Obesity has serious health consequences for dogs. These include heart disease, breathing impairment, a tendency toward diabetes, impaired liver function, and increased stress on ligaments, ten-dons, and bones. Heat stress becomes more likely. Skin problems may occur. Surgery is complicated because finding correct anesthesia levels is more difficult and suturing is trickier.
Dogs are accomplished actors and can use their bright pleading eyes and cocked head to convince you they can't live without a bite of whatever you're eating. Don't give in! A moment's pleasure in giving your dog a treat is nothing compared to the two or three additional years you may have together if you keep your dog lean.
Keeping an Eye on Weight
You can use the rib check test combined with the body condition scoring system to assess your dog's weight. If you are uncertain of what you are seeing and feeling at first, you can ask your veterinarian to help you get used to making a judgment.
To perform the rib check test, first place both your thumbs on your dog's backbone with your fingers extending down her sides. Run your fingers along the rib cage. If you can't easily feel the bony part of each rib, the dog may need to lose weight.
Second, stand directly over your standing dog and look down at her. You should see a clearly defined waist behind the ribs. This is more difficult with Yorkies than with some other breeds because of the profuse coat. Use your hands. If your dog does not have a definite hourglass shape, she may need to lose weight.
Third, check your dog's profile. Again, the Yorkie's coat may get in the way here. If the dog is in full coat, do this while the coat is tied up in wraps. If the dog is clipped down, you shouldn't have a problem. You should see a clearly defined tuck up, where the abdomen rises behind the rib cage. If you don't, your dog may need to lose weight.
The body condition scoring system builds on the visual and physical exam of the rib check test by rating a dog on a scale of one to nine according to the results of the rib check. Your veterinary clinic probably has a visual chart of dogs with body conditions from emaciated to obese. Ask to see this, and consider where your dog fits into the progression.
Helping Your Dog Lose Weight
If you have a dog with a weight problem, you should definitely be using portion feeding, so you control the dog's intake. Feed as many small meals as possible to keep the dog's metabolism operating at a higher rate without encouraging obesity. Be sure that all family members are in accord with the weight-loss program. One person slipping treats to the dog will sabotage all your efforts. Keep the dog out of the garbage and the cat's litter box as well.
Photograph by Cheryl A. Ertelt
A proper diet, combined with exercise, helps prevent canine obesity.
Give your dog your time and attention in place of food treats. If you absolutely can't stop giving treats, then at least switch to low-calorie choices. You can also switch to one of the “lite” or low-calorie foods. Or you can feed less of your regular food and bulk it up with low-calorie ingredients such as carrots or pumpkin.
Of course, you can also increase your dog's daily exercise to help him lose weight. If you continue to feed the same number of calories but burn more of them with longer, faster, or more frequent walks, the dog should lose weight relatively quickly.