Obesity in dogs is more than just a visual blemish, because it can have significant health consequences for the animals. Read here which diet is suitable for overweight dogs.
Obesity in dogs is by no means just an optical problem. Depending on the severity, it is a disease. Obesity (obesity) can cause significant other health problems, such as diabetes mellitus and joint diseases, but also skin problems and tumor diseases. In addition, the lifespan of overweight dogs can be shortened.
Identify obesity in dogs
Dog owners can usually judge for themselves whether their dog is overweight or not. The following points must be taken into account for this:
- Regular weighing: As a rule, dogs have reached their normal weight by the time they are fully grown (between one and two years depending on the breed), which can serve as a guide.
- Body Condition: On a dog of normal weight, the ribs should not be visible but should be felt with a slight pressure. The waist is clearly visible when viewed from above, and when viewed from the side, the abdominal line extends upwards towards the pelvis.
When is a dog overweight?
The following guideline values can be used to estimate the extent of overweight:
- Less than 10% above normal weight: slightly overweight
- from 10% over the normal weight: incipient obesity
- from 20% over the normal weight: manifest obesity
If obesity is manifest, a controlled, strict diet is essential. This requires a lot of consistency from the dog owner.
How does obesity come about?
Insofar as certain metabolic diseases such as hypothyroidism can be ruled out, the development of obesity is the result of an imbalance in the energy balance. This means that more energy is absorbed than the dog needs or uses up. At this point, a diet starts by reducing energy intake. It is important that the dog continues to take in all the essential nutrients in sufficient quantities despite the diet.
Factors such as genetics or neutering can also promote the development of obesity. Certain breeds tend to eat more food and gain weight as a result, as many Labrador, Cocker Spaniel or Beagle owners can attest to. Not every neutered dog automatically gains weight, but for many, food consumption increases as activity decreases, so the response should be to adjust the diet.
Measures for slightly overweight
If the dog is slightly overweight (less than 10% deviation from normal weight), the dog owner can decide for himself where the energy intake can be restricted. It is a good idea to reduce or completely omit treats. Many dog owners are not aware that various chews and dried meat products are very high in energy and therefore real calorie bombs. These include, for example, pig ears, pizzles, but also dried lungs, tripe, tendons or scalp.
If a dog does not get any treats, the food can be reduced slightly if it is slightly overweight. This should only be done for a short period of time. A maximum duration of the feed reduction is difficult to define in general, as it depends on the individual feed. If there is no weight reduction after about six to eight weeks, a veterinarian should be consulted.
In order not to have to do without treats completely, the following alternatives are possible:
- If you feed your dog dry food, this should also be used as a treat and deducted from the daily ration.
- If you feed them wet food, you can use dry food as a treat. The wet food is then reduced using the following rule of thumb: 10 g of dry food corresponds to approx. 40-50 g of wet food.
- For homemade rations, whether raw or cooked, 20 g fresh meat (raw weight) can be replaced by approx. 5 g dried muscle meat.
- With all forms of feeding, it is possible to use vegetables such as carrots or cucumbers as treats.
For dogs of normal weight, treats should account for a maximum of 10% of the daily energy intake. In dogs with diseases, including obesity, a maximum of 5% of the daily energy requirement should be covered by treats.
Diet for overweight dogs
If a dog’s body weight exceeds its normal weight by more than 10%, it is advisable to contact the vet directly. There are special diet foods for overweight dogs, both dry and wet food. Compared to standard dog food, these have a lower energy density. They have a reduced fat content and sufficient protein so that when you lose weight, fat mass is lost, but muscle mass is retained.
If dogs are fed or receive their own rations, it is possible to keep these forms of feeding. However, a balanced and individual calculation of the rations should then be carried out by specialized veterinarians, so that the requirements for an appropriate diet are guaranteed.
Feeding plays the main role in weight management. It can be supported by sufficient exercise, provided that there are no joint diseases.
Diet for dogs: not like this!
A “zero diet” should not be carried out on any overweight dog, not even for a few days. Otherwise there is a risk of an undersupply of minerals, vitamins and water. Furthermore, total food deprivation would lead to the loss not only of fat tissue, as desired, but also of muscle mass.
A reduction in the usual food over a longer period of time is also not recommended. This not only reduces the energy intake, but also the intake of individual nutrients, which, depending on the feed, can lead to an incorrect supply in the long term.
Weight reduction should be done very slowly and can take several weeks to months. The dog should lose a maximum of 2% of its current body weight per week.
Conclusion: feed dogs that are overweight
If a dog is slightly overweight, the owner can first try to regulate this himself, preferably with treats. If you are significantly overweight, you should see a veterinarian to discuss how to proceed.
However, it is best to prevent the development of obesity from the start, i.e. during the growth phase. Care should be taken to ensure a balanced diet, adequate energy intake and, in particular, a controlled administration of treats.