We’ve all fed our pets a pinch of turkey, stuffing, potatoes and pie during the holidays… while their kibble bowl sits untouched. We’re human, so we think a little indulgence now and again makes life more fun. But overfeeding pets during the holidays can cause serious, immediate health issues, like gastrointestinal inflammation and pancreatitis. It can also start a habit of spoiling our pets with food, which can cause long-term issues, like obesity.
Is obesity in dogs common?
Obesity in dogs is very common, according to Dr. Kelly Fishman, a Physical Rehabilitation veterinarian at SAGE Redwood City. She estimates that 60% of dogs she sees in Physical Rehab are overweight. In some cases, the extra poundage has started to cause health and mobility issues like arthritis and even shortened patients’ life expectancy. Being obese can also predispose dogs to certain cancers.
How do dogs get fat?
People food – especially the kind we make in November and December – will lead to weight gain because it tends to be more caloric and fatty than our everyday meals. To make matters worse, many pet food manufacturers tend to over-estimate how much food a dog needs in a day, Dr. Fishman says. Inactivity is also a culprit in a vicious cycle that starts with weight gain that contributes to arthritis and pain, which contributes to becoming a couch potato.
How do you know when a dog is overweight?
For dogs, it’s all about how they look, not what they weigh. Look at your dog from above for an abdominal tuck, and feel for the ribs. Your primary care veterinarian can help you gauge your dog’s body condition score. The chart below by Royal Canin is also helpful — click to open a pdf.
How much should a dog eat?
Just like humans, dogs have energy requirements that are dependent on their activity level. For example, a 50-pound dog who is mostly hanging around the house and going out for occasional walks needs around 700 calories a day. A 50 pound Iditarod dog needs 1,300 calories a day.
Getting through the holidays
To keep your dog’s weight in check, commit to keeping holiday dinner table handouts to a minimum. Buy some new, tasty dog treats and offer those to your pet instead of fattening human food. Don’t overdo it! Remember the 700 calorie requirements – your dog may not thank you, but they should!
City of Los Angeles Animal Services: https://www.gsroc.org/a-caution-about-holiday-overeating-for-your-dog/