Dogs are considered a man's (and woman's) best friend and it seems many of them are experiencing similar problems and challenges in managing weight as their two-legged counterparts. A recent survey has revealed that many owners struggle with how to best care for their somewhat pudgy pooches.
The survey conducted by Purina Dog Chow Light & Healthy looked at owner perceptions of their pet's weight, management, exercise and feeding habits, in an effort to offer some solutions to help heavy hounds get back on track.
Perception v reality
As pet obesity reaches epidemic levels, the recent survey identified a stark contrast between owners' perceptions and reality when it comes to their dog's weight. While only 22% of owners surveyed believe their dog is overweight, the estimate from vets is a much greater number of 53% of dogs who are actually overweight or obese.
Even when owners acknowledge that their four-legged friend may be tipping the scales, the survey findings suggest that many may struggle with how to tackle the problem. Of dog owners surveyed who believe their dog is overweight, almost a quarter (24%) admit they don't know how they should manage their dog's weight, and 22% have taken no action to do so.
Of those surveyed who have taken action to manage their dog's weight, more than one-third (36%) report feeding smaller portions of the same dog food. However, this may leave the dog feeling less than satisfied and the owner feeling guilty.
A key challenge for owners may lie in understanding how to tell if their dog is overweight in the first place. While 85% of those surveyed believe they know the correct signs to determine if their dog is a healthy weight, approximately 41% rely on their vet to determine if their dog is overweight.
While vets are an excellent resource for advice when managing a pet's weight, it's important that owners know how to properly assess their dog's weight as well. The online Body Condition System developed by Purina provides guidelines to help determine if the dog is a healthy weight, including checking the profile and overhead view of the dog, as well as feeling for the dog's ribs.
In conjunction with feeding an overweight dog fewer calories, regular exercise can benefit both the dog and owner.
Of dog owners surveyed who report having a healthy weight dog, 61% reported exercising regularly themselves, and 77% said they give their dog exercise more than three times per week. Having a canine companion also can be one of the best motivators for staying active. In fact 79% of survey participants said they would rather exercise with their dog than with a personal trainer, and 68% would choose exercising with their dog over a friend.
Veterinarians say that proper diet is the first step to helping a pet reach its ideal weight but, just like people, regular exercise is vital as well.