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
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 pfma.org. 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