Overeating and obesity are sensitive topics around the dinner table in many American homes, and the same holds true around the dog dish. From persistent snacking that packs on the pounds to one-time binges that can threaten their lives, our pups often fail to measure up when it comes to eating sensibly. Fortunately, you control much of what goes in his mouth and can take positive steps to get your canine buddy eating the right amounts of food for his age and energy level.
Effects of Canine Overeating
Regularly consuming too many calories puts excess pounds on your pup, which cause his kidney, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems to function inefficiently. This sets him up for serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. The moist environment between folds of fat is a breeding ground for yeast and other skin issues. His joints eventually begin to wear with the extra effort of carrying too much weight, creating painful arthritis. His immune system becomes less capable of fighting off infection. An obese dog will have difficulty taking even short neighborhood walks with his favorite people.
The Dangers of Binging
You may be tempted to fill Fido's dish with extra food on special family occasions so he can be part of the celebration. However, an extra-large meal eaten rapidly may cause bloat, a life-threatening condition that occurs when a dog's abdomen fills with fluid, air or food and puts pressure on surrounding organs. It's time to get him to the vet if you notice your dog is panting, drooling, pacing and restless or has a hard, distended abdomen after consuming a large meal or gobbling up a platter of goodies left on a counter-top.
Managing the Portions
A few dogs may be able to control their appetites and even resist that mouthwatering piece of apple pie that fell on the floor, but most will consume just about anything they can scrounge -- as long as it's not too healthy. For these eating machines, free feeding -- providing an unending supply of food all day -- simply offers the opportunity to eat more than they should. Vets typically recommend you divide your dog's recommended daily food portion in half and feed him two smaller meals a day, spaced approximately 12 hours apart.
Adding Up the Treats
A nutritious life would get pretty drab for your four-legged friend without a few food treats now and then. And if he's in training for obedience or another canine activity, you'll need a supply of tasty rewards to motivate him. Just keep track of the calories and reduce his normal food portion to make up the difference. Unfortunately, many over-the-counter snacks for dogs are high in fat and empty calories. If you start your young puppy on crunchy green beans, carrots, strawberries or sweet potatoes as treats, he may never notice he's eating rabbit food. Otherwise, slivers of turkey, chicken or tofu hot dogs make good low-calorie treats for your pup.
By Sandra King
American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation: Canine Obesity
American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Bloat
Pets WebMD: Healthy Dog Treats: Natural, Organic, and Other Treats to Help Keep Dogs Fit
Pets WebMD: Feeding Your Adult Dog FAQ
About the Author
A medical writer since 1990 and successful home-based business owner for more than 14 years, Sandra King holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications. She uses her formal education, professional insight and extensive volunteer involvement to cover topics on health and fitness, pets, parenting for a lifetime, building healthy relationships, conquering business basics and developing career goals.