With 56% of dogs classified as clinically overweight, obesity in dogs is at an all-time high. The truth is, we all love spoiling our dog with treats, scraps and tasty human food - but this makes it easy for them to quickly pile on the pounds.
To find out if your pooch could do with going on a dog diet, simply feel around their rib and spine area. Ideally, you’ll easily be able to feel the ribcage - in a healthy dog, there’ll only be a thin layer of fat present. But if you struggle to find it, your pooch may be overweight.
The dangers of dog obesity
And while you might think it’s no big deal to have a dog who’s slightly on the chubby side, the consequences of dog obesity are terrifying.
“There is a variety of conditions that are much more present in obese dogs than in leaner ones. Extra pounds can make a dog’s life more difficult, dangerous and painful,” says Greg Martinez in The Dog Diet Answer Book.
Greg adds that obesity could lead to:
- A reduced lifespan of, on average, 1.8 human years
- Reduced quality of life due to an inability to move around and decreased energy
- A poor immune system, leaving the body more prone to infections
- Joint problems such as arthritis
- Breathing and heart problems
- Chronic cough and tracheal collapse
- Cancer, especially mammary and urinary
- Low thyroid levels
And it’s not just obesity which contributes to poor dog health. In fact, as little as 5 pounds excess weight can lead to an increased risk of a multitude of serious medical conditions and diseases. So, on that note - let's talk all things dog diet and start shedding those pounds!
Dog diet: top tips
Top Tip #1: Start a dog food diary
Most owners just don’t understand why their pup is overweight - but keeping a food diary will help you to understand what could be the culprit.
Buy a small notebook and keep it in your pocket. Record absolutely everything your pooch eats over a week - including scraps and treats. Hopefully, you'll notice a pattern - allowing you to cut out any overindulgences from your dog's diet.
Top Tip #2: Give them smaller portions
Large portions of dog food can easily lead to obesity. Recommended portions will vary from brand to brand, so read the label and always use a measuring cup. You’re probably feeding them much more than they need - it’s time for a dog diet!
Generally, multiple smaller meals throughout the day are much better than one large meal. Small, regular meals keep your pup’s blood sugar levels stable - so they’re much less likely to store excess calories.
Top Tip #3: Make dog food yourself
While there are plenty of great quality diet dog foods on the market, it’s a great idea to make dog diet food yourself. This way, you know exactly what's going into your dog’s body.
Aim for a high-protein, low-carb dog diet. This means lean meats such as chicken or turkey or low-fat dairy paired with fresh, green veg in place of grains. Red meats are no-go unless you cook them well, removing most of the fat.
Your dog will need around 3% of their body weight per day if they get plenty of exercise or 2.5% if they’re fairly inactive. However, we’d recommend checking with your vet as this may vary between breeds.
Top Tip #4: Check those labels
We understand that sometimes, there’s just not enough hours in the day to make homemade dog diet food. But if you’re opting for commercial food, always check the ingredients and pick a high-quality brand.
Ingredients are listed from the greatest to the smallest amounts present in the food. Ideally, you should be looking for a lean protein such as chicken, to top the list. Avoid foods which list ‘animal derivative’ as the top ingredient, as they’re probably very low quality - who knows whats actually in them (yuck!).
Top Tip #5: No more human food
It can be tempting to give the leftovers of your dinner to your pooch - but you really, really shouldn’t. While a little bit of lean meat here and there won’t do any harm, regularly treating them to oily, fatty, calorie-ridden human food will seriously up their calorie intake.
Top Tip #6: Cut down on the treats
We get it - you love to spoil your dog! But overindulging in large, fatty treats is sure to lead to weight problems.
Treats don’t always have to be calorie-packed, sugary goodies out a packet. Crunchy vegetables like carrot, protein like chicken or salmon, or a small piece of rice cake can work well, too. If this doesn’t work, try to select small, healthy commercial treats - ideally, 1 treat shouldn’t be bigger than your nail.
Whatever treats you choose to give your pup, make sure you’re counting the calories as part of your dog’s daily intake.
Combined with plenty of daily exercise, these dog diet tips should help to get your pooch back on the right track. Maintaining a healthy weight is incredibly important for dogs - so if you're struggling, you should definitely speak to your vet for further help and advice.