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Health Article


Wednesday, May 19th 2010

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Obesity in Dogs

Author: Wiki Pet

Pet Health Articles
Obesity in Dogs
For dogs just as with people, excess fat on the body contributes to many serious health problems and may shorten the dog's lifespan. It has been estimated that up to 40 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight. The majority of this obesity is due to overfeeding primarily from feeding snacks and treats between meals, inadequate exercise, and feeding human food or table scraps.

How does it happen?

One of the quickest ways to fatten up your pets is to feed them fatty, high calorie, and hard to digest human foods. A perfect real-world example of this would be Sally, a wirehair Jack Russel terrier. A recent guest in the house began feeding Sally table scraps, not realizing the impact this would have on the dog's fragile digestive system. Within 3 months and with no other major changes in lifestyle, Sally went from a breed average 15lbs all the way to 25lbs! That is a 44 percent increase in body weight in only a 3 month time frame. Sally is one of many to see a significant increase in body weight due to the inappropriate feeding of human food to dogs, even in small portions.

Other Health Complications Arising from Obesity

Obesity can complicate diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal problems. Obesity will also shorten the duration of and decrease the quality of the pet's life.

How much should I feed my dog?

Every name brand of dog food on the market today has tailored a food serving size chart specific to the caloric needs of dogs in the entire size range. These recommended servings are a baseline for a dog of a certain size and weight. If, for instance, you have a dog that is around 85lbs and quite definitely on the hefty side, you will not want to feed the recommended amount for an 85lb dog. Ask your vet what the true weight of the dog should be and adjust your baseline serving size to this appropriate weight. The final quantity of food your dog needs is determined by a few factors:
  • Activity level - If you are able to frequently exercise your dog with games like fetch, daily trips to the local dog park, or maybe a jog around your neighborhood, your dog is most likely not obese and you will want to consider increasing the serving size slightly to accommodate this active pets needs. You may also find it beneficial to transition to a high protein food such as EVO to help maintain an anabolic environment in the dog's body and maintain lean muscle growth. If your pet happens to fall a little short on daily activities, consider slightly reducing the serving size of the food. In either case, you should consider splitting the dog's meals in half daily. At a daily food requirement of 2 cups, you will feed 1 cup in the morning and one cup in the evening (around your dinner time). This will help the pet to receive a steady flow of calories throughout the day, and create a more regular schedule for bathroom breaks.
  • Quality of food - The caloric and nutritional value of dog foods varies widely. See our article on How to Choose the Right Pet Food to learn more about the wide range of dog food quality standards. As a common rule, the more nutritionally sound the food is, the less a dog will need to eat. Foods that are high in fillers such as corn are significantly less beneficial to the dogs nutritional needs and require a larger serving size.
  • Individual variation - Your dog will have specific needs due to unique genetic dispositions that are not just associated with the temperament and look of the dog. For instance, two dogs from the same litter may require different serving sizes to maintain the ideal body weight.

The Healthy Dog

On a healthy dog, you should be able to feel the ribs as individual structures. Looking down at the dog's chest from above, you should see a well defined narrowing below the rib cage and above the hips. If you can't feel the individual ribs, and the dog has lost the definition in the waist, she may be carrying too much fat.

Transitioning to a high-quality, low-calorie or low-fat diet is a great way to begin the safe reduction of excess weight. One distinction I would like to emphasize here is the high-quality of the food. Low-quality store brand foods tend to reduce calories by increasing nutrition-less fillers such as corn. Ingredients such as this are undesirable in dogs and should be avoided. Better brands replace heavier proteins with lower calorie proteins such as chicken and increase the rice content of the food (a favorable source of carbohydrates).

One of the best games to play to provide a daily exercise outlet is the time tested, dog approved game of fetch. Great new tools such as the ChuckIt™ and other similar toys allow you to launch a ball like a super-hero with minimal effort, and many of these devices allow you to pick up slobbery balls without getting your hands goey! Playtime should take place in the morning and evenings in hotter climates to avoid causing serious health concerns such as heat stroke, especially prevalent in overweight dogs or even healthy weight thick coated dogs such as the Great Pyrenees.


While it may seem like you are spoiling your dog with salty, seasoned table scraps or heaping piles of dog food available for at all times of the day, may actually begin a cycle of behavior issues (begging ect..), health problems, and an extremely quick onset of pet obesity.

Feed a measured amount of high quality clean protein dog food, provide a daily outlet for exercise, and your pet will thrive and be healthy. With all this new knowledge of the basics of pet nutrition, take a few minutes to determine a good serving size for your pet using the recommended serving size chart usually located on the bottom rear of the dog food bag. Some manufacturers may also place this information on the sides of or possibly inside of the bag. Don't forget to split the feeding times in two, to help with calorie consumption and energy management.

Next, run to the grocery store and pickup a glass Pyrex™ brand measuring cup and get in the habit of measuring each and every meal. The glass measuring cups work as a perfect food scoop, are easily cleanable, and very durable. After just a few weeks of your new plan, you should begin to see quantifiable results in the form of weight loss, an increase in energy and willingness to play, and possibly a more behaviorally balanced pet!

Tagged: Obesity In Pets, Fat Pets, Overweight Dogs, Overweight Cats, Feeding Dogs Human Food


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2 Comments For "Obesity in Dogs"

Jennifer Krom

Jennifer Krom

I have so many clients who say they feel bad not giving their dogs the food they are eating, but i make sure to let them know obesity shortens their dogs lives! Its not worth it friends!

May 17, 2010 at 7:35PM  Sign In or Join to Comment

Bill Krom

Bill Krom

Dogs don't want to be fat, so they rely on you to help them stay slim and fabulous with exercise, dog food only, and strict portions. You can make a measurable difference in the length of your pets life by taking these great steps!

May 21, 2010 at 2:44PM  Sign In or Join to Comment