DEAR DIDI: My dog gets annual checkups and is in good health. Recently my new trainer said my dog is overweight and outlined a diet and exercise program I should follow. I love my dog to death and don’t know who to believe. My poor baby is always hungry.
Italian Mama in Manteca
DEAR ITAIAN MAMA: This is a common theme that I hear frequently. Depending on a veterinarian’s attitude they will frequently not say anything about a dog’s weight. Perhaps because they fear offending their client and losing their business. Trainers, however, will be looking to get your dog in top physical condition or at least know that the dog is not in pain while learning. It is unfortunate that a large percentage of America’s dogs are very much like a large percentage of their owners...overweight.
The general rule is that one should be able to run their hand down the dog’s side and feel every rib easily. We do not, however, want to see each individual rib easily. Stand over your dog and look down. When your dog is in a standing position you should be able to see that their ‘waist’ is narrower than their chest area. If you stand behind your dog while he or she is sitting down we do not want to see a pear shape. Many veterinarians have a poster in their offices that shows a dog’s body shape that is too skinny, perfect weight, overweight and obese. Stop in and check it out.
Even a mild weight problem can cause significant health issues for our canines. America’s dogs are suffering unprecedented amounts of diabetes, heart failures, cancers and joint pain. We are literally loving our dogs to death. Too many treats, too much dog food, poor quality kibble and table scraps are all contributing to the issues. Food is NOT love. Your cherished pet should be loved with more one on one time with mom instead. Love her by running an agility course with her or teaching her how to catch a Frisbee.
Reevaluate the amount and type of food you might be feeding your dog. Dog kibble is big business these days so it can also be very difficult to evaluate ingredients lists correctly. Each dog food company lists guidelines on the back of their bags on how much to feed your dogs. Most of those recommendations are too high. Remember to actually measure out your dog’s food so you know for sure how much you are giving. Consider not leaving a large bowl of food down all day. Some dogs will eat out of boredom and it is difficult to monitor how much kibble she actually consumes each day. Look for healthier treat alternatives. I’ve seen dogs trained with pieces of apple or baby carrots! Ask your trainer for advice on how much to feed or what to feed based on your type of dog and his or her activity level.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University, owner of California Canine, and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Dear Didi. Just email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.