Thursday, December 10, 2009


One of the biggest health concerns for dogs today is obesity. We live in a country of “land of plenty” and just like some of us humans some of our dogs are suffering from it. Many times you will see this with the pet owner. He loves his dog TOO much! The dog is fed a decent enough food and if the puppy was bought from a breeder is probably on the food that was recommended to keep him healthy. Many times the pet owner thinks his dog is too thin because he can see a rib or two and feels like the dog needs to be fattened up a little. He begins to increase the dog’s food and before you know it, “Fido” is now a pleasingly plump spoiled boy. Although this is seen more with the pet owner, I have seen (and have been guilty of it myself) some show dogs that have less than the ideal “figure!”

To make matters worse, some dogs are getting too much food AND treats and table scraps as well. And if you have young kids around, forget about it. He is now sharing everything that little Johnny didn’t want to eat in his own dinner!

Another problem is the dog that doesn’t receive too much exercise or none at all! If the dog just lies around the house all day without getting any exercise he will pack on the pounds very quickly.

A lot of pet owners think their dogs look adorable with the extra weight on them. In fact they think their dog is very healthy. After all, his coat is shiny, his eyes are bright and “Fido” is a very happy, content dog who doesn’t give them any problems. They don’t realize that all this “extra love” that they are giving their dogs can produce serious health problems. Overweight dogs can have the same health problems that their overweight owners may have…..diabetes mellitus which can be tricky to treat. Also the overweight dog can have a shorter life expectancy.

How does the pet owner know if his dog is overweight? A dog of normal weight should have an indentation at his waistline, and his ribs should be easily felt under his skin. An overweight dog will not have a waistline and there will be a thicker layer of fat over his ribs.

Besides over feeding your dog and not giving him enough exercise there is other factors that may be contributing to your dog’s weight problems. The dog may have health issues such as hyperthyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism, age, gender, and breed. The best thing for the owner to do is have his vet check the dog for any health problems.

If no health problems are found, the next thing you should look at is the quality and quantity of food you are feeding your dog. Many store brand and generic foods do not have the proper nutrients required to keep your dog healthy and fit. There are some foods on the market that are geared for the overweight dog. There are also prescription diets that are available. When switching to a different dog food, don’t just start him on the new food. Gradually introduce the food by mixing a bit of it with the food you already use. By the end of the week, you should have him eating just the new food. This will help reduce digestive problems like vomiting and loose stools. Feed your dog the amount that the label or your veterinarian recommends.

Dog treats and snacks need to be cut out from the dog’s menu. Many people feed their dogs the appropriate amount of food, but do not realize how high in calories many treats are. If you don’t want to cut out treats altogether, look for healthy snacks like carrots or ones that are low in calories. Read the labels. Stop feeding the dog leftovers and tell the rest of the family not to give him any more handouts. Stop letting the dog beg at the table. Put him away when the family is eating or give him a little obedience training like teaching him to lie still on the floor while the family eats. And stop looking at those big brown eyes that are begging you to throw him something. Just ignore him while you’re eating!

Another important factor in reducing your dog’s weight is providing him with the appropriate amount of exercise. Some people don’t understand that dogs require a lot of exercise to maintain proper health. If your dog is overweight, you should take him for a walk in the morning and the evening. Dog parks are an excellent place for both you and your dog to get exercise. Sign up for a class like agility or fly ball to help keep your dog active. Play lots of games like fetch and Frisbee. You have to be an active participant in your dog’s daily exercise. Besides it will be good for both of you. I know someone who pays for her dog to be exercised. Someone in her neighborhood jogs and she takes the dog with her. This is a group winning show dog whose owner is not able to exercise her dog the way that she would like. So now he goes for a jog everyday with someone else.

Weight loss in dogs should be very gradual. Don’t take drastic measures in trying to help your dog lose weight. In other words if you feed your dog 10 cups of food a day, don’t drop that down to feeding him 5 cups a food a day. Everything should be down gradually for the best results and not to shock your dogs system.

Sometimes an exhibitor will show his dog thinking that he looks great. After the class is over, he might be told by a friend or even the judge that he has a very nice dog but his back is loose and rolling. Most of the time this means that the dog is too heavy and he has not been given enough exercise. This is an athletic breed and nothing is more unattractive than looking at a dog that is not in tip top shape. Because one of the things that he will judged on is his movement, it is imperative that this dog is up to moving in a large ring without tiring out or looking sloppy.

So if health problems have been ruled out for the reason why your dog is overweight, then the only conclusion is that the dog is being overfed and not given enough exercise. With a German Shepherd dog you can tell by his attitude. This is a breed that needs to be exercised. He becomes very restless when he’s not. As I’ve said in other articles that I’ve written about this breed, he is not a happy dog when he’s not given something to do. Because of his need and love of being with you, exercising him brings out the happy side of this breed.

My rating: proper nutrition: (4), exercise: (4)

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