Is Your Dog a Healthy Weight? (And What To Do if the Answer is No)

When health concerns, trends, and fads sweep the human population, often the pet world is not far behind. Sometimes this is questionable. Other times, the same concerns we have for our own health absolutely apply to the health of our pets. And weight concerns are one of these.

Pet Weight Concerns? Really?

Yes.

Pet obesity is on the rise in Britain, Europe and the United States. Unsurprisingly, it has many of the same causes as human obesity. And unfortunately, it can cause the same types of health concerns, including diabetes, heart disease, some kinds of cancer, and joint problems.

In fact, the 2014 PDSA Animal Welfare Report found that in the UK, 80 percent of vets reported seeing an increase in obese and overweight pets. According to the report, one in three dogs in the UK is overweight. In the U.S., some estimates run as high as 45 percent.

How Does It Happen?

Unfortunately, as our lives get busier, we find less time to exercise — and perhaps more excuses not to. And sometimes this means less time to spend playing and walking with our dogs. As any JRT owner knows, a dog with too much time on its hands can become bored, unhappy and destructive. But lack of exercise can also lead to anxiety and weight gain.

Outdoor adventures are a great way for you and your dog to enjoy exercise together.

Another problem is food and treats. Dog treats are a barking business, and there are a ton of different kinds on the market. Not all of them are nutritious, however. And many dog owners give their dogs way too much in the way of treats. Many experts recommend that supplementary foods make up no more than 10 percent of any dog's diet.

Many dog owners also feed their dogs human junk food — and that's just as bad for dogs as it is for us.

When it comes to on-demand feeding, people's opinions are split. Many people feel that dogs can regulate their own food intake, and will only eat when they're hungry. Others believe in set mealtimes with a measured amount of food.

In this way, dogs are like people. Some will eat until they're satisfied then leave the rest of the food in the bowl. Others will continue to eat, whether their nutritional needs are satisfied or not. And this can lead to obesity.

If your dog is overweight, and you're feeding on demand, talk to your vet about switching to measured meals.

How to Tell If Your Dog is Overweight

There are three quick and easy ways to check if your dog's weight is in the right ballpark.

First, check out his or her ribs and spine. According to Pet MD, you should be able to easily feel your dog's ribs and spine, but not see them. If you can see them, your dog may be underweight. If you can't even feel them, well, you may have a chubby puppy.

Also, when you look down on your dog from above, you should see a tapered “waist.”

Tapered waist — check. Concave belly — check. A dog at a healthy weight.

Finally, when you look at your dog from the side, their abdomen should go up rather than sag down.

You can also check dog weight tables. Most Jack Russell Terriers should weight between 11 and 18 pounds.

How to Help Your Pup Shape Up

First, especially if your dog has experienced sudden weight gain, it's important to see a vet to determine whether the gain was caused by an underlying medical condition like diabetes, hypothyroidism or Cushing's Disease. If your dog's health is otherwise clear, then it's time to take some action.

This isn't going to come as a surprise. Just like with humans, the answer is often more exercise and less of the wrong kinds of food.

Swimming can be great exercise, and it's a lot of fun, too!

Get out that leash and go for a walk! Half an hour a day is good for you and good for your dog. Throw the ball! Throw the stick! Have a good game of chase! Go for a hike, or a run around the dog park.

When it comes to treats, choose small, high-quality nutritionally dense treats (ask your vet for recommendations) and dole them out sparingly.

“Real food” treats like a good, stout soup bone can be a healthy snack.

Make sure your pup is getting high quality, low fat, low carbohydrate, low calorie foods. Be careful of “weight loss” dog foods, as many of them substitute carbohydrates for protein in an attempt to bring down the overall calorie count. This can lead to your dog feeling hungry and unsatisfied. Pay attention to the manufacturer's feeding recommendations.

And always give your pup plenty of love and play.

It's In Your Hands

Exercise plus a healthy diet makes for a healthy, happy Jack!

The Jack Russell Terrier can be a bundle of energy. And, given the right type and amount of outlet for that energy, many Jacks won't ever have to think about their waistline. But too many treats and too little exercise can take its toll.

If your dog is at a healthy weight, congratulations!

But if he or she could use a little exercise, then you know what to do. Now get out there and throw that ball!

Featured Image: CC0 by Elena Zhuravleva, via Pexels