People aren’t the only ones at risk of debilitating weight problems, dogs are too. Just like humans, obesity is the biggest nutrition-related health issue for dogs in the United States but we don’t hear about it all that much. Risk factors come with age, spaying/neutering, a lack of activity and certain breeds have higher risk than others, according to various veterinary literature. They include Labs, Cairn Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Shelties, Basset Hounds, Beagles and Collies.

As you might expect, the three major causes are overeating, underlying hormonal issues and disease and lack of exercise. While a vet is clearly needed to diagnose and treat illness, we can do a lot ourselves to improve the health of our best friends:

•  Feed your dog fewer calories. Dogs are instinctively greedy, scavenging and gorging on food at any given opportunity. Think before you portion out that food! We enjoy feeding our dogs treats or find it amusing to watch them eat “human” food, but we don’t recognize that our dogs are overweight until we take them to the vet for a different reason and are then informed of the weight problem.

•  Exercise your dog more. If you don’t already, take your dog for a daily walk. Choose a time when you can take as little as 20 minutes to explore your neighborhood with your dog. You’ll find he/she will love it (and you). If your dog has a temperament suitable for socializing with other dogs, find a reputable “doggie daycare” in your area and give your dog a play date for the day. He’ll spend the day romping with new friends and burn off not just excess energy but excess fat. Check out as an option!

•  Schedule a vet visit at least once a year for a checkup. Not only will you make sure your dog is in good health, but also identify a potential issue early enough that it doesn’t become a serious problem for your pooch.

Another side benefit of focusing on your dog’s weight is you’ll find you’ll instinctively pay more attention to your own family’s waistline. And can’t we all use a little more motivation in that area these days?

By Bill Barnett, 2nd Family Dogs