Nearly 60% of US Dogs are Overweight-Is Your Dog One of These?
Many of us are unwittingly killing our dogs with kindness by allowing them to become overweight or even obese. Most Shelties have mastered the skill of wheedling a few more treats out of their humans and gradually packing on pounds. And those long fluffy coats can conceal the excess pounds very easily. But excess weight dramatically shortens lifespans in our beloved dogs by causing diabetes, osteoarthritis, cardiopulmonary disease, decreased liver function, and hypertension. Overweight dogs are also more susceptible to various cancers and to an assortment of skin and hair coat problems. Their immune systems are weaker, they suffer heat and exercise intolerance, and all surgeries are higher risk for them. Here are some questions you might have:
1) How can I tell if my Sheltie is concealing an excess weight problem under that luxuriant coat?
Wet him down and check the following:
His ribs should be slightly prominent, easily felt, and have only a thin fat cover.
Viewed from above, you should see a very obvious lumbar waist.
Viewed from the side, dog should exhibit a sharp abdominal tuck.
Viewed from behind, dog should show clear muscle definition.
His tail base bones should be slightly prominent and easily felt.
The tail base should be covered with only a thin fat cover.
(2) But I feed my dog exactly what the dog food package suggests. Why is she overweight? Dog food labels nearly always overstate the amount of food needed. Feed your dog the amount needed to maintain the right weight and be sure to include all treats and table scraps in that amount.
(3) How many calories a day does my dog need?
Caloric requirements depend on age, activity level, and metabolic rate, so they will vary from dog to dog. But a typical 25-pound middle-aged Sheltie at his ideal weight might need about 550 calories a day. That’s not many.
(4) If my dog is overweight, should I buy special reduced fat or weight-loss dog food for him?
Probably not. We believe it’s better to feed very high quality food but in smaller amounts. Supplement with lots of veggies to fill him up. Most dogs quickly learn to love canned no-salt greet beans, canned pure pumpkin, squash, broccoli, and carrots. A scoop of plain non-fat yogurt can also be added. Remember dogs are omnivores, not carnivores like cats.
(5) But my dog is ALWAYS hungry. He gives me these imploring looks any time I eat something.
Right. That’s normal canine behavior. Most dogs think they’re hungry all the time and will beg constantly if encouraged. Don’t give in. Remember a small bite of steak is like a big hamburger for a Sheltie. Clip on his leash and take him for a walk instead.
(6) What about treats?
Here’s where many of us go wrong. We forget how many calories each of those little treats we hand out contains. Save the high value treats for difficult training sessions. For routine treats, try baby carrots, frozen green peas or beans, or a slice of apple.
(7) My dog inhales his food. Any way to slow him down? He might feel fuller if he ate more slowly.
Try putting his kibble in a kibble dispensing toy like the Contempo Tessa or the Magic Mushroom available at many online pet supplies stores. In his food bowl, put only a little chopped chicken or a spoonful of reconstituted dehydrated food like Honest Kitchen, plus lots of veggies. Meals may then last 30-40 minutes.
Or try one of the cool “go slow” bowls on Amazon.com that are designed to force the dog to work harder for his food.
(8) Can exercise alone slim down my dog?
Probably not, but it can sure help. Several good walks each day plus active play sessions will burn more calories and give your dog something besides food to think about. And those walks will be good for you, too. But you’ll still need to keep a close eye on her food intake and limit treats.
Obesity is the fastest growing canine health problem today. But it’s also one of the easiest health problems to solve. After all, a dog’s humans completely control his calorie intake. Help your dog enjoy a longer, healthier life by keeping her slim and trim. And, by the way, you’ll minimize your vet bills, too.
Written by: Martha Heisel Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue