Fat dogs. We see them everywhere, but is there one lurking in your home (there has been one lurking in mine at times - gulp!). We know that, as in humans, obesity leads to a whole host of diseases in our pets and so keeping then lean is really important. But how do you tell? Well, Chris Zink (sports medicine vet, president of the American College of Veterinary Sports medicine and Rehabilitation, and general all round remarkable woman) has a new way for you to determine if your dogs carrying extra blubber or is just ‘big boned’! This is an extract from one of her newsletters:
‘It is important to maintain your active dog at a correct weight. People who are overweight have an increased risk of cancer and other systemic diseases as well as early death, though the evidence basis in dogs is not quite as rigorous. Keeping a dog in optimal to slightly lean body condition has been shown to decrease the risk of osteoarthritis.
Some people the Purina Body Condition Score, a 9-point scale that uses a visual and descriptive assessment of the dog, to evaluate their dog's weight. There are several problems with body condition scoring:
1. It might apply to a short-coated, average-structured dog, but what about dogs with big barrel chests and heavy, wavy or sculpted coats, such as the Bernese Mountain Dog or the Portuguese Water Dog?
2. When it says for a score of 5: “ribs palpable without excess fat covering,” how do we know what is excess?
3. Purina’s own study showed that a dog with a BCS of 5 out of 9 could have a percent body fat between 13 and 22%. That range is so broad that we don’t feel that the BCS method is specific enough to help keep our dogs at a healthy weight.
There's a better way! Just feel the thickness of your dog’s subcutaneous fat using the Tissue Tent Test. This is easily done in the area of the last 3 to 4 ribs, about 1/3 of the way down from the topline. In that area, there is just a layer of skin and a layer of subcutaneous fat overlying the ribs. Here’s how to feel that layer of fat:
Tissue Tent Test
With your thumb and index finger, press deeply in towards the ribs and then, while continuing to press inward, close your thumb and index finger together, pinching all of the tissue between your fingers. Once you have all the tissue gathered between your fingers, pull outward making a tent of your dog’s tissue. As you do that, you will feel a layer of slightly bumpy-textured tissue below the skin slip through your fingers. That’s your dog’s layer of subcutaneous fat. Estimate how thick it is.
In an active dog, canine athlete, or working dog, that layer should be as thin as a folded piece of duct tape.
Many people can’t feel that layer at first, and usually it’s because they aren’t grabbing enough tissue, so remember: pinch deep and hold tight as you pull the tissue tent away from the skin.
We recommend that you use the Tissue Tent Test to monitor your dog's body fat layer weekly and adjust its food intake appropriately.’
So there you have it, a new way to look at your dog and see if they are a porker or not. Once you know if they are carrying extra weight, then you can look to implement an action plan to get some of that weight off -and your vet and vet nurse team will help you if you’re struggling. It’s easier said than done to slim a dog down so don’t suffer in silence.
And if you’ve enjoyed this post, why not join Chris’ newsletter? You’ll find it at www.canine sports.com and it’s complete treasure trove of info on practical dog health which is all research backed.