Saturday, April 3, 2010

killing our pets with kindness

overweight dogs (notice they do not look very 'happy')

ideal weight. this is my male pit bull, angel. you can clearly see he is very fit. he has good muscle tone evident on his hind legs, shoulders, and neck. he does not have much extra fat as you can see his ribs under a thin layer. he is quite ideal as far as weight is concerned. he has a lot of energy, and is very STRONG.

The "ideal" weight for a dog is approximately the weight where the last 3 to 5 ribs are just barely visible or can be felt with a very light touch. Many dogs are overweight and many dog owners feel their dog is too thin if they can see any ribs. It is better from a health perspective to be a little too thin than to be a little too heavy, though. (from
this is a topic that is on my mind a lot. i see so many pet dogs that are overweight, and their owners have no clue that they are. it is not a matter of it not looking "good," dogs do not care about their appearance. it is a matter of health. dogs carrying even just a few extra pounds of weight place extra demands on virtually all the organs of their bodies. when we overload these organs, disease and sometimes death are the consequences. a few examples of what we can cause to our pets are diabetes, damage to joints, bones and ligaments, heart disease, difficulty breathing, heat intolerance, decreased liver function (from that organ storing fat and being unable to function) decreased immune function, skin and coat problems, and a very important one- decreased length and QUALITY of life. to explain a bit, obesity causes an increase in the secretion of insulin in response to the increased blood glucose level in the overweight dog. Insulin is also more in demand because there is a greater amount of tissue in an overweight dog. When requirements for insulin exceed the ability of the body to produce insulin, diabetes develops. overweight dogs tend to have increased blood pressure. The heart has to work harder since it must pump additional blood to excess tissues. This can lead to congestive heart failure. in overweight animals, the lungs can not function properly. The additional fat in the chest restricts the expansion of the lungs. The extra fat in the abdomen pushes against the diaphragm, which separates the abdominal cavity from the chest. This results in less space in the chest for the lungs to expand. an overweight dog in the heat of summer, can not regulate his own body temerature, and the fat acts as an insulator, causing the dog to overheat and possably die as a result. even if he does not die, it is very uncomfortable and miserable.

this terrier is quite overweight

As i always say "fat is NOT happy." people do not understand that their dog may be suffering due to them trying to be kind by feeding them too big of portions, or giving treats too often. we control everything a dog eats (for the most part, i have a few "garbage hounds" which i am told is a common breed.) so how does a dog become overweight? same as any mammal, too many calories, not enough burning of said calories. it is very easy to keep most dogs fit and healthy, feed them a good dog food in moderate amounts and get them moving around. some dogs are easier to exercise, they will love to fetch balls or frisbee, others you will have to drag off the couch to go for a little walk. be creative and have fun!
on the other side of that coin is how thin is too thin? that too is hard to explain. i tend to like to keep all my dogs very lean. it is far healthier for them. before i go any further i will say i would rather see a chubby dog than an emaciated dog. most people are so used to seeing (unhealthy) overweight dogs, that when they see a fit and trim dog they think it is too skinny. i have working dogs, meaning exactly that- they WORK. i can not expect a dog to pull very efficiently if he is also toting around a few extra pounds of fat, and i would guarantee he is going to injure himself. there is a fine line between lean and too skinny. lean and fit you can feel the ribs easily and perhaps some of the spine (depending on breed, some hounds are rather spiny even with extra fat on other areas of their body) and hip bones, you should see a "tuck up" behind the ribs, where the belly is, they will have muscle on their hind legs, along the sides of the spine, and shoulder blades. they will be strong and light on their feet, with lots of energy. if they are too thin, you will notice a lack of muscle tone, and may even see/feel tendons that are not normally seen/felt. all the bones will be visible (all vertebrae, hip bones very pronounced, all ribs showing all the way up to the elbows, his face may be sunken in. he will seem "weak" and may lack energy. i am including some pictures to describe better what i am trying to say.

this dog is way too skinny. you can see every bone in his body, and there is NO muscle tone to speak of. he is probably not too far away from starving to death.

this dog of the same breed as the skinny one above shows a good weight, not a lot of extra fat, good muscle tone, nice coat, one HAPPY dog!
so do your dog a favor, keep him lean and fit, and he will be healthier and happier.