Obesity in dogs is not a cakewalk, but a real danger. It is estimated that around 25% of all dogs in Germany are overweight – that’s every fourth dog! How to recognize obesity in dogs, what consequences obesity can have, and how dogs can get rid of it can be read here.
Obesity as a Risk
Effects of obesity in dogs
The effects of obesity in dogs have been proven to be fatal. While an extra pound or two on a human’s ribs is annoying but hardly threatening, the same weight on a dog can be almost a death sentence.
As previously discussed, a lifetime excess weight of just 2kg will shorten the lifespan of medium-sized dogs like the Labrador Retriever by 2 years compared to ideal-weight dogs.
Being overweight isn’t funny in and of itself. You know it yourself: the heavier you are, the less comfortable you feel. Everything is more strenuous and the body generally lacks energy. The joints are also subjected to more stress and can wear out.
But the organs of the dog also suffer from permanent obesity. Being overweight can lead to fatty organs, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and lameness, among other things. In order to protect the dog from these, obesity should be prevented if possible or the weight should be reduced.
There are a number of ways to find out whether a dog is overweight or not. Of course, the safest way is to ask your veterinarian or dog trainer for advice. The ideal weight varies with the dog’s size, breed, and gender. Here we present three methods that help identify obesity.
Body Condition Score
The first method is to assess the dog using the body condition score scale. The body condition score provides information about the general condition of the body. This rating is often used in livestock farming to assess the condition of cows, for example. The scoring takes into account the thickness of layers of fat at different points on the body. The end result is a score of 1-5 points. 1 point stands for alarming underweight, 3 points are ideal and 5 points indicate that the animal is obese.
The body condition score can be measured by the vet or by yourself. The following table gives a guide to roughly placing your own dog on the scale.
Determine ideal weight
The weight of the dog can also be monitored without determining the body condition score. It is advisable to think about the ideal weight of the dog. Of course, the ideal weight depends on the breed, size, and sex of the dog. For many breeds, there are recommendations for the weight of dogs belonging to this breed (see table below). For mixed breeds, it’s a good idea to find out about weight recommendations for similar breeds.
Rapid Overweight Test
By the way, this is a quick and easy way to estimate the weight of your own dog. You grab the dog’s sides and try to feel the ribs. If this is easily possible, the dog is definitely not overweight. A small greasy film is allowed. However, if you can feel a clear layer of fat over the ribs or if you can’t find the ribs at all, you should act!
Lose weight with a dog
In order to reduce the dog’s weight, a well-thought-out plan is necessary. Weight loss should be steady, slow, and controlled. Dieting too radically or losing weight too quickly can be just as damaging to the body as being overweight itself.
Sport for overweight dogs
While dogs should of course get enough exercise, care must always be taken to ensure that the dog is not overwhelmed. Especially with a few extra pounds on your ribs, the joints and heart in particular suffer from heavy exertion. For now, the dog’s movement units should be increased slowly.
For example, the daily walk can simply be increased by 5 minutes every week. Even with this small extension, the dog (and the master or mistress) gets more exercise for over an hour a week. This creates a basic condition so that the dog is soon fit for real sports. In addition, energy is consumed and the dog can lose weight.
Another good activity for overweight dogs is swimming. Swimming or simply walking through water requires a lot of strength and energy. At the same time, swimming is easy on the joints, making it a prime entry-level sport.
Once the dog is used to exercising again, other sports such as frisbee and bicycling can also be considered. But the following always applies: Don’t overwhelm your dog!