Keeping your Canine Athlete at a Healthy WeightBy
There is no doubt that a dog can make a great running companion and sometimes is the best personal trainer an athlete can have. As these canines are happy to exercise over longer distances and times, it is important they maintain a steady weight so as not to put any undue strain on their joints. This is particularly true for breeds prone to joint dysplasia, such as Border Collies and German Shepherds.
Obviously, daily running or hiking will provide a dog with an opportunity for great exercise and this will have an enormous health benefit as long as the animal has been properly trained up in the first place. Having undergone a thorough examination by the vet, it is best to start the dog off with an activity such as walking at a modest pace over a short distance, gradually increasing the speed and distance over a period of time. This allows the dog to build up both confidence and stamina.
As a canine athlete, just like a human one, exercises more it will often burn more calories in the process. This is where the importance of a nutritious diet becomes clear, as the answer is not necessarily simply to offer the dog larger quantities of food more frequently. In fact, doing so can cause a weight problem; even a few extra pounds may put undue stress on the dog’s muscles and joints and result in an injury. A vet can advise about likely calorific needs based on the type of exercise the dog is taking daily. Sometimes, higher levels of protein will be required rather than additional calories. Using the best dog food available will help owners put together a quality balanced diet for their dog.
Because weight can be misleading as a lone indicator, there are useful tools for making sure the particular breed and age of dog is factored into the equation. A body condition tool outlines ways in which dog owners can check and inspect their pet in order to determine if the body shape is in proportion to size and weight. The examination is conducted both by observing the dog and by feeling certain joints and other parts of the body.
Two ways to observe the shape are by viewing the animal from the side and by standing over the dog, to view its back. From the side, there should be evidence that the belly is tucked up between the end of the rib cage and the hind legs. Any sagging in this area is an indicator that the dog is overweight. The rear view should show a definite indentation behind the rib cage, if this is missing the dog is too stout.
Feeling the individual ribs in the dog’s rib cage, which are covered by a thin layer of fat, should be a smooth process; rippling thicker layers of fat indicate a weight problem. Extra padding and folds are found in a dog’s face and in the area above the base of its tail when it is overweight. Always remember to bear in mind the features of the breed when making this last assessment.