While we are enjoying our vacations, swimming, barbecuing and more, we need to monitor our pets’ health and diet as well! Obesity in dogs is one of the most common health issues diagnosed by a veterinarian. Over half of all pets are considered overweight or obese. Being overweight can lead to an increase in heart disease, diabetes, joint disease and more, and can shorten a pet’s lifespan by two years.
A dog’s weight is evaluated using a body condition score (BCS). This is a scale from one to nine, with one being too skinny and nine out of nine being morbidly obese. We recommend a BCS of four to five for a pet’s healthiest weight. To determine a BCS, a veterinarian will evaluate your pet for the feel of their rips, the angle of their belly, their waist and more. To see an example of body condition scoring, visit www.vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/body-condition-scores.
Here are a couple options for helping a pet to lose weight:
- Use a measuring cup to feed your pet. It is important to always keep track of exactly how much food your dog is getting with each meal, and the best way to do so is a measuring cup.
- Switch to a low-fat diet. There are many over-the-counter low-calorie diets that can help with weight loss. In addition, if those foods are not helping enough, there are prescription foods available for weight loss. These foods are formulated in a way to make your dog feel fuller with less calories. If you would like more information about prescription weight loss diets, ask your veterinarian.
- Increase exercise. It is great to get out and get active, and that is exactly what your dog needs. Be cautious in the extreme heat and try to do exercises in the early morning when it is cooler. Swimming is also a fantastic activity that will keep pets cool while working out.
- Decrease treats. It is amazing how many calories add up in daily treats. Treats should never be more than 10% of your pet’s daily calorie intake. It may help to switch to healthier treat options, such as carrots, green beans, or broccoli, or you can even use your pet’s weight loss food as treats.
- Slow feeder. If your pet is one to eat fast, we recommend using a slow feeder to prolong each meal. There are special bowls for slow feeding to keep pets feeling fuller with less food.
- Weigh your pet frequently. Many people weigh their pets only at their wellness exams every six months. Ideally, you should monitor your pet’s weight every two to three weeks to keep the weight loss plan on track and to adjust the diet as needed.
If you would like to have your pet’s body condition score evaluated, or discuss a weight loss plan, I recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian, who can also create a feeding plan to help the weight loss go as smoothly as possible.