In humans, obesity can lead to all kinds of problems, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and joint problems, among other issues — but did you know that obesity in dogs can be just as dangerous? It can also increase your veterinary bills by as much as 25%. And, as with humans, canine obesity is becoming more prevalent in the U.S.
Can you guess which states have the most and least obese dogs? We’ll answer that question below, but first some more human statistics. In 1990, Colorado was the least obese state, with 6.9% of the population falling into that category, while Mississippi held the title of most obese, with 15% of the adult population falling into that category. You can find your own state’s statistics on the interactive map here.
By 2015, Colorado was still the winner for least obese, while Louisiana had barely stolen Mississippi’s crown — but what’s telling are the percentages.
In last place Colorado, 20.2% of the population was obese, while in Louisiana it was 36.2%. Mississippi and Alabama tied for second place at 35.6%. To give that a little more perspective, during that time the population of Colorado increased by 65% while the number of obese people went up by 383%.
For Louisiana, the population increase was only 11% while the obesity increase was 226%, meaning that human obesity rates in Mississippi were going up more than three and a half times as fast as in Colorado.
Body mass index
While there’s some controversy about its usefulness, doctors still rely on the Body Mass Index (BMI) in order to calculate obesity, with numbers above 25 being considered overweight and those over 30 indicating obesity, while numbers below 18.5 are considered underweight. There are calculators online to help you find your number, or you can do it by hand the old-fashioned way.
It isn’t quite as straightforward for dogs, though, because standard canine BMI can vary depending on breed and gender, so if you want to figure your dog’s BMI, you’ll have to use a canine calculator.
Taking a bite out of obesity
Fortunately, after eliminating genetic or medical causes, the solution to canine obesity is pretty much the same as it is for humans: eat less, and move more. Your veterinarian can tell you what your dog’s target weight should be, as well as suggest how much and what kind of food she should eat. He can also determine whether there are any issues that would limit the type and duration of exercise you should do with her.
The great thing about exercising your dog for his health, though, is that it’s also great for yours, and oftentimes getting your dog on a weight loss routine will have the added benefit of helping you lose some extra pounds as well — or building up muscle if you’re already at a healthy weight.
Of course, another important way to help our dogs maintain a good weight is to eliminate the human table scraps from their diet and limit treats, or use a type that doesn’t have a lot of empty calories. Homemade treats can be much healthier and more economical than store bought treats, although store bought are fine if you pay attention to the labels.
Finally, if you have a puppy, start them off on maintaining a healthy weight now. Like humans, obesity early on can become a lifelong problem, so avoid the issue before it starts.
Where are the big dogs?
Remember above how first and last place for human obesity were Louisiana and Colorado? Well, when it comes to dogs, the numbers are very interesting in contrast. According to a study by Banfield Pet Hospital as reported by People Pets, the state with the most obese dogs is Minnesota, at 41%. And, to come full circle, the state with the fewest obese dogs is… Louisiana.
It’s not certain whether dogs are thinner there because the humans are not, but it’s hard to miss the irony. And in case you’re wondering, when it comes to dog obesity, Colorado is number 5 on the heaviest list — so maybe there is something to heavy dogs with skinny people — and vice versa.