How to prevent obesity in dogs

How to prevent obesity in dogs

Obesity in dogs is the number one cause of preventable health issues, with well over a third of all dogs in the UK thought to be overweight or obese. Veterinary surgeon and founder of VetChef, Dr Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS shares his tips in this helpful guide to help you maintain your dog’s healthy weight. 

Excess weight can cause a wide range of health issues including heart problems, diabetes, arthritis and many more. That’s why it is vital that we help our dogs maintain a healthy weight and reduce the chance of them becoming overweight.

Start young

Healthy weight control starts during puppyhood. As with children, weight gain at a young age tends to lead to lifelong issues. Getting your puppy’s diet right during those crucial first few months will lay the foundations for maintaining a healthy weight throughout their lives. It will also massively reduce their chances of suffering from serious, life-limiting health problems as they age.

Food choice

There are many ways to feed your dog. Options range from fresh food to complete dry food, and some regimes make it easier to manage weight than others. The important thing with complete diets is to feed according to the instructions on the packaging as per your dog’s recommended weight. If you don’t know this, you should ask your vet. If you decide to feed your dog a fresh food diet, do your homework to make sure that it is one that is nutritionally balanced and tailored for your dog’s age, breed, activity level and health status.

Weigh regularly

Whatever feeding regime you choose for your puppy, the two most important rules to follow when monitoring their food intake are to:

  1. Weigh your dog regularly
  2. Closely monitor their body condition.

Regular weighing allows you to adjust the amount of calories you’re feeding everyday to match their requirements accurately. Dry foods all have a feeding guide which tell you how much to feed your dog based on their weight. This is the best place to start when working out how much food your puppy needs each day.

Body condition scoring

Even with an up-to-date value for your dog’s weight, and an accurate feeding plan in place, it is still possible to over or under feed a growing puppy. Every dog is an individual and there are lots of variations in lifestyle and genetics that can influence how much energy they need every day. Therefore, it’s important to monitor how they are responding to their diet on a regular basis. The best way to do this is using a simple process called body condition scoring. At its simplest, this just involves looking at your puppy and then running your hands over their ribs and hips. 

A healthy pup will have a thin but definite covering of fat under their skin, but not so much that the bones of the ribs and hips are difficult to see or feel. You should easily be able to feel the ribs when you run your hands over their flanks, but they shouldn’t be obvious when looking at them. If it’s hard to feel the ribs, and there’s no obvious waist between the ribs and hips, your puppy is carrying a little too much body fat and you should slightly reduce their daily food ration. If the ribs and hips are prominent and very easy to feel, increase their food until they reach a healthier body condition.

Watch this helpful video from the PDSA about how to use the body condition score to monitor your dog’s weight.

If you follow these basic principles, and make sure you’re feeding a healthy diet of freshly made food or good quality processed food, you’ll ensure your dog grows up at a healthy weight and can enjoy a long, happy and healthy life.

Dr Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS is the founder of VetChef, which uses an AI-powered algorithm to create bespoke recipes for dogs based on information about their age, breed, activity level and health status. Find out more at  www.vetchef.co.uk.

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