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PET’S CORNER Pooch’s pot belly is a real problem

Living

Heavy dog

Pooch’s pot belly is a real problem


Ask the Vet
Esther Van Luipen

What do you do when you see those big brown eyes looking up at you? Most of us find it hard to resist not to give our pet a little bit of our food or a little snack. Especially when he’s been so good! A big percentage of our pets are overweight without the owners even realising it. It’s January, and many of us are looking at out own waistline. Maybe it’s time to  time to assess your pet’s too!

Is my dog overweight?
Your dog needs to have a discernible waist between the ribcage and hindquarters when viewed from above. Also, if you gently feel the chest you should be able to feel the ribs.

Why is weight important?
When a dog is overweight, there is extra stress on joints, which can lead to arthritis, pain and reluctance to exercise. Sometimes, losing weight alone is enough to eliminate the pain and the need for arthritis medications. Also, just like in humans, being overweight can lead to diabetes, heart disease, breathing difficulties and a fatty liver. Also, there would be an increased surgical/anaesthetic risk if your pet needed emergency surgery. Ultimately, being overweight can take years off the life span of your dog.

Why is my dog overweight?
Dogs become overweight largely because they are given too much food and/or the wrong kind of food. If your pet is overweight, your vet can give you feeding advice or, in some cases, prescribe a diet.
Too little exercise can also be a factor. A dog needs at least two good long walks a day. A lot of dog owners think that a dog gets all the exercise it needs by being outside all day. Unfortunately, this is not true. The dog will mainly sit on the doorstep waiting for you.
Some breeds of dogs are more likely to put on weight than others. Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are all examples of such breeds. Neutering is very important for many reasons, including the prevention of unwanted puppies and unwanted behaviour, but it also slows down the metabolism of the dog. Still, don’t let this be the reason not to neuter your pet. A healthy lifestyle with the right food is enough to keep the weight down.
In some cases, there is an underlying disease like an under-active thyroid gland or Cushing’s syndrome.

What should I do?
Whatever the cause of your pet’s weight gain, now is the time for new year resolutions. Start feeding your pet a good-quality diet and start exercising. For pets that find it hard to shed some pounds, there are exciting new diets on the market that can make your pet shed the extra pounds easily and after that keep ‘their figure’. For good advice on feeding your pets, it is a good idea to seek the advice and support of your veterinarian.

Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. She can be contacted at 094 9373955 or at living@mayonews.ie.