Is it time to put your dog on a new year diet?

Ca­nine obe­sity is a big prob­lem – and we are to blame. Vet Pete Wed­der­burn ex­plains how to shift those ex­cess puppy pounds

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - BODY MIND -

As a vet in prac­tice, the is­sue of over­weight and obese dogs con­fronts me ev­ery day. As a fat spaniel wad­dles out of my clinic, and a tubby labrador plods in, I de­spair. Why do peo­ple let this hap­pen, and what can be done to help?

Re­search pub­lished last week demon­strates the sig­nif­i­cance of this prob­lem: it’s more than just a cos­metic is­sue. Dogs that are over­weight or obese have shorter lives than those with a healthy body weight, dy­ing up to two years ear­lier. Dogs car­ry­ing too much weight also suf­fer from re­duced qual­ity of life, with more ill­ness and less en­joy­ment of daily ac­tiv­i­ties. Obe­sity so we like see­ing our pets do­ing the same, and giv­ing food treats is an easy way of get­ting at­ten­tion from a pet; we con­fuse this with “love”. We see dogs as “lit­tle peo­ple”, serv­ing them hu­man-sized food por­tions far in ex­cess of their needs. We want to feed them un­til they are full, for­get­ting that they are al­most in­sa­tiable, hav­ing evolved to binge be­cause in na­ture there may be a long gap un­til the next meal.

The prob­lem is ag­gra­vated by the fact that so many dogs are now over­weight that our so­ci­ety sees “curvy” dogs as nor­mal. One of my clients has a trim, five-year-old labrador called Bella, who is at her ideal body weight. My client is reg­u­larly stopped in the lo­cal park by peo­ple who tell her that her pet is too scrawny and that she should stop starv­ing her.

The eas­i­est way to judge if a dog is car­ry­ing too much weight is to use a body con­di­tion score chart

(you can find one at uk/pet-size-o-me­ter). As­sess the an­i­mal’s sil­hou­ette from above and use your hands to feel how much fat pad­ding cov­ers their bones. If you are un­sure, ask your lo­cal vet clinic.

Most dogs are weighed at their an­nual health check; a com­par­i­son with pre­vi­ous years is the sim­plest way to spot a prob­lem. I re­mem­ber a five-year-old golden re­triever called Missy. It was only when her an­nual checkup showed that her weight had gone up by 30 per

HEALTHY HABITSIt’s im­por­tant to keep track of changes in your dog’s weight

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