How To Prevent Obesity In Chihuahuas
Chis' are drawn towards treats just as we are towards the dessert table. Same as humans, dogs are at risk of becoming overweight or obese at some point in their lives.
Obesity and overweight have appeared as the most crucial disease in dogs today. The dangers of obesity are far-reaching. It can shorten dogs' lives and contribute to chronic inflammatory aches. The good news is that obesity can be prevented. The fantastic news is that even if a dog is overweight or obese, the condition can be reversed, normal body conditions can be restored, and life expectancy can be returned to normal.
Since this is quite a widespread issue among Chi owners, we will cover all the differences, treatments, and how to prevent these issues before they occur.
What is Canine Obesity?
Obesity is an accumulation of excess body fat. Extra body weight and body fat tend to go hand in hand, so most overweight dogs will have excess body fat.
Bodyweight is easy to calculate when evaluating if a dog is overweight or obese – more precise than measuring fat in the body. Using body weight as a guide, dogs are believed to be overweight when they weigh up to 20% above their ideal body weight. They are deemed obese when they weigh 20% or more past their perfect body weight.
This is especially important to a toy or smaller breeds of dogs, such as Chihuahuas, since even 2 pounds are too much over their ideal weight. If they weigh over 3 pounds over their perfect weight, they will be considered obese. It is very easy to slip into it when they look at you with those big puppy eyes and beg for food.
How do I Recognize if my Chihuahua is Obese?
The first step in dealing with an overweight or obese dog is recognizing and acknowledging a problem. Unfortunately, we are flooded with images in the media of dogs that are consistently too heavy, making it difficult to comprehend what normal looks like. Your vet can help with an assessment.
A rib cage is not only a necessary measurement to help you determine if your dog is fat, but it is also easy for you to do on your own and at home. Your dog's ribs should feel like you are running your fingers against the knuckles of your other hand, bumpy. You can feel up the ribs just behind the shoulder blades and trail your way down the sides in a straight line toward the tail. It is also a convenient method for measuring weight loss progress between standard weigh-ins.
Your vet should provide an approximate ideal body weight to use as a target. Still, they must do routine body condition checks to assure progress toward average body weight and body shape. Most vets have their own system to assess whether the dog is skinny, average, or overweight.
Why is Obesity so Widespread in Chis'?
In this modern-day age, the factors have contributed to the increasingly widespread obesity in dogs. Whereas dogs had to ''work'' before, herd cattle or sheep, or be taken hunting, since that is no longer the everyday life of dogs, obesity has taken its toll. While the owners have to work and cannot spend that much time with their furry little friends, this dramatically limits the amount of time the dogs can spend outside and exercise. This also is a significant factor for Chihuahuas. They are small but very playful and active dogs. While they might not need as much exercise as larger breeds, they gain weight that much easier.
The bottom line is that when calories that are taken in surpass calories spent, weight gain is unavoidable, leading to overweight and obese Chis'.
What are the Risks Your Chihuahua Can Experience by being Obese?
Obesity shortens a Chis' life and makes them more likely to develop different diseases. It is still assumed that heavy dogs lived shorter than thin dogs, usually by 6-12 months. However, studies have shown that even slightly overweight dogs can reduce their lifespan by almost two years, unlike their lean companions.
Previously, fat was considered relatively static tissue, merely holding extra energy calories and adding to body mass. However, scientific evidence now indicates that fat tissue is biologically active. It perspires inflammatory hormones and creates oxidative stress on the body's tissue, contributing to many diseases. A new approach is obesity as a chronic, low-level inflammatory condition.
How Does Being Obese or Overweight Contribute to my Chihuahua being in Pain?
Unfortunately, chronic pain is unavoidable since overweight and obese Chihuahuas often have a problem with joint damage and arthritis. Until recently, it was widely believed that the increased pain and inflammation associated with arthritis were mainly caused by over-use of the joints. However, we now know and understand that the fat tissues are biologically active and lead to the secretion of hormones and different chemicals, which can cause and enhance the inflammation of the joints.
Fat itself also adds to inflammation. Inflammation is a part of the pain associated with arthritis and degenerative joint condition, and being overweight or obese contributes to this cruel cycle.
How Can I Help my Chihuahua Lose Weight by Adjusting His Meals?
When you have identified that your dog is obese or overweight, it is vital to modify feedings precisely for weight loss – using an exact nutritional product, a specific amount, and a particular frequency of meals. There are scientifically crafted dietary products to help with dogs' healthy and safe weight reduction. It is not right to merely decrease the amount of their current food. This will cause malnourishment over time.
Providing a healthy product with lower general calorie density is suitable and vital, and it helps maintain the proper nutrient balance. Your vet can help you determine which healthy products are best for your dog.
Once the new food has been selected, and the portions are determined, you must be consistent with feeding portions and meal frequency and resist the temptation to provide inappropriate snacks. Your Chis' daily calorie intake shouldn't consist of more than 10% of treats per day. Fresh or frozen broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, and popcorn make excellent snacks if approved by your vet.
How to Prevent my Chihuahua From Becoming Obese?
While it may seem quite complicated to prevent obesity, these steps that we will lay out should make it easier for you to stop your Chi from getting obese. There has always been an understanding among dog owners. You cannot refuse them or say no to their puppy eyes and charm. However, it is always better to prevent something from the beginning than to treat it once it has occurred.
- Know your Chis' ideal weight and monitor it
You must know the ideal weight for your dog based on its size, age, and breed. Your vet can give you a healthy weight range to keep in mind, which you should observe regularly. Because of their size, Chis are perfect for you to use your bathroom scale to weigh them precisely as you would weigh yourself. Another excellent option is for you to take your Chi to the vet to get weighed. If none of these are up to par with your standards, you can always weigh yourself and then weigh again with your puppy in your arms. However, keep in mind that if you have a puppy, which usually weighs no more than 800 grams, you can always use a kitchen scale.
- Choose the right food for your Chihuahua.
Your vet can assist you in choosing a dog food suitable for your Chi. Puppies require formulated food for the early stages in life, which should change as they enter maturity and then again when they become senior dogs. Giving your puppy a dog food prepared for adult dogs, which usually has more calories and nutrients, can make obesity unavoidable.
- Don't overfeed your Chi.
Portion control is essential in ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight. You should also select precise meal times and stick to them, and your Chi will learn fast when it's time to eat and when it's not. This will help minimize the begging and the tendency to overfeed based on the assumption that your puppy is hungry. Often referred to as free-feeding, this term implies that your dog's bowl is always full. While we understand that many working Chi owners cannot be at home to feed their puppy at the exact time every day, please avoid doing this since that leads to the dog eating more and gaining weight, which is precisely what we are trying to avoid. If you cannot stick to feedings every day at the same time, ask a neighbor or invest in a feeder with a timer.
Dog owners often think that their dog is always hungry. However, dogs have an instinct when it comes to food. They will over-eat and intake more calories than needed if food becomes scarce later. This is related to all dog breeds, not just Chis, so don't think it is the end of the world. It is not. This habit just needs to be monitored and maintained.
- Avoid feeding your Chi scraps from the table.
We all know how hard it is to say no to pleading adorable puppy-dog eyes that are just begging you to give them some food from your table. While there are people who can stay stern and say a hard no, there are those few who just can't resist their furry little children. However, it is not recommended to give your puppy table scraps. This is because aside from having their regular meals, this would be an additional and unnecessary calorie intake. It would be best to give them a treat instead. All of this aside, human food is often full of oils, added seasonings, and lots of salt, which aren't healthy for your puppy. If you genuinely cannot resist their pleads, make sure you give them something low in calories, salts, and fats.
- Provide your puppy with plenty of exercises
A daily routine including a long walk is more than necessary to maintain a healthy weight and your Chi's overall health. Just like we humans do, dogs need activities to burn calories. That can be in the form of a play, walks, or even swimming (just don't forget to buy a floating vest). On the bright side, we all know dogs love to be outside and in the fresh air. While being the toy breed we all love and care for, Chis' may need to rest from time to time if you decide to take them for a really long hike; however, don't let that persuade you against it. Walks are a fantastic way to vent and help with mental stimulation and help avoid behaviors related to boredom when at home.
- Consider interactive feeding toys.
Interactive feeding toys are a fantastic way to make your dog work for their food, burning calories while consuming them. They make your dog eat more slowly while providing mental stimulation and making mealtime even more enjoyable. Interactive toys include slow-feed bowls that make your Chi eat their food by following maze-like barriers.
- Not all treats are suitable for your puppy.
Treats are an almost unavoidable part of your puppy's life. While tasty, they also allow you to make a fantastic connection with your Chi and play a significant role in obedience training. This is why no one expects you to cut them out completely. However, that being said, there are healthy treats that can either be store-bought or are specifically made for dogs. You can also consider some recommended healthy alternatives that are also used in our everyday life, such as apples, carrots, kibble, popcorn, or even green beans. Always make sure to check and know which foods are potentially toxic for dogs. This will help you avoid emergency situations.
Being proactive about your dog's weight can prolong their lives and spare them medical issues. The reward is that some of these preventative measures are enjoyable, including exercise and interactive toys. One crucial thing to point out is that not all weight gains can be related to overeating. Like humans, dogs can suffer from hypothyroidism, which can cause easy weight gain and even obesity. If you notice that while following all of these steps and recommendations, your dog is still gaining weight, please contact your closest vet and have your Chi tested.
At The End of The Day..
While this might all seem like too much work or rocket science, believe us, it is as every bit beneficial to you as it is to your Chi. As we discussed in this post, obesity and being overweight can cause your puppy a lot of pain and illnesses. This is why preventing or even helping reverse the damage done can mean the world to your dog. It will also help you bond with them more and prolong their life. With some planning and easy monitoring, your puppy can maintain their figure and live its best life to the fullest. So don't fall for the whines and sad puppy eyes. Instead, go out for a walk if the weather serves you, or play around the house. A little dance party never killed anybody.