It is critical that your doggy maintain a healthy weight, which can expand years to his or her life. Not to mention give him or her a better quality of life. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) says pet obesity in the United States is affecting nearly 59% of cats and 54% of dogs.

Just like humans, overweight dogs have difficulty walking, breathing and are prone to orthopedic injuries, such as a ruptured disc, bone fracture or muscle tear. Also, overweight dogs are more prone to developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Just like your doctor measures your Body Mass Index (BMI), veterinarians use the Body Condition Scale (BCS) to determine if your dog is overweight. BCS is based on four criteria: (1) how easily felt the ribs are; (2) how obvious the waist and abdominal tuck is; (3) how much excess fat is beneath the skin; and (4) how much muscle mass is present.

On a scale of 1 to 5, overweight dogs are classified at a 4, while obese dogs are classified at a 5, neither being desirable.

A simple way for you to test your dog’s BCS at home is by feeling your dog’s trunk to see if his or her ribs are easily palpable with minimal fat covering. You should also be able to see his or her waist when viewed from above. If your doggy has a droopy belly this is a sure sign that your pup needs to cut back on the biscuits!

What can you do if you suspect your pup is overweight? The first thing you should do is inspect your pup’s food and treats. Good nutrition is the foundation for good health. Be sure to feed your dog the highest quality food that you can afford. If you are not up to the challenge of cooking for your dog, look for commercial foods made with quality proteins, human-grade ingredients (ingredients that you recognize and can pronounce), no artificial preservatives or additives and no cheap fillers. Your pup’s food should also be wheat and corn free.

Just like you, your dog can benefit from consuming fruits and vegetables. They make great substitutes for carbohydrate heavy commercial dog treats which pack on the pounds. For instance, my golden retriever Gatsby loves to snack on carrots (great to clean his teeth), bell peppers (great source of vitamin C), and apples (great for doggy breath!). Plus, cucumbers, berries, green beans, watermelon and pureed cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, make great snacks.

You also need to make sure your pup is getting his daily allotted exercise depending on his breed, such as walking, running, agility training and swimming. Even in the winter months, your pup still needs to get moving. You can invest in an indoor treadmill, regularly send him or her to a daycare facility, or check out a doggy aquatic center on the weekend together. And remember, if you’re confused about how many calories to give your dog and how much exercise he or she needs consult with your veterinary professional. Just like you, your pup is unique!

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