‘How much should my dog weigh?’ The big health issue facing today’s dogs
January 5, 2020
Do you know what your dog should weigh and how much to feed them to stay slim, fit and healthy? Read on to find out why size does matter and how to make sure your dog stays in tip-top condition.
According to UK vets, overweight and obese pets is one of their top concerns. A survey of veterinary professionals by the PDSA found that almost half of our dogs (46%) are overweight or obese. The reality is that our pet pooches are rapidly becoming porkers.
So what can be done to tackle the fast expanding waistlines of our canine companions?
Just like humans, dogs can easily put on weight. Obesity in dogs is just as serious as it is in humans. It is associated with several health risks including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and arthritis. This is why it is so important for your dog to maintain a healthy weight, with a good diet and regular exercise.
Veterinary professionals and pet food experts have identified four main culprits that can lead to dogs becoming overweight and obese. These are:
How much should I feed my dog?
The amount you should feed your dog is based on the ideal weight for their breed or crossbreed. Start by finding out how much your dog should weigh. If you don’t have this information to hand, your vet will be able to tell you.
Then, using the guidance provided on the packaging of your dog’s food, work out how much you should be feeding them. If you have a puppy, they need to be fed a specially formulated diet to help them develop and grow.
Measure the amount to feed your puppy or adult dog according to the instructions on the food packaging. For puppies, this will be based on the size your puppy is expected to reach as a adult. The guidelines are based on the amount your dog should be fed per day. If your dog is fed twice a day you will need to divide this amount into two portions.
Take a look at these examples of dog feeding guidelines:
- Purina’s puppy feeding chart
- Pedigree’s dog feeding guidelines
- James Wellbeloved’s dog feeding guidelines
If you have a new puppy, this is the best time to establish a good feeding regime. Start by asking your vet what your puppy’s ideal weight will be as an adult. Then refer to the feeding guidelines on your puppy’s food to work out the amount to feed them. And make sure everyone else in the family know this and sticks to it too.
The do’s and don’ts of feeding treats and scraps
You can feed your dog treats but in moderation and counted as part of your dog’s daily calories. Avoid high calorie treats such as cheese and replace with healthy alternatives such as sliced apple, carrots and blueberries.
Take care with leftovers from the dinner table. Things like fatty meat, sauces and pasta can be high in calories and not good for your dog. You can feed them leftover vegetables, but remember to count them as part of your dog’s daily calories. Make sure you avoid human foods which are toxic to dogs, such as onion, garlic and chives.
Feeding scraps from the dinner table can lead to bad habits both in your dog and with other family members. This is because it creates an expectation that your dog will get scraps so they are more likely to beg while you are eating. Which in turn may encourage family members – children in particular – to give the dog a treat. Dogs are pretty savvy at using their puppy dog eyes to acquire a sneaky treat from children. You can establish good feeding habits by only giving treats to your dog as a reward for positive behaviour, rather than as extra snacks.
How much exercise does my dog need?
All dogs benefit from regular exercise. The amount they need will depend on a number of factors, including their breed and age. Check out this helpful ‘ruff’ guide from the PDSA on how much exercise each breed of dog needs.
Do you use a fitbit to monitor your own activity? If so, you may consider getting one that’s been designed for dogs to monitor your dog’s exercise and support a weight-management plan.
How do I know if my dog is overweight?
As with humans, it’s not always easy to notice if your dog gains a bit of extra weight. By regularly monitoring their weight, you will be able to spot small gains before they become big problems.
There are two easy ways you can do this at home:
- Weigh your dog. This is a good option for small or medium sized dogs. It doesn’t work so well for big dogs. Using your bathroom scales, start with you standing on the scales and make a note of how much you weigh. Step off and step on again, this time holding your dog. Make a note of this weight. Then deduct your weight (the first number) from your weight combined with your dog’s (the second number). This is your dog’s weight. Compare this to how much your dog should weigh. If you don’t know, your vet will be able to tell you.
- Assess your dog’s body weight. Body condition scoring is a quick and easy way to assess if your dog is carrying more weight than they should. Watch this helpful video from the PDSA which explains how to assess your dog’s weight using this method.
What to do if your dog is overweight
We don’t always like to admit it if we’ve put on a few pounds – and it’s not uncommon to feel the same way about our dogs too. Maybe it’s the thought of the hard work that comes with dieting. But the hard work will be worth it for getting your dog back into a healthy condition.
You may find it helpful to create a food diary for your dog. This can be particularly good if there are lots of people in the house who feed your dog or may be tempted to give them a sneaky treat when you’re not looking. The Pet Food Manufacturers Association has produced this helpful food diary, which you can print out and stick on the wall. You can use it to monitor what you are feeding your dog, how much exercise they are getting and the progress made towards their weight loss target.
To summarise, if you are a new puppy owner, start as you mean to go on with good feeding habits:
Most vets offer a pet health plan, which includes a regular weigh-in and health check. These are great opportunities to discuss any weight-management issues or health concerns about your dog with your vet.
Do you have any dog weight-loss tips to share with our community? Or perhaps a tasty recipe for healthy low-calorie dog treats?
Main image photo credit: iStock