Q: I am worried that my dog might be getting fat. Will that cause him any problems and how do I know what his ideal weight should be?
A: First, you have to remember that not all dogs are created equal. A bulldog should not look like a greyhound or a maltese. That being said, the best guideline may be feeling your dog's ribs. Ball one hand into a fist and gently rub across your knuckles with the other hand - this is too thin. Now open your hand flat, palm up and gently feel over your knuckles on the palm side - this is too fat. Now flip your flat hand over and feel the knuckles again - this is the Goldilocks point. Now place your hands barely touching the skin over the ribs and compare. At least 25-40% are overweight or obese. For more tips and advice specific to your dog, please see your veterinarian.
Secondly, you have to consider the health risks of an overweight animal. Diabetes is one, but did you also know about the increased risk and severity of hip dysplasia, arthritis, and even skin infections. Two hidden risks: money (feeding more food, higher doses of medications, and more frequent/serious vet visits) and it shortens their life span. I am not talking about days or months, I mean years. A major study showed nearly two years less for labradors, and an increased risk of several health problems. My dog was 75 lbs. and needed pain meds twice a day for her hips. She lost 5 lbs. and hasn't needed the meds for more than 5 years.
You want to tackle this but your dog has his imprint on the couch and your cat laughs at you when you show him the leash or the treadmill. Now what? While exercise is great and always recommended, it only goes go so far. Diet and treats have the greatest affect on weight. Your pet food probably says "AAFCO: Approved for all life stages." That means that a pregnant dog or a puppy of the same weight will get enough calories and nutrition from the same food. Remember that pet food companies make more money if you feed more so they play a dirty trick. The feeding guide is meant for an Olympic sprinter. My dog is supposed to get 5 cups a day but any more than 2, and she gains weight. First try to cut out the treats, especially any table scraps or human food as they can be more calories than the whole meal. Second, switch to a true measuring cup and decrease 10% every month until you start to notice weight loss. Many vets will let you weigh your animal any time you want at no charge so weigh them each month and have them note it in the record. Tip: use several kibble from their next meal as their treat. Slow and steady wins the race.
With swimsuit and dog park seasons nearly upon us, now is the time to get your dog in top shape. Remember that a thin and healthy dog will cost you less, have less medical problems, a better quality of life, and live longer. Until next month, stay healthy, stay active, and ask yourself "Would you rather give the treat or have several extra years with your dog.