Worried that your Labrador is overweight? Here are the signs that he might need to drop a few pounds, and some easy ways for you to help him lose weight. Today’s guest post is by Kate O’Brien from the Slimdoggy website
Labradors are known for their appetites. As a result of those healthy appetites and their ability to charm humans into feeding them, they also are known for being a little chunky or in reality, overweight.
Labs are sporting dogs and are meant to run, swim, hunt and retrieve all day long. If your Labrador is overweight, you might worry that you are limiting his ability to do these things. In order to do that they must be healthy, strong and fit, not fat. Maybe you don’t hunt with your Lab; many if not most Labs are family pets, but that doesn’t mean they should be couch potatoes with an extra layer or two of fat.
A growing problem
Overweight dogs are a growing problem, pun intended. In the UK it is estimated that over one-third of all dogs are overweight1 and in the US, that figure rises to an astounding 54%.2 Labs are particularly susceptible to obesity and in the US, over 60% are overweight.
Why should we worry? What difference does it make if Buddy has a few extra pounds? Well, if you love Buddy and want him to live a long life, it makes a difference.
Weight and longevity
In the first-ever lifelong canine diet restriction study, a group of Labrador Retrievers was followed for 14 years, from birth until death.
By keeping your Lab lean and fit you could extend their life for TWO YEARS. That’s a lot of extra time to spend with your best friend.
A lean dog also has fewer health and joint problems. Labs have a natural propensity for hip and elbow issues but keeping them fit helps keep arthritis at bay. Other serious diseases linked to being overweight include cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and some forms of cancer.
Is my dog too fat?
Convinced you want to keep your dog fit, but don’t know how to tell if they are at the proper weight? You are not alone. In the same survey from PDSA, they report that only 17% of owners look at body shape and weight before deciding how much to feed their pet, and 85% of vets say owners have no idea of healthy body shape for their pet.4
We wanted to offer a few suggestions to help you assess the body condition of your Lab.
- The first thing is to have an honest look at them. There are numerous body conformation charts for dogs you can use as a guide. We provide links to several different at the end of this article. Whichever chart you prefer, they all depict a waistline when looking at your dog from above and a slight tuck up behind the ribs. Take that guide and go look at your dog. Many folks argue that a Lab isn’t supposed to have a ‘tuck’ or a waist, but that standard is for show Labs and let’s be honest, some of those show dogs are overweight. The reality for most of you is that your dog isn’t a show dog, so having a tuck and being leaner than the ‘show’ dogs you see on TV is better for their health and longevity.
- The second evaluation you can perform is whether you feel their ribs when you run your hands lightly over the sides of your dog. Note I said lightly, you shouldn’t have to press in; you should easily feel them. Actually seeing the ribs of your Lab might mean your dog is too thin, so be careful of that as well.
- The scale is the third tool to use in your assessment. Weigh your dog and ask your Vet about their weight. Many vets are reluctant to bring up the subject of your pet being overweight, but if you express your concern, they will most likely give you an honest assessment. Be open to what they say.
What should he weigh?
The average Lab will weigh somewhere between 60-85 lbs or between 27-30 kgs. Use this range as a guide but be aware that some Labs with smaller or larger bone structures can be outside of the range and still be perfectly fit and at their optimal weight. Once you have an idea of whether your Lab is overweight or not, what do you do if they are?
Feeding for health
First and foremost, you have to educate yourself about what you are feeding your dog. Reading the dog food label and following what it says doesn’t work. Those labels don’t take into account the current condition of your dog, their age or their exercise level, all of which are important factors in how much your dog should eat each day. And they clearly don’t take into account those extra treats you give your dog!
Most people don’t properly measure their dog’s food or even know how many calories are in the food they give them each day.
What about exercise?
Do you have any idea how many calories your dog burns each day? How can you figure out how many calories they need to eat if you don’t know how many they burn? Too much work you say, just throw a scoop or two (or three) of food in the bowl and be done with it? That’s how you end up with an overweight and unhealthy Lab.
There’s an app for that!
The SlimDoggy App is a simple App with a Daily Diary that allows you to look up and track all of this information for your dog. Like a “Runkeeper” and “Weightwatchers” for dogs, the App provides average daily calorie expenditures for a dog as well as calories burned through various types of exercise. It also has a database of over 2,500 dog foods and treats.
The Diary feature allows you to create a diary for your dog and calculate exactly how much they should be eating based on their daily exercise. The food database helps you pick the healthiest diet and the proper amount of food to feed them each day.
Don’t have an iPhone? No problem, visit the SlimDoggy website and use the Calorie Widget. Soon we will have a full version of the App available on the website too! There are no excuses now.
Let’s have healthy labs!
We all love our Labs and we want them to be in our lives for as long as possible and we want them as healthy as possible. Dogs don’t have opposable thumbs, they can’t feed themselves, and it is our responsibility to feed them a healthy nutritious diet of the proper proportions so that they are lean, fit and healthy. And then instead of giving them a treat, take them for a walk – that is the best way to show your Lab you love them.
Kate O’Brien and her husband, Steve, live in Camarillo, CA, with their dogs SlimDoggy Jack and Maggie May, senior Lab rescues. They are animal advocates and are active in the dog rescue and foster community. They write about their adventures with their dogs and about pet obesity, health, and fitness on the Slim Doggy website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Kate has had dogs in her life since she was a child, including the collies her grandfather used to breed and show. Allergies interfered, but then in adulthood Kate was able to bring dogs back into her life. She’s had numerous Labs, a couple of litters of puppies and many Lab fosters. She’s been able to share her love of exercise and fitness with her dogs and they inspire her to help other learn about better health, nutrition & fitness for their dogs.
- Pet Weight Check http://www.petobesityprevention.com/pet-weight-check/
1 PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report “The State of Our Pet Nation, 2013
2 Association for Prevention of Pet Obesity Annual Survey Report 2012
3 Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs, Kealey, Richard et.al., JAVMA Vol 220, No. 990, May 1, 2012
4 PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report “The State of Our Pet Nation, 2013
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