Ok, who doesn't love a little paunch on your favorite pet? I have to admit I think it's cute to see a little pudge on a dog. And while a little bit of paunch is generally ok, it’s important to recognize when it's a sign of something serious or is putting your pet at risk of long-term harm.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 87% of veterinary professionals surveyed consider pet obesity a disease. But the same survey found that fewer pet owners think their pets are obese versus the general percentages that actually are. This means a lot of pet parents aren't recognizing that pudge as a potential problem.
So, I've included a few tips from the experts below for recognizing when a pet paunch goes too far. Of course, always defer to your veterinarian if you have questions or worries about your pet's health.
Recognizing Pet Paunch
- Your pet has extra fat around the belly, spine, base of tail, neck or limbs. Just like people, dogs can gain weight anywhere on their bodies. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention surveys pet parents every few years on pet obesity and is a great resource if you have questions about your pet’s weight gain.
- Moving is more difficult. Jumping on the couch, climbing stairs or even just getting up from laying down may be a little harder for your pet if they are carrying extra pounds.
- Breathing issues. Not all breathing issues indicate weight problems. Some pups could have an allergy, upper respiratory infection, or other health challenges. And keep in mind, brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds like pugs or bulldogs have extremely short muzzles and are noisy breathers. But if your pudgy pet has labored breathing at rest or after mild exercise, don’t be surprised if your veterinarian recommends a weight-loss program.
- Weight gain. If the number on the scale has been creeping up between vet appointments, you may need to get your pet’s weight under control before it begins impacting their health and comfort. Weight gain can be a sign of underlying health issues, so if you notice your pet’s poundage creeping up, a trip to your veterinarian for an accurate weight and health check is in order before changing your pet’s diet or drastically increasing their activity..
It’s easy to miss weight gain when you see your pet every day, so give yourself some grace if you missed it. That’s why those yearly vet visits are so important!
Tips to Reverse Weight Gain
- Improve your treat game. Look for low-calorie, nutrient-dense treats. My dog absolutely loves carrots! There are also pet-safe treats you can make at home.
- Modify nutrition and measure meals with help from your vet. Calories matter! A half-cup of one brand of dog food may have a lot more calories than a half-cup of another – but it could also be more nutritionally complete, too! Because there are so many pet diets on the market, get your veterinarian’s recommendation for an overweight pet. If pet food labels make your head spin, you can learn more about what you should look for here.
- Bond and have fun exercising together! Exercise is fun! Make exercise a daily habit. I walk my dogs every morning (weather permitting). Start slowly if you haven’t regularly been exercising with your pet. Flying leaps and skidding across smooth floors can injure underused muscles. You can find some great exercise suggestions here.
- Walks are a game-changer. You can switch up daily walks to be more than just potty breaks. Take an extra lap, try walking uphill, gradually quicken the pace, or choose a different route to make walks more interesting and burn a few more calories.
- Restrict access to treats. If you reward your pet with a handful of treats instead of just one, or if your dog is notorious for sneaking into their treat or food bag, it’s time to break this habit.
- Stay hydrated. Keep that water bowl (or bowls!) full of fresh water. In fact, my dogs usually don't drink until I fill their bowls with fresh water, which I have to do multiple times a day! :) Good hydration is important for the overall health of your dog.
When you’re looking for ways to improve your pet’s health, always clear any advice you see online or hear from friends with your veterinarian. Choose expert online sources like the Pet Health Network when you are doing online research.
So, does your dog have a little extra around the middle? Which of these tips are you going to try first?