The Arlington Dog House, a grooming/daycare/boarding facility in Arlington Heights has had many customers with dogs that are overweight ask for advice on how to get their dogs' weight under control.
Owner Mark Leers says he has spoken with many local veterinarians and read veterinarian studies for advice on how to get dogs to an ideal weight.
Here, he shares some of his advice.
Q: How can you tell if your dog is overweight or even obese?
A: Can you find your dog's ribs easily, or do you need to search to find them? If you cannot locate them quickly, you have an overweight dog.
Q: What percentage of dogs are overweight or obese?
A: About 58 percent of all dogs are overweight or obese. In contrast, 95 percent of dog owners think their dog is at a normal weight.
Q: If my dog is overweight, can it shorten its life span?
A: Absolutely -- the same way it does in humans. Being at an ideal weight will help keep your dog healthier and happier. For dogs, it can shorten its life span by 2.5 years, according to some experts. Seeing that most dogs live between 8-16 years with an average of 12 years, that is a lot of time.
Q: Why is my dog overweight?
A: Very simply put, if your pet is overweight it is taking in (eating) more calories than it needs. Set all excuses aside … excessive weight in an otherwise healthy pet is a direct result of consuming unnecessary amounts of food. There are conditions such as thyroid, heart or other issues that could cause your pup to gain weight, but most of the time it is excessive calories and not enough exercise. I often tell people dogs don't have thumbs to feed themselves, so for a dog to be an ideal weight is the owner's responsibility.
Q: We love our dog and want to show him by giving him treats so he is happy.
A: As long as your dog is given sufficient amounts of food, a small treat from time to time is acceptable, but most people give freely. Dogs get plenty of happiness from belly rubs, playing games with their owners and just being cared for lovingly.
Q: I put two scoops of food in the morning when I leave for work, when I come home it's gone, so my dog needs more food.
A: Never free feed an overweight dog for him to nibble on all day. Instead, divide the daily rations into two or more feedings. Just like humans, if they get bored, they will overeat and when you get home from work you will think your pup is starving and tend to feed them more (even a half scoop, etc.). It all adds up and your pup doesn't need it.
What Should I do -- Next Steps for a Healthy Dog
1. Weigh your pup and see what his weight is currently. You can do this at your next vet visit or at home by weighing yourself, then picking up your dog (if your pup is not too big).
2. Make sure they are getting the proper amount of calories every day. Look at the labels -- it is estimated that almost 80 percent of owners feed their dog more than the label says they should. Always reduce food gradually. Your dog does not have to get ready for bikini season, so slow and steady is good.
3. Table scraps -- big no, no. I know it's difficult, but think of your dog's health.
4. Snacks/Treats -- Most owners give freely without knowing the amount of calories. There are plenty of options that can be found at local providers like Bentleys Pet Stuff for good snacks/treats to give your pup.
5. Exercise -- Most dogs are couch-sitting eating machines. Dogs were made to run, play and be outside. Being overweight was never a big issue. Now that they are pets in our homes, a good percentage of the time they are sleeping, eating and being couch potatoes. Get them the exercise they crave.
• Mark Leers is the owner of the Arlington Dog House, 213 S. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights. www.arlingtondoghouse.com