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Obesity is one of the most common "diseases" veterinarians see in dogs. People are literally killing their dogs with kindness. Most commercially prepared diets are like athletic energy bars; jam-packed with calories and nutrition. This has helped eliminate many diseases related to malnutrition in our pets but has contributed greatly to an obesity epidemic. And with obesity comes many other serious threats to your pet's health, the most common being arthritis and degenerative joint disease.

Lugging around an extra 10-15 pounds every day causes untold wear and tear on a dog's body, and the joints and musculoskeletal system in general bear the largest burden.

Hips, elbows, knees and backs can all succumb to arthritis much quicker if your dog is overweight (working guides are especially vulnerable, due to to the daily pounding these dogs can endure). In addition, some dogs are born more susceptible to orthopedic diseases such as elbow or hip dysplasia and a high plane of nutrition can cause these diseases to develop at a very young age.

The first rule of thumb is to feed the correct amount of a suitable diet for your dog's needs. If your dog is a "large breed" like most of our guides, they should be fed special diets specifically for their size starting when they are puppies. As they become adults and reach their mature size, their dietary needs change and types of food and amounts must be adjusted to keep them healthy and lean.

Secondly, you must get proficient at evaluating your dog's weight, a special challenge for the visually impaired. Feeling for things like the tightness of the harness and size of the dog's waist are very helpful, but nothing is better than a regular weigh-in at your local vet. Remember that the high-quality commercial diets are concentrated in calories and nutrition. Most dogs will not need more than 3-4 cups a day or they will become obese.

Third, if your dog should be diagnosed as obese, there are very safe and effective diets available at your local vet specifically designed for weight loss. These diets will get the weight off as quickly as possible, without making your dog overly hungry. Most times they will get to eat more food while they are on these diets, due to the higher fiber contents.

Last but not least, keep treats to a minimum, and the exercise moderate and steady. This will keep your pet strong and healthy.

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