermatological and heart diseases. Excessive body weight has also been shown to promote insulin resistance which leads to diabetes mellitus and ultimately leads to a shortened life span.
Prevention is better than cure! A dog’s weight should be monitored throughout it’s life. Once adult weight is reached the focus should be on maintaining a healthy body weight and this can not be done without regular weight checks. Adjust exercise and feeding to maintain the optimal body weight and always follow the guidance of a veterinary surgeon prior to embarking on any focussed canine weight loss campaigns. Remember dogs can suffer from a number of glandular diseases which can cause weight gain, or loss, and if there have been changes in body weight of more than 10-20% over a 2-month period it is important to have your pet assessed by a veterinary surgeon.
Feeding and exercise are the key factors which must be carefully controlled and monitored in the successful management of a dog’s weight. Picking the correct, balanced diet, for your dog is the first step in the pathway of canine weight management.
As a vet I can without doubt confirm that pet food polarises the pet owning community – dry, wet, raw or cooked. From a veterinary point of view as long as the diet is of a good quality and is a complete diet I have no major preferences as to the type of food a dog is fed.
What does concern me is the volume of food a dog receives. It is import to accurately portion a dog’s food – a cup full is not an accurate unit of measure! Weigh the food – be consistent – a few extra grams of food each day all adds up over the course of week. I believe food based treats play an important part in a dog’s life but they also add to the dog’s calorie intake. If you are going to give a dog treats you must reduce the the size of the dogs daily potion of food. Once you have your dogs feeding under control you need to focus on the second aspect of weight management – exercise!
The importance of a consistent exercise plan in a dog’s life can not be underestimated. Exercise has been shown to improve sensitivity to insulin, builds lean muscle mass and improves joint function. All this and the added bonus of maintaining an ideal body weight – it is clear how important exercise is in a dog’s life!
A dog’s exercise plan should be tailored to its breed, age, current weight and take into consideration any concurrent medical conditions such as osteoarthritis. One often overlooked aspect of exercise is combining feeding and exercise together!
Puzzle feeders which require the patient to interact with the device to gain food are a great tool to help you manage your pets weight and food intake. Dog’s expend energy when using puzzle feeders, the devices also slow food intake which affects the dogs hunger centre in the brain and makes them feel full.
"It is time the pet and veterinary community takes a stand against canine obesity."
We have the ability to improve the life of our canine friends and give them longer, happier lives! We should embrace feeding and exercise planning to help our furry family members and we may even improve our own health along the way as research has shown dog owners who regularly exercise with their pets have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol which you have to admit is not a bad ‘side-effect’ of walking your dog.