One of the biggest struggles that we have as breeders is keeping our dogs at a healthy weight. How do we keep them from getting too skinny or too fat? Where is that sweet spot? How do we find it and how do we stay there?
As a breeder, you may offer health guarantees on your puppies. But what health risk is obesity having on the puppies you send home and their life expectancy?
Obesity can cause terrible problems to overall health. We want families to know how much to feed their dogs to avoid health issues from overeating. Under-eating can be an issue, but vets say it's better to slightly underfeed than to slightly overfeed.
Michele Taylor, owner of Taylormade Mini Goldens, discussed her approach to weight management for her dogs. She stressed the need to teach families about keeping their pets at a healthy weight.
Michele has been breeding off and on since she was 10 years old. This has been her passion since she was a little girl. She has been breeding professionally since 2013, so she is now in her 10th year as a professional breeder.
When discussing optimal weights for dogs, the Body Condition Score (BCS) gives a wonderful foundation. Vets created the Body Condition Score in 2017, so this concept is relatively new. Most pet owners don't realize when their pet is becoming overweight, which can be a major issue. However, the body score is a useful tool to determine a healthy weight for our dogs.
We want to ensure our dogs are healthy and that we have resources to share with their owners. A study by Pet Obesity Prevention called The State of U.S Pet Obesity in 2022
shows that it's not looking good for our pets. First, it discusses the number of cats and dogs surveyed. Then, it goes over body score, which is a scale from 1-9, with 5 being the sweet spot or healthy weight.
The study found that 22% of dogs were obese and 37% were overweight. In the US, 40% of pets were normal, while the remaining 59% were overweight or obese. This means that there are more overweight and obese pets than normal ones.
It seems sad to have that many pets dealing with obesity and the health problems that stem from that excess weight. We need to be educating people on this to keep their dogs healthy.
The Pet Obesity Prevention study is a great resource to keep and share with your puppy families. The body score scale can help them or their vet figure out where their pet’s weight is at. It can also be helpful if you've got a mama dog that's getting on the skinny side. Use the chart to determine the severity of her condition and the necessary level of intervention or additional feeding.
Oftentimes, a dog that is in a normal, ideal shape might look too skinny to some people. The old school rule was that if you could feel their ribs they're too skinny, but actually that is not the case.
You want to be able to feel the dog's ribs. Now, if the ribs or hips are protruding that's where you come into a problem. You want to feel some fat covering to hit that sweet spot, but they need to have a waist and you need to be able to feel the ribs.
Michele said, with “Body score, we want to get a good idea of how the pet feels. With Mama dogs you probably want to do this almost every day.
"What I do is when I'm feeding my dog and she's eating I just pet her body. I feel her spine, her hips, her side, I also feel her nipples to make sure we don't have any mastitis because that can crop up quickly. So I will just give her body an overall inspection while we're feeding.
“I just kind of use that as an anchor time to check her body and I recommend all breeders just do a quick check because you can rule out things like mastitis or your mama getting too skinny. This is especially necessary if you have a fluffy breed.
"I breed miniature golden retrievers and they are fluffy, so it's sometimes hard to tell if they're getting too skinny because they have so much fur. So by running my hands along her body I can tell if she's getting a little bit too thin and we need to intervene.”
The Body Condition Score is an important piece of the puzzle of weight and nutrition for your dogs. Keep an eye out for our next post on using the BCS to figure out calorie intake and how much food your dogs need.
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