Obesity & Older Dogs: Is Your Older Dog Overweight?

Obesity is possibly the most common health related problem to affect dogs as they get older. An overweight dog is an unhappy dog and subsequent health problems can drastically reduce a dog’s life and render his later years void of any real quality.
All dogs relish a tasty treat and they are an excellent way to reward good behaviour, but if overused your dog could end up suffering from obesity before you even realise you are spoiling him. It is important to pay close attention to your dog’s diet for many reasons, but particularly if your dog is overweight. A balanced diet is essential to keeping a dog fit and healthy.
Modern prepared foods contain an adequate supply of essential nutrients without too many calories, as do many home mixed diets. Complete, dry dog food is popular today, as it is an easy to prepare meal which contains a good supply of all the right nutrients. Commercial canned foods, whether mixed or on their own, are a good source of nutrition and are easy to prepare and store. Some dog owners favour a nutritional supplement to add to the dog’s meal, rice is a good source of carbohydrates and is easily mixed with other foods. Certain treats make a nutritious supplement to a meal and also serve as a good reward for him, but dog biscuits alone to not offer adequate nutrition to be served as meal on their own.

The majority of young, healthy and active dogs are at a low risk of becoming overweight as most of their calorific intake is used during play but as they get older and their metabolic rates slow in conjunction with a decline in expended energy, the chances of calories leading to a piling on of the pounds grows higher every day.

If you have ever taken your dog off the lead in a large forest or field you will have noticed that they will always do more miles than you because they run off and come back as you are walking and thus for every mile you walk, they will normally RUN four!
This is one of the reasons that young, active dogs stay healthy whether their diet is perfect or not. But there will come a point in the dog’s life when he or she is unable to do as much exercise so it is important to control the diet accordingly

During the more active years, it is still important to take care of your dog’s diet to ensure that they are receiving a good balance of protein and other valuable nutrients. Your vet will be able to advise you on this matter should any uncertainty arise.
You may not notice it at first, but should your dog become obese there are certain tell tale signs apart from the obvious physical weight gain. A diminished level of activity not conducive to their age is always a cause for concern, but a likely cause is that he or she has put on a little weight.

Another symptom is laboured breathing. If your dog struggles for breath after an activity which he or she could once perform effortlessly then perhaps it is time to get the scales out.

As a dog owner it is often difficult to notice if your dog is putting on weight because you see them every day. Paying close attention to other elements of their physical state may enlighten you to any weight problems.

As the majority of dogs become less and less active in their later years it is often difficult for them to loose weight through increased exercise, so it is up to you as an owner to monitor and control what your dog eats. Prevention, as is so often the case, is better than cure, especially when it comes to a more senior dog and weight control.

A good way of monitoring weight is by simply reducing portion size. It is often the case that a regular portion of dry or complete dog food offers more than enough nutrition and therefore it is quite possible to reduce the meal sizes without affecting the nutritional intake of the dog. In this day in age, with the science behind many commercial pet foods, you may be able to find the perfect, balanced diet your breed of dog needs, relating to their age, on your supermarket or pet shop shelf.

You should have a target weight in mind and plan thoroughly to ensure your dog does not err over or above it to any great degree. Your vet should be able to advise what your dog’s ideal target weight is – don’t go on breed averages – one Labrador could be as many as 10lbs heavier than another yet still be perfectly fine weight wise.

If your dog has put on a few too many pounds as they have gotten older, a diet is needed. Unlike us, a dog is unable to steal biscuits or cakes in the middle of the night so they are not reliant on their own will-power to lose weight, they are reliant on YOU ensuring they don’t become dangerously obese, so don’t give in to his pleas for a chocolate digestive every time you go to the kitchen!

As a dog owner it is important for you to be disciplined. Your dog will probably not notice the reduced size of his meals. But you will, so ensure you don’t sneak him a treat unless you have reduced a similar amount of calories from his main meal – it’s a balancing act of which you have complete control and your dog is relying on you to get right.
Older dogs have special needs in many areas and diet is one of the most important.

Don’t let your dog’s later years in life be ruined by health problems of YOUR doing due to a weight issue. If you feed a natural diet, monitor the volumes. If you feed a commercial pet food, make sure you have the most suitable one for your dog’s age, weight, breed and activity level. The science is all there, you just need to follow it.

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