Did you know that more than half of all American dogs are overweight? According to the APOP (Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, founded in 2005), a whopping 52.7% of American dogs are fat! The main contributing factor to this epidemic is the so called “Fat Gap” ~ referring to the unbelievable 93% (!) of owners of obese dogs who believe their dog’s weight is normal ~ this was the surprising result of a study conducted by the APOP in 2013.Why Are So Many Dogs Obese?Many owners have been conditioned by their pooches to dish out food whenever they “bark for some”, and to substitute attention with an increased amount of food and/or treats.
Did you know that dog obesity is a thing, and that more than half of all American dogs are overweight?
According to the APOP (Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, founded in 2005), a whopping 59% of American dogs were classified as fat or obese in 2022?!
The main contributing factor to this epidemic is the so called “Fat Gap”.
This gap refers to the unbelievable 93% (!) of owners of obese dogs who believe their dog’s weight is normal ~ this was the surprising result of a study conducted by the APOP in 2013.
How To Take Control Of Dog Obesity
Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated in 2023. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you.
Why Are So Many Dogs Obese?
Many owners have been conditioned by their pooches to dish out food whenever they “bark for some”, and to substitute attention with an increased amount of food and/or treats.
Begging dogs are rewarded with table scraps due to their pleading, “sad” doggie eyes owners just can’t resist.
Additionally, these dogs don’t get regular exercise.
Breeds especially prone to weight gain due to genetic predisposition are:
- Labrador Retrievers
- Cairn Terriers
- Cocker Spaniels
- Shetland Sheepdogs
- Basset Hounds
Physical Signs Of An Obese Dog
1. You can’t feel their ribs when you run your hands down your dog’s sides
2. The dog doesn’t have a waistline
3. The dog’s stomach sags
Health Risks In Obese Dogs
Dogs who are overweight are much more prone to:
- Respiratory difficulties
- Joint problems
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
Their quality of life is compromised, and their life expectancy drops drastically due to their overall decreased immune function.
Vet Check Up For Obese Dogs
If you suspect that your pooch belongs to the overweight half of America’s doggie population, please consult your vet to rule out any diseases contributing to obesity.
- Insulinoma (tumor occurring in the pancreas causing increased insulin production)
- Diabetes mellitus (not depending on insulin)
- Abnormalities in pituitary gland (controls metabolism & appetite)
- Cushing’s disease
However, these diseases only occur in 5% of dogs.
Once your vet has diagnosed obesity in your dog, he’ll discuss a diet plan for your pup.
Depending on his size, he should loose an average of 1-5 lbs per month.
The weight loss program should last about 6-8 months.
Tackling Those Excess Pounds In Obese Dogs
If a dog is completely out of shape, start building up his stamina very slowly, and increase the amount of exercise on a daily basis.
Severe cases of underexercised dogs may only be able to walk down the driveway and back home for the first few days.
It’s likely they’ll still be panting as if they had just returned from a 5 hour hike.
Sadly enough, I’ve experienced this in my capacity as a professional dog walker.
But, I’ve also experienced the fairly quick turnaround of consistent daily exercise for a few weeks.
As with all things in life, consistency and discipline are key in weight control.
Types of Exercise To Help Tackle Dog Obesity
1. Daily, brisk walks for a minimum of 30 mins.
2. Playtime & trick training.
3. Swimming for those who like it, which is especially gentle on joints.
For more information on where to take your dog swimming, click here.
You’ll also learn about water safety tips, fun dog toys that float & more!
Diet Tips To Help Tackle Dog Obesity
1. Feed a high-quality diet – you won’t find this kind of dog food at your grocery store!
You’ll have to purchase it at an online pet food store like Raw Paws Pet Food (save 15% with code K9Savings), or make it yourself.
For some input on the latter, please check out my homemade raw dog food section here on the blog.
2. Don’t feed any dog food that contains cheep fillers like corn, artificial food-coloring, and harmful chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT, TBHQ, and Ethoxyquin.
Avoid Overfeeding Your Dog To Tackle Dog Obesity
1. Monitor the amount you feed by taking notes. That way, you don’t lose track.
2. Don’t free-feed, but measure out meals, ideally at set times.
If you feed kibble and use a free feeder, only place the equivalent of one meal inside the feeder.
3. Don’t give in to begging; even better: Don’t allow begging!
Just ignore those “sad” puppy eyes.
No Unhealthy Table Scraps
1. Don’t feed your dog unhealthy, greasy leftover human foods.
2. Make sure your entire family is on the same page.
3. Instruct guests not to share any of their leftovers either.
Minimize The Treat QUANTITY & Maximize The Treat QUALITY Instead
1. Limit dog treats to a maximum of 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake.
If you use treats for training purposes, make sure to use low-calorie treats, and don’t forget to cut back on your pup’s daily food intake.
2. Only feed healthy limited- or single-ingredient treats.
Choose the kind that are rich in natural glucosamine and chondroitin.
Both benefit your dog’s joints and help with arthritis.
Check out my healthy doggie popsicle recipes here – spoiler alert: some of them feature duck feet.
3. Have your pup work for treats, don’t just hand them out whenever he “asks” for one!
Have him perform a trick (e.g. “rollover“), or at least a basic command such as “sit” or “down” before giving him a goodie.
A little discipline regarding doggie mealtime & exercise will go a long way!
Let’s all take the pledge to be responsible dog owners, and providing a long and healthy life for our canine companions.
After all, they’re our best friends ~ don’t they also deserve the best treatment?
How do you ensure your pup stays in the healthy half of American dogs? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!
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