A dog’s weight can say a lot about their health.
Just like us, our furry friends need to maintain a healthy diet and stay at their recommended weight to live the longest, healthiest lives they can. With over half of the dogs in the United States being overweight, it is more important than ever to make sure pet parents are informed on the true state of their dog’s condition, so they can take the appropriate steps to rectify any health issues that may be present. Being a small animal veterinarian, I see so many pets that are overweight and are always working with pet parents to create an ideal diet and exercise plan for their pet.
Pet obesity is becoming an epidemic in our country and posing dangerous health concerns for our pets. Just like us, obesity can lead to many diseases and health concerns such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Skin disease
- Heart and respiratory disease
- Kidney disease
- Some cancers
- Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)
So, how can we ensure our pets are fit and have them living longer healthier lives? First, it is important to know what your pets ideal body weight should be and when your pet may be overweight. Small animal veterinarians utilize a Body Condition Score (BCS) Chart to assess the proper weight and body condition of a pet. BCS typically ranges from 1-9. Using this scale, I give each pet a score ranging from 1 to 9, with 5 being the ideal body weight. The score allows me to assess your pets weight and body condition to formulate a diet and exercise plan that best fits your pet. When assessing a score to your pet, I evaluate your pet’s silhouette from above and from the side focusing on the ribs, spine, hip bones, waist, abdomen, muscle mass, and overall fat. Ideally (a score of 5 out of 9), you should be able to see your pets waistline from above, and from the side your pets abdomen should appear tucked behind the rib. You should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs under a thin layer of fat. Below is a short description of each score on the BCS Chart to help assess where your pet falls. Always have your veterinarian evaluate and give your pet a BCS evaluation. They are your best resource for creating a proper diet plan and exercise regimen for your pet.
Now that we all have a better understanding of how your pet should look, perhaps your pet may have to lose some pounds. I always recommend consulting your veterinarian regarding the best, most healthy plan for your pet. Here are some tips on helping your pet lose weight and score a 5 out of 9 on the BCS scale:
- First, have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian and routine bloodwork performed to rule out systemic disease. Many times, weight gain can be from systemic illnesses such as hypothyroid.
- Measure Meals. Have your veterinarian establish the ideal body weight that your pet should be at and make that your pet’s goal weight. Once the ideal body weight has been established, feed your pet the recommended amount according to their ideal body weight.
- Establish a Feeding Schedule. Many pets graze on food all day that is left for them. With overweight pets, I do not recommend this method of feeding. Measure out the exact amount of food they should be getting, and give it to your pet at scheduled times throughout the day.
- Cut down on Dog Treats. I know this is a tough one but people do not realize how many calories treats can contribute to your pet’s diet. Just cutting out the treats alone, or switching to low fat treats, can result in weight loss for your pet. My fav? Science Diet Metabolic Treats.
- Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Just like us, pets need to exercise to lose weight. I love Chuckit, Kongs, and Petstages Tower Of Tracks toys to encourage exercise.
- Finally, if your pet is not responding to decreasing the treats, or the proper amount of food and exercise, please speak with your veterinarian regarding a low-fat diet. I recommend Wellness CORE Grain-Free Reduced Fat Turkey & Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food
Out pets depend on us to make the right choices for them and to keep them healthy and strong. Our pets give us so much love, devotion, and loyalty, so let’s give them the benefits of health, happiness, and a long wonderful life!