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Dogs and obesity – what to do?

Alarmingly, obesity is becoming a significant health problem amongst Australian dogs, and we have no-one to blame but ourselves. As a dog owner, it’s up to you to provide a nutritious diet for your dog and to ensure he or she has regular daily exercise.

What is an obese dog?

Simply put, an obese dog is a largely overweight dog. Talk to your vet who can weigh your dog and assess your dog’s Body Condition Score and then provide advice.

Why is obesity a problem?

It should be no surprise that obesity may lead to serious health problems in dogs, just as it does in humans. An obese animal may be in a greater risk of heart problems and diabetes and osteoarthritis can be exacerbated by obesity.

What to do if your dog is obese

If you believe your dog is obese, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. He or she will be able to examine your dog and confirm if they are overweight. Your vet may also be able to provide advice on nutrition and exercise. It will then be up to you to make the necessary changes to help your

dog lose weight and become healthy once more. You can also purchase some healthy doggy snacks to begin with and gradually make changes in the overall diet of your dog.

Healthy doggy snacks: which treats are best?

There aren’t too many dogs around who don’t love a treat. As dog owners, we generally use treats in training and when we want to let our dogs know they’ve been good. While it may be tempting to give them whatever treats we have on hand – or whichever they seem to love best – it’s vital to keep a check on dog treats, to ensure they don’t have too many.

Treat varieties

Ensure they are safe and suitable for your dog. Check that the product complies with the Australian Standard: Manufacturing and Marketing Pet Food AS5812:2011.

When you buy a treat, take the time to find out exactly what’s in it. Packaged treats often contain sugar, fat and preservatives, all of which may lead to health problems for your beloved animal.

Do remember that some foods are toxic for dogs. Chocolate, grapes, raisins, currants, onion, garlic, macadamia nuts and fatty foods should be avoided among other toxic foods – see RSPCA Australia knowledgebase. If your dog has ingested any of these, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Do not feed your dog the following (note this is not an exhaustive list): onions, garlic, chocolate, coffee or caffeine products, avocado, bread dough, grapes, raisins, sultanas, currants, nuts including macadamia nuts, fruit stones (pits) e.g. mango seeds, apricot stones, avocado stones, fruit seeds, corncobs, green unripe tomatoes, mushrooms, fish constantly, cooked bones, small pieces of raw bone fatty trimmings, and xylitol (sugar substitute found in some products such as some types of sugar free chewing gum, lollies, baking goods, toothpaste).

The RSPCA site has information on how to help keep your dog healthy. Regular vet checks are also essential, especially if you think your dog’s weight may be becoming a problem.

A balanced diet and regular exercise will help give your puppy the best start in life. Remember that trips to the vet are essential for vaccinations, other health care advice and to monitor health. Dog insurance is an option that may assist with the costs of some treatments.