Sports and Fitness: Hands-On Health

Inspect your dog’s muscles to evaluate its fitness level.

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Everyone is more conscious of health these days. With long hours spent facing computers and busy lifestyles reducing the available time for exercise, many of us find ourselves tipping the scale from fitter to fatter. Of course our dogs, true companions in every way, gladly join us in our sedentary lifestyle.

Luckily, most dogs are more than happy to exercise by chasing a ball, going for a walk or running around the yard – activities you can manage even after a long and stressful day at work. But with all the different sizes and shapes of dogs to consider, how do you know how much exercise your dog needs? It’s easy if you perform two simple tests – one for fatness and one for fitness.

Can’t pinch an inch
Even dogs of the same breed vary greatly in size and muscularity, so weighing your dog on a scale isn’t a useful way to determine if it’s overweight. A more informative test involves feeling the thickness of the layer of fat under the skin.

To do this, place your thumb and index finger over your dog’s last few ribs, just below the spine, where the rib cage meets the flank. Press your thumb and index finger down toward the ribs below and grab as much tissue as possible, pulling it up into a tent between your fingers. Then loosen your grip just a little. The first thing that will slip between your thumb and index finger will be the layer of subcutaneous (under the skin) fat.

In a healthy dog, that layer of subcutaneous fat should be as thin as a piece of tissue paper. That way, your dog isn’t carrying around extra pounds of needless weight, adding to the stresses on the bones, muscles and cardiovascular system. Need incentive to keep your dog in trim condition? Studies have shown that dogs that are kept lean live longer and have fewer health problems than overweight dogs.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the October 2010 issue of DOG WORLD today, or  subscribe  to receive the best dog articles, dog news, and dog information every month!

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