If your Beagle is carrying too much fat, you’re not the only owner contending with this issue. This is not uncommon with adult Beagles, and risk of obesity increases as a Beagle heads towards his or her senior years.
An overweight Beagle will be 15% over the considered optimal weight for the breed. The best weight for an adult Beagle is 26 to 33 pounds. Puppies that ate heavier than this might be overfed. Get your vet to test your dog and suggest a lower calorie diet for him/her. A low-calorie diet will have added fiber keeping your Beagle feeling full for longer.
There are a number of ways to deal with overweight beagles. Unfortunately with smaller breeds – like Beagles – it’s a lot easier to overfeed them. That's because they don’t need that much food to start with. So just a few extra snacks through the day can tip the scales.
Fortunately, there are some methods to help a Beagle lose weight that cause no physical stress or that leaves a Beagle super hungry. It’s all about putting focus on the right things, and going about this in an effective yet gradual way.
So, if your Beagle is a bit... Shall we say, rotund, chubby, or otherwise plump, let’s cover exactly what to do.
How to Know if a Beagle is Overweight
1. Look at your Beagle from above. Do you see a defined waist? There should be a narrowing of the body between the ribs and the hips.
2. Look at your Beagle from the side. There should be an uptuck, where the abdomen tucks up into the rib cage.
3. Feel the base of your Beagle’s tail. It should be smooth and you should be able to easily feel the base where it meets the spine.
4. Feel the rib cage. You should be able to easily feel each defined rib without excess fat being in the way. Feeling ribs, but under some fat points to a weight issue. If you cannot feel the ribs at all, this points to a dog being severely obese.
Keep in mind that aging is not an excuse to carry excess pounds. It is normal for an older Beagle to have some muscle loss compared to his younger self; however, older adults and senior Beagles are not excused from being overweight; for older dogs, maintaining a good weight is more important than ever.
Health Conditions that Can Cause a Beagle to Be Overweight
Cushing’s disease – Signs include increased hunger and/or thirst, panting, weight gain, fluid retention in the abdomen that causes a pot-bellied appearance, hair loss, and/or reoccurring infections including ear infections and UTIs.
Heart disease – Signs include coughing, trouble breathing, fluid retention in the abdomen that causes a pot-bellied appearance, acting withdrawn, decreased appetite, weight loss or weight gain, lethargy, and/or restlessness (particularly at night).
Hypothyroidism – Signs include lethargy, weakness, trouble focusing, weight gain, excessive shedding, hair loss, poor coat health, skin issues such as infections or scaling, and intolerance to cold.
If any of these conditions are suspected, it will be important to bring your Beagle to the veterinarian for a complete checkup.
Keep in mind that obesity is linked to:
- Damage to internal organs
- Bone damage
- Joint damage (25% of overweight dogs develop serious joint complications)
- Decreased stamina which puts strain on the heart, muscles, and respiratory system
- Muscle loss
- Canine diabetes (overweight dogs are 2.6 times more likely to develop diabetes)
- Digestive disorders including upset stomach and flatulence
- Respiratory compromise (breathing difficulty)
- Heat intolerance
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Liver disease
- Lowered immune system function
- Increased risk of developing some cancers (studies have shown a link between obesity and bladder cancer and mammary tumors)
- Shorter life span (studies suggest a 2-year shorter life span for overweight dogs)
How to Help a Beagle Lose Weight
1. Have the right mindset
Helping your dog lose weight should revolve around healthy lifestyle changes, and be an attainable challenge that you and your Beagle work on together. This should be a positive thing, and not something that you dread ‘putting your dog through’ or a situation in which you feel bad for your Beagle.
2. Free Feeding
Treats can still be given up to 4 times per day while allowing a Beagle to lose weight. Giving out snacks helps curb a Beagle’s hunger until the next meal time, and importantly helps keep up moral. The key is to ensure that they are truly tasty but super-low calorie.
And as always, we recommend reserving treats as rewards for good behavior.
It's OK to give your Beagle occasional table scraps but never directly from the table. If you feed them from the table they develop a habit of begging while you are eating. This will eventually result in obesity.
4. Make a switch to quality low calorie kibble AND snacks
Top recommended dog food to help Beagles lose weight in a healthy manner is Wellness CORE Natural Reduced Fat Grain-Free Dry. This is low calorie (360 calories per cup vs 421 in the regular formula), has 25% less fat, good protein levels (33% crude protein), and good fiber levels (8.5 vs 3 to 4% found in the regular formula).
As always, Core comes through with a superior kibble that has zero chemical preservatives, no artificial flavors, no grain, corn, soy, wheat, fillers, or by-products. And this is made in the USA.
5. Using Fresh Ingredients
Many of the more expensive and well-known labels are not a good choice.
As an alternative preparing your own healthier meals from fresh ingredients is a remarkably cheap and easy option.
6. Encourage Slow Eating
Some methods to encourage slow eating are:
1. With a slow-feeding bowl. The idea behind these is to displace food, as opposed to having it all in one pile and able to be quickly ingested.
2. With a portion pacer. These are stainless-steel or porcelain balls that are placed into existing bowls, with the idea that a dog will need to eat around the ball (they’ll nose it along as they eat). These do not work as good as the slow-feeder bowls, and some Beagles quickly learn to move the ball onto the floor, but is worth a shot if you or your Beagle is attached to a favorite dish and you do not want to change it.
3. Treat dispensing toys. These are designed to release food slowly, and can keep a dog busy for up to an hour, playing with the toy to receive his kibble.
7. Exercise Your Beagle
Regular exercise is vital for good health, and can increase life span. So, whether your Beagle is already rather active, or has been sedentary far too long, now is the time to get things moving along a bit more.
You’ll want your Beagle to build up exercise endurance, so it’s a good idea to start with adding on 10 minutes to each daily walk. As the days and weeks follow, make things gradually more challenging and fun. Walk up hills. Head out on a hiking trail. Take a walk along the beach.
As your Beagle drops some weight, and muscles start to build up, you’ll be able to add on 15 and then even 20 minutes to each outing (be sure to offer breaks and water). And, work your way up to adding on an extra session of exercise each day. Taking a Beagle out for walks or play 3 or even 4 times per day is healthy for both of you as long as the buildup to this level of activity is done slowly and gradually.
You may find changing old habits difficult at first a little "tough love" will result in a far longer, healthier, happier life for your best friend.