Are Ideals of Canine Beauty Making Our Dogs Fat?


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A Jack Russell Terrier rests with a Portuguese Mountain Dog on the second day of the 2015 Crufts dog show.Credit Oli Scarff/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Obesity has become so common in canines that even show dogs are overweight.

One in four dogs that placed in the top five in their class in Britain’s Crufts national dog show, which calls itself the world’s largest, is overweight, a new study in the journal Veterinary Record reports. That’s better than the overall percentage of overweight dogs in the country – about half of the pet dogs in Britain are too heavy. But it surprised the study’s authors, since show dogs are supposed to represent the ideal specimens of their breed.

The finding may explain why so many pet owners don’t trust veterinarians who tell them their dog needs to go on a diet, as earlier research found. Images of show dogs are widely disseminated on the Internet and through other media, and may influence pet owners’ perceptions of a dog’s optimal weight, the authors of the new study said.

The authors analyzed 1,120 photographs of dogs representing 28 breeds that had placed at Crufts between 2001 and 2013. Over all, 26 percent of the dogs were deemed overweight.

But there were big differences among breeds. Pugs, basset hounds and Labrador retrievers were most likely to be overweight, whereas very few border terriers, boxers, Dobermans, Hungarian vizslas, standard poodles and Rhodesian Ridgebacks carried excess pounds.

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A Dogue de Bordeaux rests during the second day of the Crufts Dog Show.Credit Darren Staples/Reuters

“Preventing obesity is key,” because very overweight dogs develop illnesses like diabetes and don’t live as long, said Alexander German, one of the study’s authors and a veterinarian who specializes in small animal internal medicine at the University of Liverpool. He recommends having adult pets weighed by a vet every six months so as to pick up on small changes in weight.

“Keeping check on exactly what you feed really helps,” he said. “Weigh out meal portions accurately so you know what you are feeding, and avoid treats, especially table scraps and human food.”

If you give your pet a dog biscuit between meals, he added, “reduce the amount of the main meal you give by the same number of calories.”

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