Pet Talk: Fat dog may not be a happy dog |

Pet Talk: Fat dog may not be a happy dog

Heidi Rice
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentThis beagle hit the kibble pretty hard over the winter and spent too much time on the couch, but that is probably not the reason she looks so uncomfortable wearing a bikini.

RIFLE, Colorado ” Your four-legged friend may not slip into skin-baring fashions this summer, but it doesn’t mean he or she shouldn’t be in shape just like you.

February is National Canine Weight Check month and pet owners are encouraged to find out if their dog is overweight, and if so, what to do about it.

“Canine obesity is a growing problem and being overweight or obese has been associated with arthritis, heart disease and breathing problems in dogs,” according to the National Canine Weight Check Web site, supported by the American Kennel Club. “In addition, obesity can worsen the signs associated with pre-existing diseases such as high blood pressure, hormone imbalances and joint disease.”

So how do you know if your dog is overweight? While we can tell when our jeans get too tight, it’s not that obvious in dogs.

“You should be able to do a rib test, putting your hands on the dog and feeling his ribs without a lot of difficulty,” said veterinary technician Rhonda Belanus at New Castle Veterinary Clinic.

A 2006 study of dog owners by Pfizer Animal Health showed that 17 percent of dog owners said they thought their dogs were obese. However, veterinarians in the study said that 47 percent of their clients were overweight or obese.

A rule of thumb is that you should be able to feel their ribs, not necessarily see them, said Dr. Rocky A. Mease, of Glenwood Veterinary Clinic.

“They should still have an hour-glass figure,” Mease said.

The dangers of obesity are especially prevalent in large breeds and can cause hip pain, arthritis and joint problems. In both large and small breeds back pain and heart disease may occur.

“It’s the same stuff as with us,” said Dr. Benjamin Mackin of Carbondale Animal Hospital of the dangers caused by obesity. “Heart disease, bone issues, arthritis and diabetes.”

The causes of obesity can range anywhere from feeding habits, lack of exercise and neutering, to slow metabolism, or breed or hormonal disorders.

But the veterinarians agreed that most obesity was usually caused by simply too much food.

“Too many calories, too many treats,” Mease said.

Solutions for helping your pets to lose weight often include putting them on a prescription weight loss food such as Hill’s Science Diet Reduced Diet.

There is also a new prescription medicine called “Slentrol” (dirlotapide) ” a weight-loss liquid made strictly for dogs and approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help dogs shed extra pounds gradually.

Then there’s the good old-fashioned way of losing weight that works for both people and pets.

“Actually, it’s simple,” Mease said. “Less calories and more exercise.”

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