There’s a weight problem in Australia and it isn’t just affecting humans.
Alarmingly, obesity is becoming a significant health problem among Australian dogs. However, it is often a problem that is overlooked, as many pet owners may not even realise their pets are overweight. As a dog owner, it’s up to you to ensure he or she has regular exercise and access to a nutritional and balanced diet.
Just as it does in humans, it should be no surprise that obesity may lead to serious health problems in dogs that could shorten their life span. Canine obesity is associated with several major issues, from arthritis and kidney disease to diabetes, heart failure, and cancer.
Vets say there’s a sizeable difference between what owners think their dogs should look like, and what a healthy body composition truly is. Using body weight as a rough guide, dogs are considered to be overweight when they weigh 10-20% above their ideal body weight, and obese when that value is more than 20%.
Dr. Carol Osborne, an integrative veterinarian Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic, explains the fact that a dog doesn’t have to be clinically obese to experience health consequences. “Being just 10% overweight decreases a dog’s lifespan by one-third and predisposes him to heart, kidney and liver disease as well as diabetes, arthritis, and cancer,” she says.
Osborne says that adipose tissue (aka fat) is filled with blood vessels, and the added rich blood creates inflammation. This all creates an environment attractive to cancer cells and increases a dog’s risk of developing the disease. She explains how her clients have experienced the quality of life improvement from weight loss, which also involved stopping the feeding of dry kibble and replacing it with chicken and fresh vegetables.
The question remains, how can pet owners determine the ideal weight for their dogs?
The rib test: gently run your hands along either side of the rib cage, and you should be able to easily feel, but not see each rib. Your dog should have a well-proportioned waist and a slight muscle tone. Your dog is considered to be overweight if he or she has lost their waist, fat covers their chest, and their ribs, spine, and pelvic bone are not defined. If unsure, talk to your vet who can assess your dog’s weight and Body Condition Score.
Treatment for obesity focuses on gradual weight loss that is sustainable in the long term and is accomplished by reducing your dog’s caloric intake and increasing their activity levels.
As to food quality, Osborne recommends fresh food including lean protein like chicken, turkey, fish, eggs and tofu, and fibre through fresh vegetables such as brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and spinach. This kind of real, fresh food is more nutrient-dense and more bioavailable than dried, processed food.
With a commitment to your dog’s healthy weight, you can feel confident that your loved ones are well looked after!