Canine Obesity is a Global Epidemic
Canine obesity is a growing problem all over the world. In the United States, for example, it’s estimated that 56% of dogs are overweight or obese. The numbers are even worse for cats.
In Australia we aren’t doing any better.
According to the Australian Veterinary Association, about 41% of domestic dogs are overweight or obese.
Keep in mind those numbers are a dozen years old and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the rates haven’t increased since then.
With people doting on their pets (I understand that) and equating love with food, it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that canine obesity in dogs is a growing epidemic.
While I agree that if we love our dogs we should feed them well, that doesn’t mean we have any right to feed them excessive amounts of even the most excellent food.
It’s a simple equation: too much food equals weight gain.
Body Condition Scoring for Dogs
As they say, the first step in rectifying a problem is to admit there’s a problem in the first place.
This is where you need to get brutally honest and stop pretending that your pudgy pet is cute.
Your roly-poly pet is fat.
So, how can you tell if your obese dog needs to lose weight?
Vets use a Body Condition Score (see chart below) to determine where your dog falls on a 9 point scale.
A dog that’s a 9 in this scoring system is in big trouble, health-wise.
Deposits of body fat are obvious over the back, around the neck and at the base of the tail. The dog’s stomach bulges and there’s no sign of a waistline. Feeling any ribs is pretty much impossible.
A dog with a healthy weight scores a 4 or 5. You can feel their ribs quite easily (though they shouldn’t be sticking out) and, when you look at your dog from the side there’s a distinct tummy tuck. Have a look at the images in the accompanying chart and then go assess your dog.
Be clinical about it. This is no time for sentimentality.
Other Signs Your Dog Could Lose a Few Kilograms
Just like their human counterparts, dogs that are overweight find it harder to exercise.
You’ll notice that they get out of breath easily or may be reluctant to head out on long walks. The couch may become the preferred place to hang out.
If you are noticing these external signs of sluggishness, just imagine what’s going on inside your dog’s body.
The heart and lungs are working harder to function, the joints suffer when a dog carries excess weight and body systems controlling glucose and insulin levels in the blood get thrown out of whack.
The irony of course, is that exercise is a key component in maintaining good health and optimal weight: the more an overweight dog should be exercising, the less energy, stamina or interest they are likely to have when it comes time to head out to the dog park.
How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
Just as with humans embarking on a weight loss program, consult with your veterinarian before drastically changing your dog’s diet, food intake or exercise program.
Make sure there are no underlying health concerns you need to be aware of.
Once you have the all-clear, the strategy is much the same in a weight loss program for dogs as it is for people.
Reduce the dog’s daily calorie intake and make sure your dog is engaged in an appropriate daily exercise regime.
Weight loss doesn’t take place overnight.
The slow, steady approach is much healthier and safer and will get your dog where you want them to be before you know it.
If your dog is really obese, you may need to start with short, gentle activities and gradually build up to longer, more vigorous outings.
If your dog can’t deal with great long walks quite yet build in multiple short walks throughout the day.
Choose low-calorie, healthy snacks like slices of cucumber or provide your dog with a raw meaty bones.
A good bone can take many hours of work to thoroughly demolish, which is much healthier than offering high-calorie foods and treats (like lumps of cheese) that disappear in a flash and don’t provide the same mental stimulation or benefits for your dog’s dental health
How Your Dog Benefits From Maintaining Ideal Weight and Body Condition Score
Given the increased risk of various medical conditions in our companion animals when they are overweight, it’s shocking to me that so many people still turn a blind eye to this problem.
A healthy dog is a happy, active dog. And, a healthy active dog is a much better companion than one who can’t heave itself off the couch or into the back of the car so you can get to the beach for a long walk.
I don’t know about you, but I love spending time with my dog and it has always struck me as a terrible design flaw that a dog’s lifespan is so much shorter than a human’s.
Dogs that maintain their ideal weight live longer than overweight dogs.
That’s good news for dog lovers because it means we get to have more time with our pets.
Rawmate Has Drawn a Line in the Sand
I know we can come across as being a bit on the militant side when it comes to dogs, nutrition and pet obesity. The fact is, we owe it to our dogs to look after them properly and that obligation includes not feeding them too much.
Really, there’s no excuse for your dog to be carrying any extra weight.
Here are three things we are doing to help your dog reach and maintain its ideal weight.
1. Portion Control
I know there are a handful of exceptions out there but generally speaking, dogs love to eat.
In nature, they are designed to gorge when the hunt has been good and there’s an opportunity to fill their bellies. Personally, I think this is one of the biggest contributors to our tendency to overfeed dogs. Eating makes them happy. Watch those tails wag when the food bowl comes out! I mean, they’ll even scarf down terrible quality kibble, which is saying something.
It's not so hard to understand that we want to make their pleasure and delight last longer than the 12 seconds it may take for them to disappear the food in their bowl. We get it. But the fact your dog enjoys food does not give us any right to feed them even a gram more than they need.
At Rawmate, portion control is just as important to our program as making sure the ingredients in our meals are top quality. That’s why we go to the bother of asking you all those questions about your dog and why we provide portions that reflect your dog’s ideal weight and not necessarily your dog’s current weight.
2. Human Grade Whole Food Ingredients
When you feed your dog a Rawmate meal, rest assured you’ll be providing absolutely top notch, excellent quality, human grade whole food ingredients.
There’s nothing processed, artificial or chemical in our meals. We go to great lengths to provide a complete, well-balanced, natural diet using ethically produced and sourced ingredients. And we go to all that trouble because we genuinely believe that there are few things in life more important than your dog’s good health.
We can’t help it. That’s how we feel about our own dogs. Your dogs deserve nothing less than the best.
3. Education: Sharing Information Optimal Pet Nutrition
At Rawmate we are comfortable knowing that our quality premium raw food meals for dogs provide everything your dog needs to be healthy, active and happy. We could have just put up an online store and let customers come and find us. But to us, that’s not enough.
We believe that we have a responsibility to help educate pet owners about pet nutrition, which is why you’ll find so much information here in the blog and elsewhere on the website.
Education is the key to changing hearts and minds. We are on a mission to help put a stop to overfeeding and, at the same time, to make sure that dog owners are feeding the right food to their beloved pets.
If you are already a Rawmate Packmate, we can’t tell you how happy we are that you are here.
Please do your part and spread the word and encourage other dog owners you know to ensure their dogs are being looked after as they deserve to be.
If you’d like more information about our subscription program that delivers the finest quality raw food meals (in appropriate portion sizes for your dog!) right to your door check out the Rawmate website.
If you’d rather explore your options and are considering preparing your dog’s meals yourself, check out our Rawmate Ingredients page for some ideas and our blog on Home Made Raw Dog Food for guidance on how to bring it all together.
It’s a lot of work to prepare your dog’s meals from scratch, but the bottom line is, we all need to do what we can to make sure our dogs (and cats) maintain a healthy body weight.
As always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. Drop us a note in the comments or contact us and we’ll reply as soon as we can.
We've written about Canine Obesity before. Check out our blog titled Canine Obesity - No Excuse