No matter what breed, size, or age of four-legged friend you may own, managing their weight plays a key role in maintaining a happy and healthy dog.
According to statistics by YouGov, 43% of the British population made resolutions in 2022 to lose weight or become more active in the New Year. With statistics like these, it is impossible to ignore our desires to become happier and healthier – but are we doing the same with our pets?
Studies conducted by the Royal Veterinary College found that 1 in 14 dogs seen by vets across Britain were likely to be diagnosed overweight or obese highlighting our need for awareness around canine obesity and helping us understanding just how important it is to manage our dog’s weight.
Here at Soopa, a brand built around the creation of low-fat and healthy alternatives to dog treats, we have some information below to help you understand your dog’s weight and how to manage it effectively so your four-legged friend lives a long and happy life.
Determining a Dog’s Body Condition
For us humans, we may notice weight gain or loss by the feel of our clothes. We have all been there in the post-festive months when our jeans feel a little snugger than the month before. However, understanding your dog’s body condition is much easier than you might think and easily managed at home.
The Body Condition Score Test is a chart that helps determine if your dog is underweight, at an ideal weight, overweight or reaching obesity. Graded from 1-9, your dog’s shape and appearance can determine how healthy they are. Ideally, dogs should score around the 4-5 mark suggesting their weight and body shape is exactly what it should be.
The Body Condition Score Test
1-3 – This indicates your dog is underweight and requires extra calories to maintain energy, joint and muscular support. Your dog’s ribs and lumbar may be visibly boney and the waist line is extremely small when looking from above.
4-5 – This is the ideal body shape for your dog suggesting their weight is healthy and their body is in the correct condition. Their abdomen is tucked nicely, and their ribs can be felt with minimal effort.
6-9 – This indicates your dog is becoming overweight and at risk of being obese. The waistline is no longer visible, and their abdominal tuck is not present. You will also notice fat deposits on hind and limbs and your dog appearing more rounded.
Weighing Your Dog
Having your dog weighed is a fundamental part of maintaining their health and wellbeing. According to Veterinary advice, dogs with no existing health conditions and who are fully grown should be weighed between 6 months to a year. This can be done either at home or in your veterinary surgery.
For puppies, weighing needs to be more frequent to manage healthy growth. For the first 6 months of your pup’s life, they need to be weighed every 4 weeks. It is expected that puppies gain 5-10% of their body weight each day to support their development.
If your dog suffers from health conditions such as diabetes, weight management is vital for health. Your veterinarian may recommend weighing your dog more regularly to ensure any complications stemming from the disease is avoiding.
The Risks of Being Overweight or Underweight
Your dog’s weight needs to be appropriately managed to ensure their health is in tip top condition. Despite all the concerns around overweight dogs and obesity, having an underweight dog is just as risky to health. So, with both problems posing health risks to your pooch, here’s all you need to know about the risks of weight problems in your dog.
One of the primary risks of your dog being overweight is the strain it can put on the cardiovascular system. Like us, as dogs gain excessive fat, these fatty deposits can sit in arteries and after years of build-up can create issues such as heart disease and create fatal issues such as heart attacks. Minimising fat build is a great way of reducing the risk of heart disease in your four-legged friend.
Another major factor affected by weight is your dog’s muscles and joints. With weight gain, increased pressure is put on the joints and limbs leading to potential skeletal problems like arthritis. This can be significantly painful for your dog and can minimize their desire for exercise and play ultimately affecting their mental health too.
Just like overweight issues, if your dog is under their ideal weight, this can also cause significant strain on muscles and joints as they do not have the strength for movement. Underweight dogs often present as extremely nutrient deficient lacking vitamins such as A, C and E which are vital for joint and skin support, immunity, and heart health. Without these vital vitamins, your dog is at risk of illness as their body doesn’t have enough support to fight off bacteria and anti-bodies.
Another risk of your dog being underweight is particularly significant in owners wishing to breed. Having an underweight female can reduce the hormones your dog produces creating issues with reproduction and fertility.
Ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight is a sure-fire way of keeping them happy, healthy, and living the best life they possibly can. With both conditions reducing your dog’s life span, not managing their weight can potentially reduce the amount of time you spend with them.
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Weight
One of the main ways of maintaining your dog’s weight is through diet. Ensuring your dog is on the correct food can reduce the likelihood of weight gain and obesity. From a balanced diet to regular exercise, here’s our top tips for maintaining a healthy weight for your dog.
It is recommended that your dog’s diet consist of at least 50% protein base to support muscle growth and development. Choosing low-quality food for your dog means their diet can be comprised of meat derivatives (often made up of low-grades foods) and bulked with complex carbohydrates contributing factors to weight gain and obesity. Choosing food with good levels of protein and fibre can help regulate the digestive system minimising the likelihood of constipation and weight gain.
Between adulthood and seniority, your dog should be fed no more than once or twice a day, dependent on their breed and activity. Follow guidelines from the food you buy and recommended serving portions to avoid under or overfeeding.
Our dogs need exercise just as much as we do (if not more!) so it is vital to get your pooch in the great outdoors as much as possible. For active breeds like Labradors and spaniels, who are also prone to weight gain and obesity, exercise should vary between 1-3 hours per day. This could be a combination of outdoor and indoor play, playing fetch or a long walk. Not only will regular exercise benefit the health and wellbeing of your dog, but it is also a great stress reducer for humans too shown to massively improve our mental health.
Did you know dogs are prone to SAD just as much as humans? So, in darker and colder months, getting outdoors when the light is out is more important than ever.
Manage Treats & Rewards
We all know how much our dogs love a tasty treat but they can be the leading contributor to weight gain. Treats should take up no more than 10% of your dog’s diet and should be given sporadically to avoid excessive weight gain.
Here at Soopa, our range of healthy bites and chews are the perfect reward for your four-legged friend as they both low-fat and low-calorie making them an ideal way to reward your pooch during periods of training. At just 3 calories per bite, our range of healthy bites, are suitable for any breed, size and even age of dog and are packed with healthy and wholesome fruits and vegetables providing your boost with a plant-based, healthy alternative to meat-based snacks.
If you are concerned about your dog’s weight, whether you feel they are not gaining weight efficiently or gaining too much weight, we would always advise seeking support from your vet who can provide advice and guidance to manage your dog’s weight appropriately.
Supporting your Dog’s Weight
With Winter finally coming a close and Spring just around the corner, there is no better time to get more active with your four-legged friend and help to manage your dog’s weight in happy and healthy way.
Using the Body Condition Score Test is the best way of visible determining your dog’s weight and be sure to seek veterinary support if you have concerns around your dog’s weight and wellbeing.
With simple changes to their eating routines, their management of treats and investing in healthy and wholesome alternatives, keeping your dog’s weight to the ideal recommendations is easier than ever before.