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Watching your puppy's weight
Did you know that an obese dog is defined as being just 15% or more over its ideal weight? That translates into a mere few hundred grams for a tiny dog like a Chihuahua, but over 7.5 kilograms for a Rottweiler. Many owners simply don't realise how overweight their dogs have become because the change happens gradually. Lots of owners also don’t see it as a medical problem so tend not to seek help from their vet.
We’ve all heard of puppy fat, but it’s a more serious business than it might sound. If puppies become overweight or obese, it can actually affect them for life. Overweight puppies tend to become overweight adult dogs and find weight loss more difficult. So keeping your puppy slim is a great start for lifelong good health.
Healthy eating habits for dogs
Your puppy requires relatively more food while they’re growing than they will when they’re a fully fledged adult, but you should never feed on demand. Begin with four meals a day at set times. Leave the food out for about 15 minutes, then remove whatever is left after this time. Dogs thrive on routine and this reinforces a structured eating habit.
Always follow the feeding guide on the bag to feed the correct amount, and remember that this is for the whole day, not per meal. You need to know what your puppy weighs to work out how much to feed, and this will obviously change throughout puppyhood, so weigh your puppy every two weeks. Taking them to your vet to do this is a great way for them to build up good associations with the practice.
Remember, the feeding guide is just that - a guide. Your puppy is an individual and should be treated accordingly. If you’re concerned about the weight of your dog, a simple obesity check you can make is to feel gently over your puppy’s rib cage to assess the fat under the skin; you should be able to feel the ribs with your fingers. If they’re overweight, you will find it more difficult to feel their ribs.
If you have any concerns about your puppy’s weight, make an appointment with your vet (some offer free weight checks). It's generally accepted that you should take your puppy for a weight check every two weeks for the first couple of months and then monthly. The result should be plotted on a special puppy growth curve to make sure they’re growing at a healthy rate.
A word about picky eating
Almost without exception, puppies that become picky eaters have been overindulged by their owners. Aside from the odd dog treat, your puppy should only be fed food that is formulated for growing puppies. Don't get into the habit of feeding them scraps from the table; you're in danger of turning them into a fussy eater, as well as an incessant mealtime pest!
Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA and Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS