Limit treats to help your dog live a long and happy life
Most of us probably spoilt our pets with a few extra treats over Christmas. But, with new research showing that overweight dogs may have shorter lives, it's worth making sure you get the balance right.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool and Mars Petcare's Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition found that the lifespan of dogs who were overweight was up to two and a half years shorter when compared to ideal-weight dogs.
The study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, took a retrospective look at more than 50,000 dogs across 12 of the most popular breeds.
While the differences in lifespan varied -- ranging from five months less for male German Shepherds to two years and six months less for male Yorkshire Terriers -- the effect of being overweight was seen in all breeds.
Study co-author Alex German, Professor of Small Animal Medicine at the University of Liverpool, said: "Owners are often unaware that their dog is overweight, and many may not realise the impact that it can have on health. What they may not know is that, if their beloved pet is too heavy, they are more likely to suffer from other problems such as joint disease, breathing issues, and certain types of cancer, as well as having a poorer quality of life. These health and wellbeing issues can significantly impact how long they live.
"For many owners, giving food, particularly tasty table scraps and tidbits, is the way we show affection for our pets. Being careful about what you feed your dog could go a long way to keeping them in good shape and enabling them to be around for many years to come."
As animal welfare charity Blue Cross points out, dogs are scavengers in the wild and it is natural for them to eat everything they find -- whether they are hungry or not. Begging for food is a trick that they quickly learn to exploit, so it's best not to give them any scraps when you're eating.
To help your dog stay trim and healthy, measure how much food you put out at mealtimes -- and if you do give scraps or other treats, deduct this from their daily allowance to help avoid overfeeding.