Battle the Bulge: How to Help Your Overweight Frenchies
Ok, admit it – who doesn’t like to sneak in some fast food or a bowl of ice cream from time to time? It’s easy for us to overindulge, and, in fact, it’s human nature to want to treat ourselves once in a while. Our Frenchies are no exception, of course – many of us love to spoil our funny little friends, giving them extra treats or sneaking them just one more piece of cheese. Unfortunately, even just a few extra calories (in combination with the challenges that can come with exercising Frenchies in the first place) can quickly pack on the pounds, starting your pup down the road to obesity.
It may not seem like much, but being overweight by even 20% can be quite dangerous for your Frenchie’s health. Not worried about a pound or two extra, you say? Well, it’s important to take your dog’s body size into consideration before you hand over that cookie; an extra 5 pounds on your Frenchie is comparable to an extra 40 pounds on a man of average height and weight – yikes! There can be some serious health consequences that come with even a few extra rolls, too; your fat Frenchie is at risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and serious joint problems. Research has actually shown that overweight dogs live an average of two years fewer than their slimmer canine cohorts, so keeping your pup at a healthy weight is a good way to keep them around for longer.
So how do you tell whether or not your bold little Bulldog is at an ideal weight? Instead of focusing purely on numbers, it’s better to assess your pup’s overall body condition. While your Frenchie is standing, run your hands lightly down their sides and over their ribcage. If your pup is a healthy weight, you should be able to easily feel (but not see) their ribs – an over- padded ribcage means an overweight pup! When you view your Frenchie from above, they should have a waist that’s noticeably slimmer behind their ribcage, and from the side, their belly should look tucked up and slimmer than their chest, instead of rounded or hanging. If you’ve done this quick check and think that your Frenchie may be creeping towards ‘chubby’, there are a few things that you can do to help your pup battle the bulge.
Set a start date: If your dog is already overweight, write down a firm plan for gradual and healthy weight loss – that includes getting rid of unnecessary dietary calories (like extra treats and table scraps!) It’s often helpful for owners to keep track of their dog’s daily calories using a food diary – it keeps us on track!
Get a vet check: A physical exam is especially important for your dog at this point – your vet may want to do tests to make sure there are no medical reasons for your pup’s weight gain, like hypothyroidism. Ask your vet to show you what your pet’s ideal body condition and weight should be, and then take steps together to reach that goal.
Move it to lose it: Just like we do, our four-legged friends gain weight when they consume more calories than they burn. Up the activity ante for your Frenchie – go hiking, play ball, or get them out and about with other Frenchie friends to play. For these pups, it’s best to exercise at cooler times of day like the morning and evening, and try short, frequent workout sessions instead of longer sessions of intense activity.
Nutrition mission: Getting your pet’s weight back on track should ideally include changing your Frenchie’s food, at least temporarily. Healthy, gradual and effective weight loss is what’s best for your spunky pup, and just like us, is usually accomplished for our dogs by feeding them fewer calories and increasing their exercise. The problem with just reducing the amount of your dog’s normal food, however, is that you might also be causing them to be deficient in other needed nutrients. A balanced, high quality, low calorie food is often the most ideal solution, and there are many options available over the counter, through veterinarians, or even as nutritionist-approved home-made meals.
Changing your French Bulldog’s daily routine might seem like a pain, since it often involves more time and effort on your part. Consider this, however – an active, healthy and happy life is the greatest gift you can give your best friend!