Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Know Your Dog's Enemies Part II: Overweight

It is interesting to note that the older generations, such as my grandmother's, believed that being thin was a sign of poor health, and being nicely fattened up was a sign of well-being.

I can understand that. They lived through times when food was hard to come by, and many people indeed did suffer from poor nutrition.

I am not saying that malnutrition isn't a health risk. But, seriously, how many undernourished dogs have you seen lately? And how many dogs do you see that are overweight?

Here is the kicker. Do you know that your dog could be overweight and yet malnourished? But that is material for an article unto itself.

OK, so is being overweight a sign of well-being or not? Well, as the word itself suggests, it is not. It is just a sign of your dog getting more calories than he can use for energy.

Why is being overweight a problem for your dog?

Being overweight is not an immediate threat, you won't rush your dog to the emergency with that. That is also the reason why many owners don't take it seriously.

This not the type of enemy that will come charging and roaring. This is the kind that will creep up slowly and quietly, while plotting the attack.

Being overweight puts your dog in a greater risk of number of serious health problems:

How can I tell if my dog is overweight?

I think the term is bit misleading. It is not really about how many pounds your dog weighs, but about how much of that is fat. A healthy dog in a good condition can actually weigh more than an overweight dog, simply because muscles are heavier than fat.

There is a simple way how you can examine your dog to tell whether he's at optimal weight:

  • you should be able to feel your dog's ribs under his skin
  • his belly should be tucked in towards his back legs
  • looking from above, your dog should have an indentation just behind the ribs, towards the hips
How did you do?

My dog is overweight, what do I do?

The remedy is in the why. Why did your dog become overweight? Well, let's face it, the problem is most likely you. Overfeeding, low quality food, and not enough exercise are the most common causes of obesity in dogs.

In my opinion, the best way to get your dog to lose weight is by exercise. While putting your dog on a diet might work, I believe that the weight lost by dieting is much easier to gain back. Of course quality food in a reasonable amount is a must. Low quality foods have very little nutrients and  they are high in calories.

Exercise will burn the fat, and it will build muscle. I believe that is the healthiest and most efficient way to weight loss.

Note: In some cases, your dog might be overweight as a result of a health condition, such as hypothyroid. If you feel that your dog is getting plenty of exercise, not overeating, and still gaining weight, you might want to have that checked.


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